Friday, December 31, 2010

Lack of supervision
Victims want priest kicked off upcoming cruise

He’s one of LA’s most notorious serial predators

Due to legal technicality, he walks free despite 41 allegations

Group wants LA’s Cardinal Mahony to better supervise pedophile priests

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging a cruise line and a Catholic official to stop a priest who molested dozens of girls from taking a Caribbean and South American vacation in a few days.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have learned that Fr. George Neville Rucker is booked for a 79 day Discovery Grand South American cruise on January 3, 2011 out of Barbados with a company called “Voyages of Discovery.” (For a copy of the documentation, please call Barbara 314 862 7688.)

Rucker was arrested aboard a Holland America cruise ship in Alaska in 2002 by Los Angeles detectives. He was charged with molesting 12 girls. A year later, criminal charges against him and several other accused pedophile priests were dropped due to a US Supreme Court ruling (called “Stogner”) relating to the statute of limitations.

Dozens of other women have since sued Rucker for sexually abusing them as children.

“This is an extraordinarily dangerous and manipulative criminal heading to poorer countries where kids are even more vulnerable than they are in the US,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “Los Angeles archdiocesan officials claim they are supervising him but obviously are not.”

SNAP wants Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony and cruise line officials to prevent Rucker from going on the trip.

On December 5th, a person who knew of Rucker’s intentions wrote to Roger Allard, the UK-based Chairman of Voyages of Discovery alerting him to Rucker’s plans. On December 20, Allard wrote back essentially claiming there’s nothing he can do.

“We would be unable to prevent any passenger from boarding unless their behavior at the time of boarding causes concern” Allard wrote.

“That’s absurd,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “If this is true, convicted mass murderers can sign up for Discovery cruises and as long as they behave on board, can be assured they’ll have wonderful vacations.”

“Thank goodness that airlines care more about public safety than cruise lines do,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “It’s crazy for Voyages of Discovery to pretend they have to ignore serious wrong-doing and let anyone who plunks down the cash go on one of their trips.”

Catholic officials have said that Rucker is supposed to be confined to a Catholic-run nursing home, Nazareth House, in Los Angeles.

In 2009, SNAP says, Rucker took another vacation aboard the prestigious Holland America World Cruise. SNAP only learned of that trip recently.

He is believed to be in his 80s, but that is little reassurance to SNAP leaders.

“There’s no magic age at which a child predator is magically cured,” said Dorris. “Many pedophiles actually get more dangerous with age, because they become more shrewd and cunning and effective as they gain more experience.”

And few parents, Dorris pointed out, “suspect a slow-moving, grey-haired, well-spoken avuncular man of being a dangerous criminal.”

Some cases against Rucker were settled in December 2006 as part of a $60 million settlement involving 22 accused Los Angeles priests. Other cases against him were resolved in a massive July 2007 settlement that totaled $660 million.

“Voyage of Discovery” has an office in Ft. Lauderdale (866 623 2689.)

Here’s information about the upcoming cruise:

A list of Rucker’s assignments (provided by is below:

1950-51 St. Alphonsus Catholic Church Los Angeles
1952-55 St. Basil Catholic Church Los Angeles
1956-59 Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church San Pedro
1960-61 St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church Camarillo
1962-62 Absent on Sick Leave
1963-67 St. Anthony Catholic Church El Segundo
1968-68 Holy Trinity Catholic Church Los Angeles 1969-70 Holy Cross Catholic Church Los Angeles
1971-79 St. Agatha Catholic Church Los Angeles
1980-2002 Corpus Christi Catholic Church Pacific Palisades

Widespread abuse
New figures show “shockingly widespread” abuse in DE & MD

Victims say more than 80% of Catholic parishes had accused priests

It’s the highest known percentage of any diocese in America, they report

Self help group want families to ask each other “Did a cleric ever hurt you?”

SNAP urges “loved ones” to “reach out” especially to church members who’ve quit

A group that represents clergy sex abuse victims says that new figures show that more than 80 percent of the Wilmington Catholic diocese parishes had at least one accused predator priest worked in them.

The statistics come from several sources, including a Boston-based research organization called, which documents the church’s abuse crisis through compiling news accounts and tracking litigation. The numbers are higher than any other diocese in the U.S., according to a Chicago-based support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“Almost all of the information about predator priests surfaces when courageous survivors find the strength to finally break their silence and speak up through legal action,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “Delaware citizens should be grateful that so many deeply wounded Delaware victims have come forward.”

In New Castle County, Del. — where the majority of the diocese’s parishes are located — the percentage is 90.9 percent (30 out of 33 churches). Seventy five percent of the Wilmington diocesan parishes in Maryland had at least one accused priest assigned (12 out of 16 churches).

“As shocking as these numbers are, we strongly suspect there are even more accused child molesting clerics that no one really knows about yet,” said Terrence McKiernan, co-director of “The silver lining here is that because the Delaware legislature reformed the statute of limitations, more predators have been exposed and more Delaware children are safer as a result.”

“Many Delaware Catholics will be stunned at these figures,” said Judy Miller, Delaware director of SNAP. “We hope they will be motivated to take action to further expose wrong-doing and safeguard kids.”

The organization wants Delaware families to talk among themselves over the holidays and ask each other whether they were molested as kids.

“We know it’s a terribly awkward subject to raise, anywhere, any time with anyone,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “But these numbers clearly show that more families were exposed to proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics than anyone ever realized. And we know that most victims never reveal their suffering. So it’s crucial that we gently but clearly invite our loved ones to disclose their pain if there is to be real healing.”

Other sources for the new numbers include:

-the Official Catholic Directory

-the Wilmington diocese website (

-a list of accused clerics released by Bishop Michael Saltarelli in 2006, and

-lawsuits filed against priests during a recent, two year civil ‘window’ created by the Delaware Victims Act.

Several months ago, a Catholic lay group in Chicago called Voice of the Faithful determined that 60% of the parishes there had been assigned an accused predator priest.

For a copy of a spread sheet detailing the assignments of the predator priests, contact Terry (508 479 9304,, or Barbara (314 503 0003,

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Statute of limitations
The Progress We've Made -- and Haven't Yet Made -- on Child-Sex-Abuse Statutes of Limitations: 2010, the Year in Review

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fortunately, the pace of legal reform regarding child-sex-abuse statutes of limitations did not abate in 2010. The logic of eliminating the statute of limitations ("SOL") for this heinous crime and tort -- and of creating an SOL "window" so that past victims can come forward and receive justice -- remains irrefutable. Study after study has proven that victims typically need decades to get to the psychological place where they can come forward to tell their stories in court, and that therefore, short statutes of limitations mean there will be no justice at all. Short SOLs also mean that perpetrators and their enablers remain cloaked in secrecy, which is just what is needed to perpetuate cycles of abuse; as the years pass with perpetrators and enablers unidentified, more and more children fall prey.

Even when the need for reform is obvious from a public-policy perspective, however, the law moves forward in fits and starts. This arena is no different. In this column, I'll cover the top 10 SOL events of 2010. Some represent major steps forward; some, deeply unfortunate developments.

The primary lesson of 2010, for this area of law, is that we are still in an age of experimentation regarding SOL reform, with states implementing a variety of approaches. The other moral of the story is that the Catholic Conferences of the states (the lobbying organizations for the Catholic bishops) are still spending millions to try to stop the inevitability of SOL reform.

Ten Important 2010 Events Relating to Child-Sex-Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform

The following are ten of the most crucial child-sex-abuse SOL-related events of this past year:

1. On May 11, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that eliminated the SOLs for many sex-abuse victims. The law eliminates "statutes of limitations to the institution of criminal or civil actions relating to sexual battery of a child if the victim is under 16 years of age at the time of the offense." The elimination of Florida's SOL for this crime and tort gives every child who is now being abused the ability to file charges and to go to court to obtain damages when he or she is ready. Instead of giving perpetrators and those who protect them the comfort of expired statutes of limitations, Florida has, laudably, made victims abused from the date of enactment into the future the priority.

2. Delaware enacted SOL "window" legislation for child-sex-abuse claims against medical providers. The new law arose in response to revelations about the formerly beloved pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley, who is alleged to have abused at least 100 children as part of his practice. When the news surfaced about Bradley's alleged abuse of his patients, it became clear that many of the victims were going to be forestalled from suing by the statutes of limitations. Previously, in 2007, Delaware had enacted its Child Victims Act (CVA), which (1) eliminated the SOL for civil child-sex-abuse cases, and (2) created a two-year window during which civil child-sex-abuse cases on which the SOL had already expired could still be brought in court. The cases that were brought during that SOL window are now moving through the Delaware courts. The CVA did not cover health care providers, as it turned out, and so Delaware enacted this new window for health care providers. Delaware remains the leader in the country for the protection of child sex abuse victims.

3. On January 1, 2010, an Oregon law went into effect that significantly increased opportunities for child-sex-abuse victims to go to court. In 2009, the law -- ORS 12.117 -- was amended to extend the civil statute of limitations until the victim reaches the age of 40, or until five years after the discovery of a connection between injury and abuse, whichever period is longer. While the law did not go into effect until January 1, it fortunately applies to those victims who were injured before that date.

4. A New York Senate committee finally considered the SOL window legislation that I discussed in this column. Before 2010, the New York Assembly had passed the Child Victims Act three times, but the bill never made it to even a committee hearing in the Senate -- largely because Republican Senator Joseph Bruno (who since then has been convicted of mail and wire fraud) had killed the bill. In 2010, Senate Codes Committee Chairman Eric Schneiderman permitted the bill to be openly debated in committee and held a vote. Schneiderman (now the New York Attorney General) voted in favor. Even though the bill did not make it out of committee, the fact that it was even acknowledged in the New York Senate was progress, and the fact that a politician seeking higher office in the state voted quite publicly in favor of the bill indicates a shift in the political calculation regarding SOL reform that bodes well for victims in the future. The Catholic Conference and League also rolled out the laughable claim that their opposition to SOL window legislation somehow vindicates their "civil rights." There is no right to avoid liability for creating the conditions for child sex abuse, and for geometrically increasing the number of child-sex-abuse victims. Stay tuned for more grandiose "rights" claims as the bishops and their lobbyists come to understand that they are the Sisyphus of SOL politics and not Zeus.

5. In Michigan, battle has been very publicly joined over child-sex-abuse SOL window legislation. As usual, the Catholic Conference is lobbying against it, but the bill's proponents have found passionate sponsors and remain committed to its passage.

6. In Wisconsin, too, the battle over child-sex-abuse SOL reform continues, with victims lined up on one side and the Catholic Conference on the other. In 2010, the legislation came closer to passage than at any time in the past. A bipartisan vote sent it out of the Assembly committee, hearings in both Houses went extremely well, and the press coverage was positive. The legislation will be re-introduced.

7. In 2010, Arizona considered child-sex-abuse SOL window legislation for the first time. However, the Catholic Conference lobbied hard, and succeeded in getting the language amended so that the SOL window would have applied only against a "defendant's direct or intentional conduct." In other words, under Arizona's bill, institutional negligence or recklessness in supervising or retaining abusing employees would not have been sufficient to allow a victim to take advantage of the SOL window. This amendment was quite obviously crafted to aid religious and other private institutions in avoiding liability for their actions in covering up the identities of abusing employees, and in creating the conditions for abuse. The watered-down bill died in committee, and tragically, Arizona continues to have one of the most restrictive SOLs for child-sex-abuse victims in the country.

8. The most disreputable 2010 child-sex-abuse SOL legislative "reform" law in the United States was enacted by the South Dakota legislature. For years, Catholic clergy inflicted horrendous abuse against Native American children in St. Joseph Indian School. A defense attorney for the school crafted SOL "reform" that actually retracted options the victims otherwise would have had, under prior law. Specifically, the new law prohibits any victim over the age of 40 from suing anyone other than the direct perpetrator. Thus, even if an institution knew an employee was abusing children and did nothing about it, the institution would still be immune under the new law. The new law has shut down many meritorious cases involving Native American victims, and it represents the first instance in which Catholic lobbyists have obtained SOL reform that targets a particular ethnic group.

9. The Ohio Supreme Court turned that state's child-sex-abuse SOL law -- which was already bad for victims -- into a law that is truly terrible for victims, by rejecting tolling of the SOL when the victim has repressed the memories of abuse. Several years earlier, the Catholic bishops personally halted window legislation.

10. After earlier extending the SOL to expire only when the child sex abuse victim reaches 48 years of age, Connecticut considered this year whether to add an SOL "window," allowing a limited period of time during which victims whose claims would have been time-barred could still file their complaints. The Catholic Conference killed the bill this time -- on its first time around -- but the proponents in Connecticut have not given up. And the public debate in the press has been helpful in outing the bishops' strategies and priorities.

As the developments in these ten states show, efforts to reform child-sex-abuse statutes of limitations and bring justice to victims are very much alive and well in America. Let's hope that in 2011, even more progress is made. When it is, we will know the identities of more perpetrators. Without them, our society continues to give perpetrators easier access to our children. The bills that increase opportunities for child sex abuse victims to go to prosecutors and to sue for damages rightly should be entitled "Expose the Predators and Their Enablers Acts."


Marci Hamilton, a FindLaw columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on this site on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her email is .


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Belgian journalist said Catholics scandalized by archbishop's remarks

By Jonathan Luxmoore
Posted: 12/30/2010

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A Belgian journalist who serves as spokesman for the nation's cardinal said Catholics in his country were "scandalized" by an archbishop's testimony to a parliamentary commission on sexual abuse by priests.

In response to questions by commission members, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, president of the Belgian bishops' conference, said he feared the consequences of compensating victims, because payments could also be demanded for "unhappy children born via artificial insemination" or facing the "psychological impact" of being raised by same-sex couples.

He also said he favored a "solidarity fund" for abuse victims when courts were unable to establish "direct responsibility" by institutions and said the church would contribute to the fund "in the same way that it already intervenes for victims of natural catastrophes or for the poor."

Toon Osaer, editor of the church's Kerk en Leven weekly and spokesman for Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop Leonard's predecessor, said all nine serving bishops had been asked to testify to the commission, and "each has done in his own name. Archbishop Leonard wasn't representing the Belgian church at that moment, only himself."

However, he added that the "vast majority of people" had been "quite scandalized" by the archbishop's manner of speaking, especially in response to questions at the Dec. 22 hearing.

He told Catholic News Service Dec. 30 that Msgr. Leonard had been concerned that victims should seek initial redress via the justice system before expecting payments from the church.

"His point was that the people who committed offenses should first be investigated and brought to court -- only then, if the courts won't provide satisfactory compensation, should the church see what it can do for them," Osaer said.

"As in all such cases, some people have supported and some have opposed him, so the bishops will be meeting next week to discuss further steps, as well as to set out the agenda for a new church center for recognition, healing and reconciliation," he said.

Osaer said some critical reactions to Archbishop Leonard's remarks were political.

"There's a political game being played out in this commission, which has to submit its findings by April 2011," the editor said. "It's too early to say whether what the archbishop had said will have a direct practical impact on the church's life here."

Belgium's Catholic Church, like the church in other European countries, has been rocked by allegations of abuse throughout 2010.

In a May pastoral letter, the bishops' conference asked forgiveness from victims and promised to curb further abuse, after Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugge resigned following an admission he had molested his nephew.

In June, police investigating alleged clergy sexual abuse raided the bishops' conference headquarters and searched Cardinal Danneels' residence. Bishops gathered for a scheduled meeting at the headquarters had been surprised by police, who then confiscated documents and cell phones of all present.

In September, the conference pledged to "learn lessons" from a report drawn up by a commission under Peter Adriaenssens. The report recounted 475 cases of molestation in Catholic dioceses, religious orders and boarding schools, including 13 cases in which victims had committed suicide.

Belgian newspapers said that, in September alone, Justice Ministry officials had received more than 100 new accusations of abuse by Catholic priests, mostly involving male victims now ages 23-82.

In a midnight Mass homily on Christmas, Archbishop Leonard said that "abuses of power and acts of violence" by priests were "particularly sordid," and he was grateful to victims who "had the courage" to come forward.

"The victims can and must always address themselves as a matter of priority to the civil justice system," the archbishop added. "For its part, the church will continue the mission proper to it -- of knowing how to listen, within its pastoral plan, to persons who wish to be heard in their suffering, but without ever deterring them from reporting to civil justice."

$6m interest
Clergy abuse in Delaware: Parish may owe $6 million in interest
St. E turned down pretrial settlement
By SEAN O'SULLIVAN • The News Journal • December 31, 2010

WILMINGTON -- The pain could get worse for St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Parish.

Post-trial motions indicate the city church -- which also has elementary and high schools -- may be liable for $6 million to $7 million more than the $3 million awarded to plaintiff John Vai on Nov. 30, because parish attorneys declined to settle the case before trial for $1.5 million.
It is a legal wrinkle that raises stakes for other parishes, schools and religious orders facing priest abuse lawsuits allowed by the Delaware Child Victims Act, potentially exposing them to millions more in damages.
Under Delaware law, if a plaintiff's offer to settle a case before trial for a specific sum is turned down and the plaintiff goes on to win a judgment of more than that amount, he or she is entitled to receive interest on the amount awarded back to the date of the acts that caused injury, which in Vai's case is more than 40 years.
"That is standard procedure in any good personal-injury firm," said Tom Reed, a retired Widener Law School professor, adding it was a smart move by Vai's attorneys to make such an offer. "I don't see anything sinister there. It is just the way we practice law here in Delaware."
Reed said the development "may increase the number of settlements outright," as others seek to avoid what is happening to St. Elizabeth. "There are a lot of ramifications to this lawsuit," he said.
There are some 150 pending lawsuits or claims alleging abuse by priests in the Diocese of Wilmington, with 80 of them also naming a parish as a defendant. All lawsuits involving the diocese have been put on hold because of bankruptcy proceedings, but some lawsuits against individual parishes have been allowed to go forward because the parishes are considered separate corporate entities.
Jury selection is set to start Monday in the priest abuse case brought by Joseph Curry against St. Dennis Church in Galena, Md. -- which is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington -- and attorneys are set to meet Tuesday with Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. to pick a trial date for the lawsuit filed by Felix Flanigan against St. John the Beloved Parish of Wilmington.

Flanigan's case could be a virtual replay of Vai's in that the same abuser is involved -- defrocked priest Francis DeLuca, who admitted to molesting Flanigan in the 1960s just as he admitted abusing Vai, according to attorneys.

St. Elizabeth Parish attorney Mark Reardon this week expressed outrage that Vai's attorneys are now seeking interest on the $3 million that a jury ordered the parish to pay Vai as part of a $60 million judgment against DeLuca.
"Vai told the jury he did not file the lawsuit for money. If this is not about the money, then why is he pursuing this? We wanted to believe him," Reardon said.
He called the request "unprecedented" and "ridiculous" and argued that there is no factual or legal basis for Vai's attorneys to seek the additional money.
"You can be sure we will vigorously oppose this unfounded request," Reardon said.
Vai attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, who is representing plaintiffs in the vast majority of the more than 80 priest abuse cases, responded, stating that a jury found St. Elizabeth Parish -- through its inaction -- to be complicit in DeLuca's abuse of Vai from 1966 to 1969 and that the only reason the jury did not impose significant punitive damages on top of the $3 million compensatory award is because parish officials begged for mercy.
"[St. Elizabeth] showed no mercy to John Vai during the liability phase of the trial," Neuberger said. "They contended he was a liar. They attacked his daughter as a druggie. They made him open the wounds that were inflicted so many years ago," he said.
Attorneys for St. Elizabeth, in a court motion, estimated that 43 years of interest at 5.75 percent on $3 million would yield at least $7.5 million to as much as $32 million, if the court calculates compound interest. Neuberger said those numbers, particularly the $32 million, is "histrionic" and estimated the interest involved would likely be 5 percent and closer to $6 million.
Reed said the case brings up an unusual interplay between the Delaware Child Victims Act -- which suspended the civil statute of limitations to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse such as Vai to sue for acts that occurred decades ago -- and a state law designed to "reduce court congestion" by encouraging defendants to settle rather than face losing a case at trial.

"It is fair to say the Legislature probably didn't contemplate anything like this. But it did intend to benefit someone who suffered a terrible wrong and had a right to sue," Reed said. "It is a policy question and that is why we have a [state] Supreme Court. I can't see the Superior Court settling this definitively," Reed concluded.

Neuberger said things have been "quiet" since the Vai verdict and he hasn't seen any movement in deadlocked negotiations to reach a global settlement.
Diocese attorney Tony Flynn disagreed. "There have been settlement negotiations ongoing including as recently as last week," he said, adding that no deal has been reached.
He also noted that the diocese is in the process of filing a new bankruptcy plan that will address the objections raised by abuse survivors' attorneys to the previous plan and takes into account the recent jury verdict in the Vai case.
While the Delaware Supreme Court heard a challenge to the legality of the Delaware Child Victims Act earlier this month, which could potentially result in the dismissal of the 150 pending lawsuits, Flynn said the diocese is not waiting on a ruling in that case before taking action. "That could be months," he said.

Ban on blog
Debate grows over ban by rabbis of Orthodox blog that reports on child sex abuse
Thursday, 30 December 2010 18:04 Jerry DeMarco
A backlash has followed the decision by a group of rabbis to ban their followers from advertising, viewing or even patronizing the advertisers of an Orthodox Jewish news blog that reports on sexual abuse within their communities. Thirty six rabbis have condemned as sinful, and the response has been sharp.

“For many of the victims of abuse I know, the ban has created feelings of being re-traumatized,” Rabbi Asher Lipner told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Most survivors feel that the community's stifling their voices has been more damaging emotionally than the actual molestation they have suffered.”

The communities for years have sought to handle such incidents within their own ranks, calling to mind the behavior of the Catholic Church. More recently, however, families of victims have begun turning to the secular justice system.

It’s been a slow evolution, but even those in “ultra-Orthodox” communities in Brooklyn, Rockland County and at the Jersey Shore have begun to come forward. It’s not oversell to say this is a watershed moment in the history of the ultra-Orthodox community.
Asher Lipner

This pleases those like Lipner, an abuse survivor and vice-president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, who says that “forbidden criticism of rabbis and immodest speech… have been used for years to silence victims,” which he says only “triggers flashbacks and reawakens feelings of betrayal.”

The movement has clearly rankled many community leaders, however.

Vos Iz Neias? (Yiddish for “What's News?”) has won widespread acceptance and readership in the Hasidic and Yehiva communities -- no mean feat, considering its frank and open discussion of convicted Jewish sex offenders and their crimes. Besides its own stories, it re-prints pieces from, among others, Newsday, The New York Times, The New York Post, and The Jewish Week.

“They report on everything -- the good, the bad and the ugly,” Lipner told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “They have strict published rules of comment moderation, and they are seen as careful about being fair and balanced and not sensational.”

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis from Philadelphia to Europe don’t see it that way.

In a statement printed in Hebrew and posted in Orthodox neighborhoods, they said the site “airs dirty laundry in public” and “writes against officers and politicians…to ruin their reputations.”

Lipner contends the blog’s troubles come from trying to change a climate in which discussing child sexual abuse is more taboo than in general society.

Among the ultra-Orthodox, “religious and cultural norms frown upon any open discussion of sexual experiences for any reason as inherently immodest speech,” he explained. “Biblical laws against gossip and tale-bearing, known as ‘Lashon Harah,’ forbid spreading information about Jews committing crimes against other Jews.”

Scandal in the community is often considered a desecration of God’s name -- what‘s known as a “Chillul Hashem” -- while “criticizing the rabbis’ failure to keep children safe is seen as disrespectful to the authority of Torah sages,” Lipner told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

Lipner is among those who argue that Jewish law not only permits “informing others of dangerous criminals in order to protect children” but actually sees it as a commandment to do the right thing.

“As we have seen in other faith communities, the cover-up of child molestation produces more of a scandal than the crime itself, and constitutes a much greater desecration” of God’s name, he said.

“As far as criticizing the mistakes of leaders, the Torah writes that students are not allowed to be afraid to speak up when their teachers err in deciding Torah law because such fear could lead to a distortion of the Truth of the Torah,” Lipner said. “Finally, being overly modest at a time when lives are at stake (in this case innocent children) is repeatedly referred to in the Talmud as being a ‘pious fool’.”

Between the Orthodox community’s two leading newspapers, Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman, “there has been only a total of one article on the topic ever,” Lipner told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “It was an open admission in Yated that there is a problem, and it came out at the same time that rabbinic leaders joined the Catholic Church in open opposition to the Child Victim’s Act,” which extends the statute of limitations for victims to report abuse.

“It is against this backdrop that child victim advocates have been striving for years to bring awareness and openness about this issue to the community in order to find ways to prevent this crime,” Lipner said.

Several blogs -- among them, Theunorthodoxjew (UOJ), FailedMessiah and FrumFollies -- have forcefully and eloquently addressed the troubles, and the silence surrounding them. Now comes the ban on Vos Iz Neias?

Beginning in 2008 with its coverage of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s efforts to find solutions to child sex abuse, Vos Iz Neias? has reported on attempts by the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children and other rabbinic organizations to convince victims to go to the police, promoted the statute of limitations extension, and publicized events such as the recent first-ever National Jewish Week for the Prevention of Child Abuse.

While not condemning VIN, Shmarya Rosenberg, the publisher of, notes that the blog is "very selective about the news it publishes."

The site "censors out the names of most ultra-Orthodox criminals and pedophiles, and many stories go completely unreported," Rosenberg told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. "The conviction of Israel's former president, an Orthodox Jew, on rape charges today is a good example of that.

"VIN means well, to be sure, but they could not exist if they reported the truth or allowed comments to report it, although the comments section is a little looser than than the actual articles posted."

The comments area, according to Lipner, has "created a safe place for survivors to tell their stories anonymously in the comments section of its postings. Expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas has been healing and empowering for the survivors, and it has also been quite an eye-opener for the community to learn how many of their own children have been hurt by this problem.”

By doing so, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT, VIN has helped increase the number of Orthodox Jews reporting sex crimes against children to authorities, “thereby creating safer streets, schools and homes for Jewish children.”

Recently, Vos Iz Neias? reprinted a series of articles accusing New York AssemblymanVito Lopez, chairman of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party, of misusing funds. Lopez has close ties to many Hasidic rabbis.

Despite strong suspicions among those in the know that the ban was less about sexual abuse and more about politics, it’s unclear whether the Lopez coverage was the rabbis' primary motivation.

Whitewashing history
George Weigel: Whitewashing history
He continues to excuse the late Pope John Paul II from any culpability in the Legion scandal
Dec. 30, 2010
By Jason Berry

George Weigel, Pope John Paul II biographer and a leading conservative voice at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, has recently become a critic of the Legion of Christ, the scandal-racked religious order, after years of supporting it while dismissing complaints and charges against its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Among high-profile U.S. Catholic conservatives who long defended Maciel while denigrating his accusers, Weigel alone has made a turnabout in urging Legion reforms.

However, he continues to go out of his way, as he has for years, to excuse the late Pope John Paul II from any culpability in the Legion scandal. It was John Paul, more than anyone else, who backed Maciel and the Legion and elevated both in church status.

"I have been deeply impressed by the work of the Legionaries of Christ in the United States, in Mexico, and in Rome," Weigel wrote on a Legion Web site in 2002. "If Father Maciel and his charism as a founder are to be judged by the fruits of his work, those fruits are most impressive indeed."

Published accusations against Maciel first surfaced in 1997. In a report coauthored by this writer in Conneticut's Hartford Courant, nine men, interviewed in the United States and Mexico, charged that Maciel had molested them in Spain and Italy during the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Several said Maciel told them he had permission from Pope Pius XII to seek them out sexually for relief of physical pain.

U.S. Catholic conservative voices, including Catholic League president William Donohue and political activist Deal Hudson, defended Maciel at the time. Other conservatives had offered their continued support for the Legion founder. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, and CNN political analyst Bill Bennett were among them. Glendon, now a Harvard law professor, scoffed at "old slanders" and in a letter dated May 23, 2002, called Maciel a man of "radiant holiness."

Weigel's own endorsement came a month later. Both of their statements followed the April 2002 meeting of the U.S. cardinals with John Paul in Rome to discuss the abuse crisis. With clergy sex abuse receiving more media coverage, it was a period in which Legion leaders wanted to shore up Maciel's reputation amid heavy scrutiny.

Read the NCR editorial about Maciel and the Legion reform: Truth and a call to renewal

The defense of Maciel by conservative Catholics gave valuable cover to Maciel as the Legion struck back against the men from Mexico and Spain who had come forward to relate that they had been sexually abused by Maciel when they were teenage seminarians.

To say that Weigel, Glendon and Neuhaus — who asserted Maciel's innocence as "a moral certainty" — were duped is to overstate the obvious. Clearly, they were influenced by John Paul's own personal support for Maciel.

A larger question is why not one of those supporters bothered to sit down with the men who had accused Maciel, including Juan Vaca, the first to come forward with charges in a document he sent to Pope Paul VI in 1976, or Fr. Felix Alarcón, or the other six survivors, to hear what they had to say.

In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI banished Maciel from active ministry.

One week after the Feb. 2, 2009, news that Maciel had led a double life and had fathered a daughter, and after several priests quit the Legion, Weigel posed questions about the Legion in an essay on the First Things Web site, published by the conservative Institute on Religion and Public Life in Washington.

Many people with friends among "Legionary priests have known for years [that] there is great good here, as there is among the faithful members of Regnum Christi," Weigel wrote. "How shall that good be saved?" He called for a "root-and-branch examination" and "a brutally frank analysis of the institutional culture" by the Vatican. "Can the Legion be reformed from within, after those complicit in the Maciel web of deceit have been dismissed?"

Sanitizing the past

Today Weigel is the leading conservative voice urging Legion reform. Yet his demands for Vatican probity are preceded by a lengthy record of whitewashing John Paul's failure in the abuse crisis. In two biographies of the late pope, and in a 2002 book, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church, Weigel's treatment of the abuse crisis is marred by his blindness to a host of early reports and books on what sociologist Fr. Andrew M. Greeley called, in 1992, "the greatest scandal in the history of religion in America." The first volume of Weigel's papal biography, in 1999, completely avoids the issue. When the Boston scandal in 2002 forced John Paul to deal with it, Weigel flew to Rome as an ad hoc papal advisor.

Weigel is the rare writer not in the Legion's employ to get an interview with Maciel. After the 1997 Hartford Courant report, Maciel shunned journalists, even canceling a speech in Chicago for fear of facing reporters. Weigel's 2010 book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, notes that he interviewed Maciel on Feb. 19, 1998. Weigel does not quote Maciel, nor explain what he asked or what Maciel said, other than that John Paul broke a "logjam in 1983" for the approval of the Legion constitutions.

John Paul "may well have been ill served by associates and subordinates who ought to have been more alert to the implications of [Maciel's] cult of personality," writes Weigel. "The reasons that those associates and subordinates were skeptical of the charges will be investigated and debated for years." This, from a writer who had 10 interviews with John Paul for the 1999 book and better access to curial "associates" than most journalists at the Vatican.

"Despite the negative implications of John Paul's reputation that some of [his] critics quickly drew," Weigel writes, "what was at work in this scandalous affair was deception in the service of the mysterium iniquitatis" — the mystery of evil.

And so we are left to believe that one of the great moral leaders of the last century was deceived by the "mystery of evil."

Vatican politics

Weigel airbrushes any reference to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano pressuring then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to halt the Maciel prosecution from 1998 to 2004, and to the significant sums of money that Maciel advanced to both Sodano and papal secretary Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz (NCR, April 06, 2010). Of Dziwisz, a pivotal Maciel supporter, Weigel simply notes that the Polish prelate was "susceptible to misreading personalities." (Dziwisz has refused to answer NCR questions.)

What made John Paul insist on praising Maciel for years after the 1998 canonical filing by ex-Legion victims at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? NCR's John L. Allen Jr. reported in 2004 that John Paul and his senior advisers simply did not believe the accusations. Yet no one in Vatican inner circle felt the moral urgency to speak to Vaca or the seven other ex-Legionaries mentioned in the doctrinal congregation case.

Heaping blame on Maciel is easy now: He's dead. Why did the Vatican legal system break down? Why did John Paul not demand a probe of Maciel? The deeper mystery is why he could not bring himself to confront the larger crisis Maciel personified.

In 1999, a year after his Maciel interview, Weigel published a 992-page papal biography. Witness to Hope chronicles John Paul's life from childhood and priesthood in Poland, under the Nazi darkness, then communism, through the milestone events as pontiff with lucid analysis of his philosophical, theological and political thinking. Weigel credits Maciel with helping to persuade the president of Mexico in 1979 to meet John Paul at the airport on his first papal trip to Latin America. Not a word on the allegations against Maciel from 1997. The book ignores widely reported clergy abuse cases that rocked America and Ireland in the 1990s: the charges that brought down Covenant House founder Fr. Bruce Ritter; the resignation of Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., amid allegations from young women; the $119 million jury verdict against the Dallas diocese in 1997 that was a subject of great conversation in the Congregation for the Clergy, according to former priest Christopher Kunze, who worked there at the time. Were these not issues for the pope?

Jonathan Kwitney's biography Man of the Century: The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II, published two years before Weigel's, examines the abuse scandals with a straightforward approach, faulting John Paul for denial. A former Wall Street Journal correspondent, Kwitney, now deceased, wrote admiringly of John Paul's geopolitical triumphs and great pastoral gifts, yet with a moderately critical view of the pope's reaction to such internal church matters as celibacy and women's ordination.

Weigel wrote on the abuse issue in 1999:

Recruitment to seminaries had plummeted in the developed world, and seminaries themselves had experienced conditions ranging from confusion to turmoil since Vatican II. Discipline among the clergy faltered, and while statistical evidence demonstrated that malfeasance among Roman Catholic priests was no more severe (in absolute and relative terms) than among the clergy of other Christian denominations or among professionals in society, scandals involving priests were evils in themselves and another barrier to recruitment and reform within the presbyterate.
The issue of whether the priesthood had a greater proportion of child molesters than other denominations or professions had no consensus at the time. Nor does one exist today. Weigel's "evidence" source was Philip Jenkins' Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, a 1996 book based on secondary sources rather than church files unearthed by discovery subpoenas. Jenkins argued that the 1990s scandals were a construction of the media, abetted by liberal Catholics, notably Dominican Fr. Tom Doyle, who became an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, and Greeley. Jenkins' theory collapsed in the 2002 media coverage that revealed bishops had concealed child molesters in many dioceses. Jenkins works as an expert witness for dioceses facing abuse cases; according to his own sworn testimony, he charges $450 per hour.

Weigel implies that John Paul was not properly briefed in the 1990s. Were the papal nuncios in Washington and in Dublin, Ireland, censoring their diplomatic cables home? In March 1985, Doyle was a canonist working in the Vatican Embassy. "I prepared a 42-page detailed report explaining the issue in graphic details," he told NCR. "My boss, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pio Laghi, signed it. The document was personally given by [Philadelphia] Cardinal John Krol to the pope. I distinctly recall Laghi saying many times that 'my superiors in Rome' said this or that in response. There was a great deal of telephone traffic about it too."

In 1989 the American bishops sent canon lawyers to Rome, seeking the authority to defrock pedophiles without going through the long wait for such decisions from the pope. John Paul said no. Kwitney reports that John Paul was resistant to judging priests.

In April 2002, as The Boston Globe reports ignited international news coverage damaging to the Vatican, Weigel as an adviser to John Paul in Rome was quoted in the press. John Paul, in deteriorating health from Parkinson's disease, summoned the American cardinals to discuss the crisis. Several high-ranking cardinals and canonists defended church secrecy, impugning the media for anti-Catholic bias. Later that year, Weigel published The Courage to Be Catholic, and wrote scornfully of Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos' blunders at a press conference: "Some suggested that the cardinal's wooden performance had something to do with his alleged papal ambitions." But as Weigel took the curia to task, he was filling holes in the 1999 biography. Weigel blamed the Vatican bureaucracy for failing to keep the pope advised. Although the Holy See had a sophisticated Web site and the Vatican Press Office disseminated daily news digests of papal activities by e-mail, Weigel wrote:

The church in the United States expected that the Vatican was living through the American Catholic trauma of early 2002 in real time through adequate information from the Washington nunciature. The Vatican wasn't, because the Vatican is simply not part of the Internet culture and the information flow from Washington was inadequate. That created an expectations gap that widened and deepened during the first three months of the crisis.
The "expectations gap" had nothing to do with the Internet; it had been building since at least 1989 when the U.S. bishops failed to get permission from John Paul to laicize pedophiles. As a decade of scandals followed, John Paul was largely silent, particularly at the 1995 resignation of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna, whose sexual transgressions with youths provoked a scandal in Austria. John Paul had plucked Groër from obscurity to become an archbishop.

For Weigel, "the crisis" begins in 2002, a position consistent with its absence from his 1999 John Paul biography. The 2002 book cites a litany of scandals, including gay seminarians dancing at the North American College in Rome. Weigel decries a loss of orthodox bearings. He does not spare bishops: "Episcopal misgovernance came in many forms: bishops who took a cavalier attitude toward sexual abuse; bishops who knowingly transferred sexual abusers … who misled other bishops about known sexual abusers; bishops who saw the crisis of clerical sexual abuse in primarily legal and financial terms … bishops who failed to clean up their seminaries."

John Paul appointed many of those bishops. The vetting process, which excluded lay involvement, eliminated any candidate for the episcopacy who had endorsed optional celibacy or women priests. The gay subculture Weigel scorns arose as thousands of men left the priesthood to marry after Pope Paul VI's 1967 encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, in which he called celibacy the church's "brilliant jewel."

Weigel ignores a substantial body of work on clerical life from the 1970s and 1980s by Greeley, psychologist Eugene Kennedy, author A.W. Richard Sipe, and the late psychiatrist Conrad Baars, who delivered a 1971 report at the Vatican, "The Role of the Church in the Causation, Treatment and Prevention of the Crisis in the Priesthood."

Weigel ignores a longstanding body of literature by these and other Catholic social scientists on the symptoms of crisis, even pathology, in clerical culture. "The deepest root of the crisis of episcopal misgovernance," wrote Weigel, "is theological. … Too many bishops in the United States have traded the rich evangelical, pastoral and sacramental patrimony that is theirs for the mess of pottage that is contemporary management theory."

Read the first part of this report here: Gambling with history: Benedict and the Legion of Christ


[Jason Berry is an author and producer of a film documentary on Maciel, "Vows of Silence." The Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute provided support for this article.]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30 — The Question is Simple

Where is the Love: For the Money or the Children?

The United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper reports:

The Vatican today announced new rules to make its financial dealings more transparent and bring it into line with international legislation designed to prevent money-laundering.

The move came after an Italian court in September froze €23m (£19.6m) of the Vatican’s money over claims that its bankers were trying to move the cash across international borders without identifying its source, destination or purpose. Full details of the new measures are to be released today. But a statement made clear they would include the creation of a new compliance authority and the introduction of legislation to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

— This news story begs the question: For those who were raped and sodomized by priests and whose abuse was concealed by the bishops the Church selects, appoints, and keeps in power, bishops who moved priests from town to town, state to state, country to country shielding them and allowing them to continue to abuse, where is the swift and deliberate action of reparation or resolution of the crisis?

Ah, but when the thawing of money is involved, we hear no voices that reform in the Church take time, the machinery grinds slowly, the deliberations are snail paced, there are so many factors to be considered, and there should be no expectation that will change in our respective lifetimes.

As the Scripture tells us, where your treasure is, so you heart will also be.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, NSAC

Toledo cover-up
Ex-Toledo chancellor honored; Sex abuse victims respond

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,

As a top ranking diocesan manager, Billian was a key part of a small group of Catholic officials who ignored and concealed child sex crimes. For Bishop Blair and the Pope to honor him with this exalted title is extraordinarily callous. It rubs salt into the already deep wounds of clergy sex abuse victims. And it sends a dangerous signal: if you act irresponsibly with the safety of children, you’ll still get rewarded in the Toledo diocese.

Abuse in Sri Lanka
Tamil, Sinhala detainees clash in Vavuniyaa remand prison
[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 December 2010, 02:15 GMT]
Two were injured in a clash that erupted between detainees in the Vavuniyaa remand prison Tuesday around 5:30 p.m. when Tamil detainees assaulted a Mannaar-based Christian priest and a long-time humanitarian worker, who was recently held in remand over alleged charges that he had sexually abused Tamil girls displaced due to the Vanni war. Altercation ensued as a group of Sinhala detainees rushed in defense of the priest and started assaulting their Tamil detainees with pointed weapons and blades. The alleged sexual abuse of under-aged girls are said to have taken in a Home for Destitutes run by the priest at Murungkan in Mannaar district, legal sources in Mannaar said.

On receipt of information from the prison police as the situation inside the prison was out of control, a riot squad of the Vavuniyaa police rushed and brought the situation under control, police said.

The Sinhalese prisoners participated in the clash are in remand over several criminal charges including possession of narcotics and abduction.

The injured detainees were admitted to the Vavuniyaa general hospital on Tuesday night and some Tamil detainees after the clash had been transferred to the Anuradhapura prison.

Tamil detainees have started a fast demanding the return of their fellow detainees from Anuradhapura prison.

Meanwhile, riot police squad has been guarding the Vavuniyaa prison day and night fearing further clashes between the two groups of prisoners.

The suspect Christian priest had been running the Home for the Destitute Women due to the war since October.

The suspect priest, who has had good reputation in humanitarian work in the past, went in hiding following the complaint that he had sexually abused two girls sheltered in the home.

Sri Lankan police filed case in the Mannaar Magistrate court charging the priest for the alleged offence. The Mannaar court ordered the closure of the home for the destitute girls and to transfer other inmates about 20 girls to another safe location.

The court further ordered that the two abused girls should be subjected to medical examination.

The court also ordered the arrest of the priest at sight. Later, police received information that the priest had fled to India.

On December 24 the priest was arrested at the Katunayake International Airport (KIA) on his return from India. He was first produced in Negombo Court.

A prominent Attorney-at-Law from Colombo and two Attorney-at-Laws from Mannaar appeared on behalf of the suspect priest when he was produced in Mannaar court on December 27.

Mannaar Magistrate Ms K.Jeevaranee ordered that the suspect priest be remanded till January 4 next year till the court receives medical examination report on the two girls.

The Magistrate further refused permission to the application of the police that the suspect be handed over to them for further investigation. The Magistrate directed the police that they could interrogate the suspect while in the court house. Police thereafter subjected the suspect for further interrogation in the court house.

The priest-suspect was then taken to Vavuniyaa prison. The assault on the suspect followed thereafter that ended in a clash between two factions of the prisoners divided on ethnic basis.

Abusers included
Inclusion of abusers on church body criticised
PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

PSYCHOLOGIST DR Maureen Gaffney has described as “perversity on a breathtaking scale” the fact that the Catholic Church’s Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal included two known clerical child sex abusers when it was suggested that Tony Walsh also be appointed to it.

On December 6th last, Walsh was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment, four suspended, for child sex abuse. Chapter 19 of the Murphy report, published before Christmas, dealt mainly with how church and State authorities handled allegations against Tony Walsh. He was described by it as “probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to the attention of the [Murphy] commission”.

The report revealed that in 1989 it was suggested that Walsh, then an admitted child sex abuser, be appointed to the tribunal, which dealt mainly with annulments.

This was not done but, as the Murphy report puts it, there were then “two known abusers . . . in the regional marriage tribunal . . .’’ Those were Fr Ivan Payne and a priest referred to as “Fr Cicero” in the report.

Dr Gaffney, adjunct professor of psychology and society at UCD, told The Irish Times : “I can’t even begin to fathom the reasoning’’ behind such appointments. It indicated that the marriage tribunal “was regarded as an area of such low importance it did not matter if there were depraved people there”, she said. There were, within the church, “many areas of endeavour which were womanless and childless . . . some of them areas of high status.’’

“As we know in Ireland of the period, many marriages were annulled on sexual grounds,” she said. She was appalled at “the idea of bringing in people with such problems before people who had severe difficulties with their own sexuality . . . I don’t think the church had any sense that the annulment process was about human beings.”

The tribunal dealt mainly with applications for annulments from the Dublin archdiocese.

Its judicial vicar, or chairman, in 1989 was the late Msgr Gerard Sheehy. In autumn of 1989, according to Chapter 19, it was suggested (it does not say by whom) to Msgr Sheehy “that he might take Fr Jovito [Tony Walsh] into the tribunal”.

Msgr Sheehy declined “on the basis that Fr Jovito’s limited intellectual capacity might lead him to become frustrated”.

He stated that a prison chaplaincy might be more suitable. The archdiocese had by then extensive knowledge of Walsh’s abuse of children, going back to 1978.

Ivan Payne was appointed to the tribunal in 1975. The first complaint against him in 1981 concerned the abuse of Andrew Madden. Msgr Sheehy and Archbishop Dermot Ryan were informed. In September 1984 Payne was moved to Sutton.

In April 1995 Mr Madden went public. By then, the archdiocese had received reports of inappropriate behaviour by Payne in Sutton. In July 1995, two boys in Sutton made complaints about Payne. Others also came forward.

Attempts to remove Payne from the marriage tribunal were resisted by Msgr Sheehy who argued it “would very likely be the final destruction of a good priest . . .” Still more complainants came forward. In October 1995, Payne resigned from the tribunal. In June 1998, he was sentenced to six years on charges arising from the abuse of 10 children. He was laicised in 2002.

Fr Cicero was a priest of Ossory diocese and began working with the tribunal in the 1970s. Complaints about his abuse of young girls were first reported in 1986, despite which Msgr Sheehy supported his continuing on the tribunal.

In 1999 he admitted abusing “approximately 12 victims”. In November 2000 he was removed from the marriage tribunal. Msgr Sheehy described it as “a shattering blow”. So in January 2001, it was agreed Fr Cicero would be allowed do unofficial work for the tribunal.

He died in 2002.

Priest sues abbey
Priest sues Mt. Angel Abbey for more than $1 million for sexual mistreatment that he says led to a lifetime of pain
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 11:42 AM Updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 1:48 PM
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Terry Richard/The OregonianA Roman Catholic priest has sued Mt. Angel Abbey, its signature bell tower is shown here in 2007. The priest says he was sexually mistreated as a teenager in the 1970s and seeks more than $1 million.
A Roman Catholic priest who says he was sexually mistreated as a teenager in the 1970s by a priest at Mt. Angel Abbey is suing the abbey for more than $1 million.

The priest, who was ordained in 1986, is identified in the lawsuit only as Father X.

It’s rare for priests to sue for alleged sexual mistreatment they suffered as children at the hands of church leaders. David Clohessy, executive director of the Missouri-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said several have filed claims. The first was in 1993 when Father Gary Hayes sued a New Jersey diocese claiming two priests sexually abused him when he was a boy.

Father X claims that the late Father Emmanuel Clark hugged him with his pants unzipped; pressed his head to his chest and told him that his heart beat with love for him; referred to him by a pet name; and encouraged him to go to adult book stores.

Newport attorney Bill Barton, who is representing Father X along with Portland attorney Erin Olson, said his client thought carefully about whether he would seek compensation for a lifetime of damages caused by the alleged abuse.

“He’s a man of great conscience and integrity, and this is not an easy thing for him to do,” Barton said. The suit was filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

According to the suit, the sexually inappropriate behavior caused Father X physical and emotional pain, an eating disorder, shame, anxiety, sexual orientation confusion, loss of professional identity and loss of his religious faith.

Stephen English, a Portland attorney representing the abbey, noted that none of the alleged conduct involved sexual touching. English said he will fully investigate whether the alleged hugging and other conduct by the now-deceased priest led to the damages Father X claims.

“Mt. Angel Abbey absolutely condemns any form of child abuse or inappropriate conduct,” English said.

Father X claims he was mistreated by Clark while attending the high school, Mt. Angel Preparatory, between the ages of 14 and 17. The high school no longer exists, but the abbey still operates a seminary in the tiny community of St. Benedict about 40 miles south of Portland.

Father X is approximately 50 years old today, although the lawsuit doesn’t list his exact age or city where he lives or works.

Oregon law allows childhood victims of sexual abuse to sue up until age 40, or within five years of recognizing that the abuse has damaged them.

Legion of Christ
Gambling with history: Benedict and the Legion of Christ
Dec. 29, 2010
By Jason Berry

Legionaries of Christ seminarians lead the recessional during Mass celebrated by top Vatican officials at the Legionaries of Christ's Center for Higher Studies in Rome June 8. (CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI's decision last July to take control of the Legionaries of Christ was a calculated risk. Amid a withering clergy abuse crisis, the pope chose an overseer to remake an international religious order built on the "charism" of a founder who sexually abused seminarians and fathered out-of-wedlock children, including two sons who claim they are incest victims.

The late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, lionized for most of his 86 years, is now the scapegoat for nearly everyone drawn into the legal quagmire he left: the Legion and its lay group, Regnum Christi; the pope; Vatican officials; and high-profile Legion supporters who in the past strongly defended Maciel against charges of abuse.

Just last month, the Vatican ordered Maciel's photo removed from Legion facilities and banned sales of his writing, among other restrictions. However, hammering the memory of Maciel, like some statue of a fallen dictator, does little to answer the serious questions that still linger from his life of deception.

The story of the Legion of Christ and Maciel will continue to unfold in 2011. Interwoven into this story, however, has been a larger one, the story of the way the highest Catholic authorities entrusted to run the church reacted to the Maciel scandal, what decisions they made and what these decisions say about their own views of church and its mission.

It helps, then, to stand back and answer a few basic questions: Why did this scandal happen? How could John Paul II, a pope who showed brilliant moral vision in the face of Soviet communism, ignore the pedophilia allegations that trailed Maciel for decades? Why did he continue praising Maciel for six years after ex-Legionaries filed a 1998 canonical case with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger? How could Maciel's supporters, especially in the United States, so easily dismiss the testimony of so many credible accusers? Considering the order's strange history that keeps coming to light, is Benedict's decision to reform the Legion realistic?

While the question for Benedict is both immediate and risky, there is probably more at stake, depending on how those questions are answered, for the late John Paul and his legacy. How the story evolves and who controls the narrative could greatly influence whether John Paul continues to be viewed purely in heroic terms or as someone whose papacy was tainted by a scandal that came to light just five years after his election, but that he acknowledged only in the late days of his reign.

Read the second part of this report tomorrow: George Weigel: Whitewashing history

It was in 1983 that John Paul approved Legion bylaws that allowed Maciel to insulate himself from scrutiny. In the order's "private vows," Legionaries pledged never to criticize the founder, and to report on anyone who did. Five months before his death, John Paul approved Regnum Christi statutes that are in some ways as strange and excessively controlling as the private vows.

Benedict revoked the private vows in 2007, after banishing Maciel from active ministry. Maciel died in 2008. A Vatican investigation of Regnum Christi, the lay arm of the order that some describe as a cult, is currently under way. As Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the papal delegate and canon lawyer, oversees the writing of a new Legion constitution in Rome, Benedict appears to be gambling that it is better to salvage than to dismantle the organization, despite its many disillusioned ex-members, and the opinions of six U.S. bishops who banned the Legion and Regnum Christi from their dioceses.

Benedict is now pushing the Legion to compensate Maciel's victims, especially older victims who have no legal recourse for abuse from long ago, a striking departure from the Vatican's historic aloofness to legal remediation. The Vatican has no mechanism for compensating victims. In essence, the pope is pushing the Legion as a judge would in trying to get two parties to settle a dispute.

Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico, one of five prelates charged with investigating the Legion for the Holy See, said as much to reporters in Mexico May 18: "We need, then, to take care of [Maciel's] victims, as much inside as outside the Legion, and to compensate them for damages. This is something we all agreed on, and the pope accepted — just as he has been doing, and bravely so."

The pope has evinced a pastoral approach to the Legion's 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians and 60,000 Regnum Christi members. He calls down Maciel for a "twisted, wasted life," in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, a new book-length interview with Peter Seewald. At the same time, Benedict praises the "dynamism and strength by which [Maciel] built up the Legionaries." He told Seewald: "Naturally corrections must be made, but by and large the congregation is strong."

The Legion certainly is strong by some measures. In Rome, the order symbolizes wealth and orthodoxy. The Legion college campus, Regina Apostolorum, provides newly invested bishops a residence, Mater Ecclesia hall, for introductory training. "The facilities and grounds are spectacular and the Legionaries have been superb hosts," wrote Bishop David M. O'Connell of Trenton, N.J., in a Sept. 13 Web post. "Meals are well prepared and served by members of the community who have demonstrated an uncanny ability to anticipate virtually every need." What O'Connell describes is vintage Legion, catering to the most powerful churchmen.

De Paolis has a commission of canonists and Legionaries drafting a new constitution for the Legion in Rome. Meanwhile, the order faces lawsuits in Connecticut from one of Maciel's sons, an alleged incest victim, and in Rhode Island from a woman contesting the will of her aunt, Gabrielle Mee, a Regnum Christi member who died before it was known that Maciel had fathered children. The Mee estate that went to the Legion totaled upwards of $7.5 million, according to the Hartford Courant.

Both lawsuits seek financial settlements from the order, arguing that senior Legion officials long knew of Maciel's twisted life.

Foxes guard the hen house

Five days before Watty's May remarks in Mexico, Legion superior general Fr. Álvaro Corcuera sought forgiveness of Juan Vaca, one of Maciel's oldest victims, who, as a young priest, beseeched the Vatican to oust the Legion founder. Corcuera told Vaca that Legionaries in Rome were reading a 1976 letter he had sent to Pope Paul VI in which he identified 20 other sexual abuse victims. Vaca sent the document to the Vatican two more times. Corcuera told Vaca a Legion committee in Rome was considering reparations.

"Unfortunately, we addressed these things very slowly and late," Benedict conceded to Seewald. "Somehow they were concealed very well, and only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues."

Why the pope fixed on the year 2000 is unclear. Vaca's dossier on Maciel, which also sought dispensation of his vows, went to the Vatican from his bishop in Rockville Centre, N.Y., in 1990. Ratzinger's office approved the dispensation in 1993, while ignoring the abuse accusations. Nevertheless, Benedict's admission of a response "slowly and late" is a rare admission about the systemic failure to prosecute Maciel.

Several of the priests on De Paolis' committee to rewrite the constitution were strategic figures in Maciel's life.

The Irish-born Fr. Anthony Bannon directed the North American work of Regnum Christi for many years from the Legion headquarters in Cheshire, Conn. Regnum Christi members discussed Maciel's letters in study groups. Targeting new members and raising money was central to the group's mission.

Small, far-flung groups of consecrated women live as celibates in Regnum Christi communities, often staffing Legion schools. A key figure in the Rhode Island lawsuit, Bannon was an architect of Legion fundraising and the Web site campaign against Maciel's early victims. Bannon's presence, among five other priests on De Paolis' group drafting a constitution, is like the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. Bannon's apparatus touted Maciel's heroism to inspire seminarians who, in turn, accompanied priests on fundraising calls to targeted benefactors.

Of the other Legion priests on the commission to revise the constitutions, Fr. Roberto Aspe Hinojosa is a Mexican and one of Maciel's earliest and closest followers, according to Sandro Magister in L'espresso, a prominent Italian newsweekly. A Spaniard, Fr. José García Sentandreu, oversees the Legion's apostolate works, while Fr. Gabriel Sotres was head of the order's communications for two decades. How De Paolis can hope to find the ethical balance for reforming the Legion from these men strains credulity.

On Sept. 12, Vaca sent an e-mail to De Paolis claiming that because of quotes he provided for the 1997 Hartford Courant investigation of Maciel, the Legion tried "to destroy my professional reputation by false declarations in the National Catholic Register" — the Legion-owned weekly paper — "and on the Legionnaire community Web site,"

Legion priest Owen Kearns, editor of the Register, had written on following the Courant story, "Vaca is seeking revenge because he was incompetent in his job, and was being demoted."

"Vaca is just one of the disgruntled old men instigating a campaign of lies and calumnies against our beloved and innocent founder," wrote Kearns and Bannon in the Register. The comment also appeared on the Legion Web page.

Kearns recently issued an apology in the Register to the Courant; the late Gerald Renner, who wrote the original Legion story for the Courant; and this writer, with unnamed victims mentioned in passing.

What is Regnum Christi?

Regnum Christi, the other part of what Maciel called the Movement, states on its Web site that it is not a cult because the Catholic church does not approve cults. Did John Paul understand Regnum Christi? That is hard to imagine, given Benedict's decision to open an investigation of the Legion's lay wing. Is it a cult? Do certain practices amount to brainwashing? These questions gnaw at Genevieve Kineke, an orthodox Catholic, wife, and mother of four in East Greenwich, R.I., who has chronicled the Movement with scholarly resolve on her blog. Kineke is one of several women who left Regnum Christi over practices they considered deceptive. The group formed a loose network to assist others who leave.

Regnum Christi cultivates wealthy couples, particularly stay-at-home mothers, while seeking consecrated celibates to live like nuns and staff Legion schools. "When people leave the Movement it cuts through families, friendships and parishes," said Kineke, who has been an unofficial counselor to about 200 people in the last 10 years. "Some are so spiritually scarred they find it difficult to trust the church at all — the manipulation has been too traumatic."

Another ex-Regnum Christi member, who asked that her name not be used, waged a virtual one-woman campaign briefing Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, who banned the Legion and the lay wing from his archdiocese. "I've always suspected the flaws in the organization are endemic to it," O'Brien told NCR's John L. Allen Jr. in 2008. "There's no remedying them, because it's so deeply ingrained." Prelates in Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; Miami; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Richmond, Va., have banned the Movement from their dioceses.

In some houses of consecrated Regnum Christi members, the day begins with a woman entering bedrooms or a dormitory at 5:20 a.m., shouting: "Christ our king!" The women bolt out of bed and reply: "Thy kingdom come!"

"It took me a long time to conclude it was a cult," said Kineke. "I realized that the Movement entirely suppressed the true nature of freedom. Everything from posture and demeanor to verbal responses is scripted. The Movement uses smoke and mirrors to suggest the disciplined convents or seminaries of years past, but Maciel produced a culture that strips away basic freedoms. They thrive on efficiency, reaching quotas, meeting deadlines like a hard-core industry. Everyone read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 'Time is kingdom' was Maciel's gospel, meaning that you had to always be urgently working for the Movement. For women who did not need a job, you felt the Kingdom depended on you."

Kineke's blog,, is a major link on the Web site of, administered by Paul Lennon, a family therapist in Alexandria, Va. Lennon left the Legion and his priesthood in the 1980s after a falling out with Maciel over his dictatorial practices. In 2007 the Legion sued Lennon and ReGAIN, alleging intellectual property theft for the posting of the Legion constitution. The real target was ReGAIN's message board, which had become a clearing house for people leaving Regnum Christi and sharing Legion information. Unable to raise funds for a long legal fight, Lennon dismantled the message board and returned the constitution. Maciel died several months later, and within two years the world knew about his children.

At a Nov. 30, 2004, celebration with Maciel at the Vatican, John Paul praised Regnum Christi for fostering a "civilization of Christian justice and love" and approved their statutes. Among the rules:

103. Recruitment happens in stages, going successfully from kindness to friendship, from friendship to confidence, from confidence to conviction, from conviction to submission.
494. No one shall visit outsiders in their homes, deal with them frequently or speak with them by telephone without justifiable reasons or for apostolic purposes. …

509. The center's Director or Manager shall review all correspondence from members of the center and release that which he or she judges to be opportune.

An apostolic visitation — a Vatican investigation — of Regnum Christi has just started. "Therefore, any changes, if needed, to Regnum Christi statutes would come later," Legion spokesman Jim Fair told NCR.

Benedict's dilemma

John Paul's conflicted view of the sex abuse crisis registered in his April 2002 address at the Apostolic Palace to the cardinals of the United States. Stating that the sexual abuse of youngsters was "rightly considered a crime by society" and "an appalling sin in the eyes of God," he said: "To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern."

He then defended the bishops for "a generalized lack of knowledge" and taking the "advice of the clinical experts," meaning therapists at treatment centers where bishops sent the priests. Then, in reference to offending priests, he said: "We cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God."

He also declared: "People need to know there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young."

What was John Paul's answer? "The power of conversion" for clergy child molesters or "no place in the priesthood" for them? Conversion or exclusion? On the worst church crisis in centuries, John Paul demonstrated ambivalence, not certainty.

Benedict inherited a huge mess from John Paul. Ratzinger's detachment in the 1980s as a cardinal from serious cases, recently exposed in the European press, The New York Times and The Associated Press, equally underscores John Paul's lack of leadership, as well as more systemic factors: The Vatican monarchical system has no separation of powers and no bona fide court system for criminal prosecution. Benedict in theory has the power to demote, punish or call down cardinals, but that would violate unwritten rules of the hierarchy.

As De Paolis began making personnel changes in the Legion last month, Benedict's prospects of a reform to boost his image from the scandals earlier this year appear to hang on whether De Paolis can secure Legion financial resources to produce a victims' compensation plan. That would be a historic breakthrough and sign of visionary papal leadership. Judges in democratic countries oversee negotiated settlements all the time — not so Vatican tribunals under canon law.

A deeper question is whether the Holy See has control of the Legion, and if so, just how the pope will change the organization.

On Nov. 11, De Paolis responded to Vaca: "I have received your e-mail dated November 3, 2010. Sorry for my delay in answering you, but at present I have many commitments to meet. As far as your case is concerned, I think that the only solution is to address to the responsible [parties] of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. God bless you."

[Jason Berry is an author and producer of a film documentary on Maciel, "Vows of Silence." The Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute provided support for this article.]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The DC Declaration: A Call To Moral Resposibility
Tagged with: Catholic Church Donald Wuerl Washington DC
I am Dr. Paula S. Brooks, Publisher of
In a recent interview with Fox News Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of the District of Columbia, told Chris Wallace that the church had moved decisively in the Catholic Child Sexual Abuse Scandal…

I will agree with him … the church has indeed acted decisively… not to protect children, but to limit the financial damage to the Church and to get the faithful move on to some other topic… before every moral parishioner flees, taking their checkbooks with them…

In the decades-long cover-up of these despicable crimes and to maintain the secrecy surrounding the Church’s responsibility and complicity in the sexual abuse of thousands of Catholic children… Dioceses in Delaware, Portland, Tucson, and Spokane have filed bankruptcy to get the victims to simply go away and the Churches lawyers have tried every legal trick in their very large books to see that the Church will not be held responsible for these crimes.

Cardinal Wuerl and the Church leadership would now simply use the wedge issue of same-sex marriage to focus the attention of the faithful elsewhere.

Indeed, the leadership of the Catholic Church is bankrupt, spiritually and morally.They have caused great harm to both children and families and have surrendered their standing in the conversation of what is moral and what is not…

Additionally anyone who would act as an apologist for such con artists, likewise are equally spiritually and morally deficient and therefore, as well, have no legitimate place in the conversation of what is moral and what is not.

I am a Catholic mother of 2 children… and as such, it is my moral responsibility to hold the Catholic Hierarchy accountable and not allow others to defend the monstrosities that the Catholic Church Leadership is perpetuating by granting them any forum to the claim of moral standing.

Therefore as a responsible mother I will have no commerce or conversation with those who have harmed children and families or those that would assist them in that endeavor…. And my site will not be used to aid or further the aims of the current leadership of the Catholic Church or their enablers and protectors in any manner.

Church sued
Parents file suit against Parker Hill
By Don McGlynn
Reporter / Photographer

Parents look to hold accountable Parker Hill Community Church for the part it may have played in the molestation of a minor.

The parents of a minor who was molested are suing Joshua W. Landis and Parker Hill Community Church in Lackawanna County Court.

Landis, a former youth leader at Parker Hill, was sentenced, after pleading guilty, to unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor.

Landis received consecutive sentences Oct. 27 from Lackawanna County Judge Michael J. Barrasse. He will face 12 to 36 months at a state prison on the count of unlawful contact with minors, and nine to 24 months for corruption of a minor.

Following his release, Landis will be required to complete four years of special probation, during which time he is prohibited contact with minors.

He was arrested Feb. 23 on charges that he assaulted a teenage boy under his care.

After informing police of the alleged abuse, the boy was recorded by detectives while talking to Landis in a conversation in which Landis admitted that his conduct toward the boy was inappropriate and he apologized for his actions.

Attorney Kevin P. Foley filed the suit at Lackawanna County Court Dec. 21. The suit claims that the church fostered an atmosphere in which Landis felt that child sexual abuse could, and did, take place.

The suit claims Parker Hill was aware of similar allegations against Landis while he worked as a youth minister and was given a small group of teenage boys to mentor and chaperone at Union Center Christian Church (U.C.C.C.) in Endicott, N.Y.

The suit said that Landis, during his time with U.C.C.C., reportedly provided alcohol and cigars to the minors, and had inappropriate contact with a minor.

He was allegedly asked to leave the church and advised to undergo counseling.

New York State Police charged Landis with unlawful dealings with a child in June 2007. None of the parents involved pressed formal charges, according to the suit, and Landis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

He was sentenced to a fine of $100 and one year of probation.

During the time a criminal investigation was pending in New York, Landis moved to Clarks Summit and became involved with Parker Hill, according to the suit.

The suit states that in August 2007, Landis contacted a U.C.C.C. minister, informing them he had joined Parker Hill and he had begun counseling with a church counselor and a pastor at Parker Hill.

Upon receiving this information, the minister from U.C.C.C. allegedly contacted a pastor from Parker Hill and, it is believed, expressed his suspicions and concerns about Landis, specifically with children. It is further alleged that the minister disclosed the criminal allegations against Landis’ sexual tendencies towards boys and his supplying alcohol to minors, according to the suit.

After allegedly receiving the information, Parker Hill allowed Landis to serve in a leadership role to teenage boys.

In November 2008, Landis became a youth minister with Parker Hill. According to the suit, it is believed that the church did not perform a criminal records check until long after he was appointed.

While a youth minister, the suit said, Landis groomed the plaintiff in the case by lavishing him with expensive gifts, including a Macintosh computer.

In Oct. 2009, Landis made inappropriate sexual advances toward the minor plaintiff.

As a result, the suit states, the minor has sustained severe mental pain and anguish, as well as suffered great discomfort, embarrassment and loss of sense of identity, all of which have disabled him and have required medical care and treatment for his injuries, which are of a continuing permanent nature.

Priest admits abuse
Belgian activist priest admits sexual abuse
(AP) – 2 hours ago

BRUSSELS (AP) — A Belgian priest and prominent Third World development activist has admitted he sexually abused a minor 40 years ago, the director of the development aid organization he founded said Wednesday.

The case of 85-year-old Francois Houtart came to light after the priest's supporters started a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The victim's sister contacted Cetri — a nonprofit organization working in the field of social justice and international development — in October to inform its members of the abuse, said Bernard Duterme, the organization's director.

In early November, Houtart resigned from the board of Cetri, which he had founded in the 1970s, Duterme said.

Houtart, who is currently in Ecuador, didn't immediately respond to phone calls and e-mail Wednesday, but in an interview with Belgian newspaper Le Soir, he is quoted as saying he twice touched "the intimate parts" of a boy he describes as his cousin 40 years ago. He calls the incident "inconsiderate and irresponsible."

The woman, however, reportedly claimed that he raped her brother twice.

The Catholic church in Belgium has been rocked by a sex abuse scandal and in June published a detailed report with the harrowing accounts of more than 100 victims. The abused included children aged between the ages of two and six years old.

In the interview, Houtart said the sister also contacted the committee campaigning to have him nominated for the Nobel Price.

"The message from my cousin was a warning that only I could understand," Houtart is quoted as saying. He describes how he entered the boy's room when he was staying with the boy's parents close to Liege, in eastern Belgium.

"Walking through the room of one of the family's boys, I effectively touched his intimate parts twice, which woke him up and frightened him," Houtart is quoted as saying.

The committee in November ended its campaign to nominate Houtart for the 2011 Nobel Prize, saying the priest had requested its termination because "his age and his personal projects would not allow him to fully assume the role requested in such circumstances."

In a statement, the committee said "thousands of people" in 74 countries had participated in the signature campaign, recognizing Houtart's role in the social justice and antiglobalization movement.

According to Le Soir, the victim's sister is one of the witnesses in the report. In the section referred to by the paper, a woman details the abuse of her brother, which she describes as "rape."

She says the priest, who was a friend of her father, entered her brother's room twice "to rape him." ''Before the third time, my brother went to tell his parents, who kept him in their room," she is quoted as saying in the report.

The priest isn't named in the report, but the woman said she had recently read an article about him, "full of praise."

Francois Polet, another employee at Cetri, said the organization decided not to go public with the reason for Houtart's resignation from the board at the victim's sister's request. He said the precise relationship between the Houtart and the victim — whether he was a cousin, nephew, or more distant relative — wasn't clear.

"It was a big, big surprise and a big, big (disappointment)," Polet said of the revelation. "Directly for us it was very clear that we could not continue to have some kind of collaboration" with Houtart.

Belgian Catholic Leader Says Church Does Not Have To Compensate Sex Abuse Victims
Subscribe :The controversial prelate appointed less than a year ago by Pope Benedict XVI to push the liberal-leaning Catholic Church in Belgium in a more conservative direction has sparked yet another uproar by telling a government commission that the church has no obligation to compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests.

"The civil court must determine the compensation and the offender [the accused priest] must pay," Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels told a parliamentary commission in testimony three days before Christmas.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, which reported from Brussels on the testimony, commission members reacted with "surprised amazement" to Léonard's comments and the exchange with the archbishop deteriorated from there.

The parliamentary commission was created after a church-backed inquiry last September turned up more than 475 cases of abuse by priests and lay workers since the 1950s. At least 13 of the victims committed suicide. As has happened in other European countries over the past year, the revelations scandalized Belgians and led to the government probe.

But unlike prelates in other countries, the Belgian church leadership, led by Léonard, has pushed back against the investigation. Léonard, however, has no reservoir of good will with the public to draw on. The archbishop has regularly criticized the lifestyles of Belgians and in particular of homosexuals, calling homosexuality "abnormal" and most recently saying AIDS was a kind of divine "justice" for promiscuity.

In November, Léonard's own spokesman resigned, comparing the archbishop to a "reckless driver" who rejected all advice and sought out controversy.

During the parliamentary commission hearings on Dec. 22, Léonard seemed to live up to that reputation. According to NCR, he "appeared defiant and at times took sarcastic swipes" at the whole process.

"Where will it all end up?" Archbishop Léonard asked. "Pretty soon authorities will ask for compensation for [unhappy] children resulting from [in vitro fertilization]...And what about the studies showing the psychological impact on children who have two papas or two mamas?" he said, referring to same-sex marriage "Will we have to compensate them as well?"

Compounding the shock of Léonard's testimony was that he had been expected to present the outline of a compensation package. A day earlier Léonard's predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, seemed to prepare the ground for a conciliatory presentation when he said the Belgian church must be humble about its sins and provide compensation to victims.

"For too long," Danneels said, "the church thought only about itself and about its priests and now it is time to think about the victims of sexual abuse."

The day after appearing before the commission, Léonard appeared to try to make amends by announcing that he would voluntarily donate to a "solidarity fund" for victims of sexual abuse. But he insisted contributions could not be compulsory and he said that other "respectable professions," like medicine and sports, should contribute as well "because abuse is not a monopoly of the church."

Jürgen Mettepenningen, Léonard's former spokesman, told NCR that Léonard "just can't leave it alone. If you are invited to give testimony before a parliamentary commission on the sexual abuse of children, you have to choose your words carefully...This is incomprehensible and very painful."

It could be painful for Léonard as well. In Belgium, the government pays the salaries of all priests and bishops, and the salaries for teachers in Catholic schools. In the wake of the revelations and Archbishop Léonard's intransigence, some government officials have suggested that financial arrangement could be revised.

Apparitions and distractions
Category: Kooks • Religion
Posted on: December 28, 2010 12:12 PM, by PZ Myers

Lawrence Murphy was an evil man. He was a Wisconsin priest who molested over 200 boys, and just to make the story particularly deplorable, they were deaf children. Preying on the weakest and most vulnerable was apparently his life's mission. Furthermore, this was the scandalous case that was reported directly to then Cardinal Ratzinger in his role as the Vatican enforcer; his enforcement involved shuffling the guilty around to hide their crimes and give them fresh opportunities in new hunting grounds.

Well, the Vatican has finally found it in its black (but gold-plated!) and shriveled husk of a heart to do something for Wisconsin: they've blessed a ghost sighting as genuine. Woo hoo! That'll fix everything right up!

The church has declared that a sighting in 1859 of a blond Mary hovering between two trees was real and worthy, and the local Catholic church is now busily expanding their parking lot to cope with the expected influx of gullible suckers pilgrims who will flock to the site to imagine a floating cheerleader for Jesus.

It's a funny story, too. A Belgian immigrant, Adele, claimed to see this:

As they approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long, golden, wavy hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Such a heavenly light shone around her that Adele could hardly look back at her sweet face.
You know what really made it miraculous? Adele was accompanied by two other women, who couldn't see or hear the floating lady.

" 'Adele, who is it?" said one of the women. 'O why can't we see her as you do?' said another weeping.

" 'Kneel,' said Adele, 'the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.' Our Blessed Lady turned, looked kindly at them, and said, 'Blessed are they that believe without seeing. What are you doing here in idleness...while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?'"
That settles it. It must have been a magical manifestation if it was invisible. Invisible and blond, just like I always imagined a Middle Eastern Semitic peasant woman. And the statement that you're blessed if you believe without seeing is pitch-perfect Catholicism.

Another funny thing is that the priests are obviously uncomfortably aware that this all sounds like rather convenient timing.

Catholic leaders described the decree in Wisconsin as a bolt of joy at a trying time for the Catholic church, which is troubled by revelations of sex abuse.

"This is a gift to the believers," said the Rev. Johann Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton.

"It would be devious to say that this was somehow pulled out of the attic to exorcise the problems of the church today," Father Roten said in a telephone interview. "But hopefully this will have a beneficial impact on the people, showing them that there are ways of living with faith that are very pure."
Yeah, how?

Never mind that! We've got child-raping priests! This calls for an immediate distraction in the form of invisible blond women, bugger the blatant nature of the ploy, and pass out the platitudes!