May 10, 2019 – San Diego, CA. Current news headline have illustrated the ongoing problem with sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy including priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and church volunteers. This problem is a national disgrace with hundreds of thousands of potential victims, sadly most are children.
In this blog we cover some of the major headlines and provide you links to report clergy abuse in your state. We’ll also follow up on what’s being done to stem this terrible ongoing situation of clergy abuse.
CONTENT WARNING – some articles may include strong language and sexual content.
HILLSBOROUGH, New Jersey – May 10, 2019. Name Of Hillsborough Priest Accused Of Sex Abuse Disclosed. The name of a priest who served in Hillsborough was included in a list of more than 100 clergy who have been accused of sexual abuse.
Fr. Eugene M. O’Sullivan was assigned to St. Joseph’s in North Plainfield from 1985 to 1987 and Mary Mother of God in Hillsborough from 1990 to 1991.
INDIA UCANews – May 10, 2019 Vice-principal of Jharkhand school accused of unlawful beating of student who forgot handbook
A Catholic school in India’s Jharkhand state has removed its priest vice-principal after he allegedly used corporal punishment on a student.
Father Prem James Tigga of Bishop Hartmann Academy, a high school in state capital Ranchi, was accused of beating a Grade 6 student on April 8 for allegedly not paying the previous month’s fees and not bringing his school handbook to the class.
Ranchi Archdiocese spokesman Father Anand David Xalxo said the Capuchin-run school has “admitted the mistake and has removed the priest from his office with immediate effect.”
“The school does not encourage corporal punishment for students,” he told ucanews.com.
ASHLAND (WI) CBS3 -May 6, 2019. Former Winter priest accused of sexual assault doesn’t want jury trial
A former Winter priest accused of sexual misconduct says he doesn’t want a jury trial.
According to the Ashland Daily Press, Thomas Ericksen, 71, made that request during a court hearing last week. The 71-year-old former Catholic priest is accused of sexually assaulting children while serving as a priest in Winter decades ago.
New York (NY) The New York Times – May 7, 2019. A Priest Impregnated a Teenager. Decades Later, Should He Be Allowed to Teach?
An arbitrator ruled last month that Joseph DeShan can remain in the classroom, igniting a debate between parents determined to oust him and those who defend the longtime teacher.
It began last fall, when students new to Cinnaminson Middle School in New Jersey brought home rumors of a “rapist” at the school.
Eventually, their alarmed parents discovered that a teacher, Joseph DeShan, had a past life as a Roman Catholic priest in Bridgeport, Conn.: In the late ’80s, when then-Father DeShan was about 30 years old, he began a sexual relationship with a girl half his age, with whom he had a child.
This information was not a secret. The teacher’s past had first surfaced in 2002, when he was briefly removed from the classroom but was allowed to return by the superintendent at the time. The small community of 16,000 seemed to accept his past.
Boston (MA) WBSM – May 8, 2019. FORMER NEW BEDFORD-BASED PRIEST ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
A Catholic priest with religious roots in New Bedford is one of eight priests named in new sexual assault allegations.
During a press conference in Boston Tuesday hosted by renowned attorney Mitchell Garabedian, Nadine Tifft, 37, of Indiana, accused Fr. John Sweeney of sexually assaulting her nearly 20 years ago.
Tifft, a teenager living in Vermont at the time, says in 2000 she attended a leadership retreat through her church. The retreat featured visiting church leaders from around New England. Tifft says one of the visiting priests, Fr. Sweeney, encouraged the young people to attend confession. After confession, Fr. Sweeney is alleged to have told several of the teenagers that they were possessed and he would perform exorcisms on them.
Tifft says that the sexual abuse of herself and others occurred during the “exorcisms” performed by Fr. Sweeney. “We were teenagers who trusted that priest,” she said.
AUSTIN (TX) Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, May 1, 2019. Peruvian archbishop withdraws defamation suit against second journalist
A senior representative of the Peruvian Catholic Church who accused an investigative journalist of defamation withdrew his lawsuit against her. Days prior, the Archbishop did the same with another journalist, who had just been sentenced criminally for the case against him.
Through a press release, the Archbishop of Piura, José Antonio Eguren, of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SVC), desisted from continuing with the criminal complaint for aggravated defamation that he made against Peruvian journalist Paola Ugaz. Among his reasons, he stated that in his decision to refuse to defend his honor, he seeks the unity of the Peruvian Catholic Church.
Houston (TX) KHOU11 – May 9, 2019. Priest accused of child sex abuse retiring
A longtime Catholic priest accused of child sex abuse has submitted his resignation, according to an e-mail sent Wednesday to parishioners of the Prince of Peace Catholic Community.
VATICAN CITY, The Associated Press May 10, 2019. Pope vows to fight nun abuse, urges service not servitude
Pope Francis vowed Friday to combat the sexual abuse of nuns and urged religious sisters to just say no when clergy want to use them as maids.
Francis told 850 superiors of religious orders gathered for the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, the main umbrella group of nuns, that theirs is a vocation of service, not servitude.
The union’s president, Maltese Sister Carmen Sammut, told Francis that clergy abuse of sisters was “diffuse in many parts of the world,” and included sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, as well as taking of their property. She added that there were also cases of nuns abusing other nuns.
Francis said sexual abuse of sisters was “a serious, grave problem” of which he was well aware.
NEW YORK (NY) May 9, 2019 CBS2 News. Vatican Announces Landmark Law Aimed At Ending Clergy Sex Abuse
Vatican Announces Landmark Law Aimed At Ending Clergy Sex Abuse.
Pope Francis is taking new steps to combat sex abuse in the Catholic Church and hold leaders accountable. CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports.
ENGLAND The Telegraph May 8, 2019. Church accused of ignoring abuse victims as ‘seal of confessional’ upheld
The Church of England is ignoring abuse victims, survivors claim, following a report which said that clergy should report sex abuse confessions to police.
The seal of the confessional is a priest’s obligation under canon law to hear a person’s confession of sin, or imagined sin, in complete confidence.
Under these rules, nothing that a priest is told during will be repeated or disclosed under any circumstances. This is also the rule of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2015 the House of Bishops and the Archbishop’s Council commissioned a working party to assess this law in relation to safeguarding and protecting victims from sexual abuse.
LOMPOC (CA), KEYT May 9, 2019. Breaking the seal: State bill asks clergy to report child abuse, even if disclosed in confession
Clergy now exempt from mandatory reporting laws
A California bill advancing in the state Senate would require clergymen to report child abuse, even if they learn of it in confession.
Leaders of the Catholic Church claim the legislation would violate their freedom of religion.
Father Joy Lawrence Santos, of the Queen of Angels Church in Lompoc, says confession is one of the most sacred sacraments of the church.
“It’s all about God’s love, God’s mercy and forgiveness.”
Lawrence Santos says when a parishioner opens up to him about their sins, it stays between them and God.
WASHINGTON (DC) Catholic News Service May 9, 2019. Cardinal DiNardo welcomes new papal norms on preventing clergy abuse
New papal norms on preventing clergy sexual abuse are “a blessing that will empower the church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the church,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The new juridical instrument “calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity,” Cardinal DiNardo said May 9.
The new document, given “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own initiative, was titled “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”). Cardinal DiNardo praised it for leaving latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances.
COLUMBIA (MO) KOMU TV May 9, 2019. Pope Francis decree holds priests accountable for abuse; survivor reacts
Pope Francis issued new rules Thursday requiring all priests and nuns to report clergy sexual abuse and instances of cover-up to address global abuse.
This comes in response to the long-running issue of widespread sexual misconduct and cover-ups within the Catholic church.
A local member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said although this is progress for the church, it doesn’t fully address the problem.
“It is movement in a positive direction but it doesn’t sound to me like it has any teeth,” survivor Don Asbee said. “If it were a superintendent shuffling around a pedophile teacher from school to school, he would be arrested, plain and simple.”
The Pope’s new law mandates that all priests and nuns are required to inform church authorities when they learn or have reasons to believe that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes.
Asbee said he doesn’t think abuse should be handled internally, but by the state or outside law enforcement agencies.
“It is a crime to abuse children or cover it up. You have to recognize that it’s not just a sin it’s against the law, it’s a criminal offense,” he said.
Asbee was raised Catholic and was nine years old when he said he was first groomed and abused by his priest.
He said several other “vulnerable” boys in his church were also deemed “special” by the priests and later assaulted.
“I never understood fully what was going on. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t put it together until I was 50,” he said. “And it was pretty much just stated to me by the priests that you kind of brought this upon yourself. The guilt was all mine to bear.”
Asbee said he was one of the thousands of children in Pennsylvania who experienced this and is now a vocal member of SNAP in an effort to end the cycle.
Father Rich Litzau, a priest at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Columbia, said he recognizes the church has made its mistakes.
“I think it’s time that those kind of things be pretty well legitimized and formulated so that it makes it very clear that the church’s intention is the make sure that the problems that have existed in the past are resolved,” he said.
Litzau said he thinks Pope Francis’ new decree makes this set of rules and procedures standardized across the globe and is a step in the right direction.
BOSTON (MA) Boston Globe May 9, 2019. Clergy sex abuse lawyer Garabedian faces defamation lawsuit in Pennsylvania
Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney who pulled back the curtain on clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church, finds himself in an unusual position in federal court in Philadelphia: He’s being sued by a boarding school teacher who claims Garabedian and his client falsely accused him of being a child molester.
The lawsuit alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress was filed on April 10 against Garabedian and one of his clients, a 40-year-old man who lives in Milwaukee. The teacher, a resident of Ohio, filed the complaint under the pseudonym John Doe, citing a fear of “severe harm.”
Philadelphia magazine first reported on the lawsuit on May 3. The 13-page complaint alleges Garabedian, acting on behalf of his client, falsely accused the teacher of child molestation in an April 2018 letter addressed to the headmaster of The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., where the teacher has worked for more than 25 years.
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