Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts

December 30, 2018

A Gay Man on Staff At A Catholic Parish Then The Church Began Blaming Their Sexual Crisis on Gays




By Laurie Goodstein

[SAN DIEGO] When Antonio Aaron Bianco arrived for work at his Roman Catholic church office on a recent Monday morning, he was rattled to discover that someone had broken into the conference room and spray-painted a message in large yellow letters on the wall. It said “No Fags.”

 Antonio Aaron Bianco, an openly gay man, worked as a pastoral associate at a Catholic church in San Diego. He has faced threats and harassment.CreditCreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
       
For Mr. Bianco, a gay layman in charge of managing St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, the break-in was just another terrifying omen. Two weeks earlier, someone tried to set the sanctuary doors on fire before the early Sunday Mass. Before that, a stranger swung a punch at Mr. Bianco after Mass one day. For months he had received anonymous phone calls and letters with messages like “Sodomites not welcome in the church.”

Located in the heart of San Diego’s largest gay neighborhood, St. John the Evangelist is one of about 300 Catholic parishes around the country that quietly welcome gay Catholics. Although the Catholic church teaches that same-sex relationships are sinful, growing pockets of the church have accepted openly gay parishioners, staff members, and even priests.

But after this summer, when the church faced renewed allegations of clergy sexual abuse, some bishops and conservative Catholic media outlets immediately blamed the crisis on homosexuality. That set off a backlash, fueling a campaign to purge the church of gay clergy members and church workers. 

More than 1,700 people signed a petition started in August demanding that the archbishop of Atlanta “remove priests who promote the L.G.B.T. agenda from public ministry” and stop supporting parishes known to welcome gay people. In Chicago, a priest burned a rainbow flag and led parishioners in a “prayer of exorcism.” For the first time, protesters showed up outside an annual spiritual retreat of gay priests in Wisconsin in October. In November, bishops attending a conference in Baltimore were greeted by Catholics holding signs saying “All Homosexual Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests MUST RESIGN!”

As the church struggles to respond to the growing crisis over sex abuse — with investigations looming nationwide — gay priests and church workers have become scapegoats, even though most experts who have studied the problem in the church have found no links between sexual orientation and a propensity for abuse. At stake is whether the nascent efforts around the country to welcome gay people into the church will continue, or diminish under pressure from conservative critics.

In San Diego, at St. John the Evangelist, the pressure boiled over, with serious consequences.

Mr. Bianco, who is married to a man, spent years working to revive the dwindling church. When he started, about two and a half years ago, there were only about 40 people at a weekend Mass, said the pastor at the time, John P. Dolan, who is now an auxiliary bishop in San Diego. Many of the congregants were elderly. There were no weddings or baptisms scheduled and no religious education classes. 

                              
St. John the Evangelist is one of a few hundred Catholic churches that have quietly been extending a welcome to gay Catholics.
Credit
Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

St. John the Evangelist is one of a few hundred Catholic churches that have quietly been extending a welcome to gay Catholics.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
Working at the church was in some ways the perfect challenge for Mr. Bianco, who had studied for the priesthood in Rome for six years, but reconsidered after Pope John Paul II said that gay men should not b,e priests.

Instead Mr. Bianco took positions open to laypeople: director of religious education, Catholic school teacher, parish administrator. He briefly worked for Call to Action, a church reform group, on a project to help people fired from their jobs as Catholic school teachers, music directors, and pastoral associates because they are gay. At St. John’s, Mr. Bianco became the parish’s pastoral associate, arriving just as the church was being encouraged by Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego to start a ministry for L.G.B.T. people. 

Bishop McElroy said in a recent interview that the effort was guided by Pope Francis’ vision. “What the pope wants us to do,” Bishop McElroy said, “is build that person’s relationship to God, with love and mercy and compassion.”

Pope Francis has veered between sounding accepting and critical of L.G.B.T. people, supplying the church’s opposing flanks with plenty of ammunition.

Bishop McElroy said that the pope was steering the church toward a “middle course” between liberals who want the church “to dismantle” its teachings against homosexuality, and conservatives who want to make opposition to homosexuality “a litmus test for what makes one a faithful Catholic.”

For five months, Mr. Bianco and then-Father Dolan met with community and church members to create an outreach strategy. They left fliers on doors, and invited new members to form choirs and sing at Mass. Young families joined. Many of the new members were straight, and many Hispanic.

“L.G.B.T. people started to trickle in, but with reservations,” said Richard Peterson, a gay parishioner who leads the L.G.B.T. ministry at the church. “People older than me had been very hurt, but they began to take a chance on the church. And they told their friends.”

The changes did not sit well with some of the older members, especially a handful of traditionalists who prayed the rosary there daily, according to interviews with parishioners and staff members. In a piece on the conservative website Church Militant, two people who claimed to be parishioners — but who did not reveal their names — accused Mr. Bianco of locking out the rosary group, which he denies. The website called Mr. Bianco, Bishops McElroy and Dolan and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles part of a “homosexualist cabal” that was persecuting Catholic traditionalists. Commenters called Mr. Bianco a pederast.
Several parishioners known to be opposed to the L.G.B.T. ministry and to Mr. Bianco did not respond to requests for interviews. 

In the summer of 2017, the friction became worse when Father Dolan was made an auxiliary bishop, leaving Mr. Bianco in charge of the parish.

That’s when Mr. Bianco says he began receiving threatening phone calls at the church about every other day, from blocked numbers. There were angry notes left on his car, and one day he came out to find every tire had been punctured. A security camera captured a man with dark hair, but few other details.

“They keep on saying that I have an agenda, but the only agenda I had was to bring people to Christ,” said Mr. Bianco in an interview. “I know that sounds kind of hokey, but that’s why I started this work. I do believe that everyone is welcome.”

Mr. Bianco’s work began to show. In October 2017, the pews were packed with people attending a special Mass for gay Catholics and their friends and families. It was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Always Our Children,” a pastoral message by a committee of American bishops that many regard as their most accepting statement ever about gay people.

Local politicians and dignitaries came. Bishop McElroy issued an apology for how the church had treated L.G.B.T. people.

“There were tears all over the place,” said Tom Kirkman, a participant in the L.G.B.T. ministry, who wrote an account of the Mass for a local gay newspaper. “I was very pleased, because I had graduated from a Catholic school, I taught the faith for 18 years, and I felt unwanted. So it was a very welcoming feeling.” 

Protesters also attended the Mass, but soon after, the threats gradually died down. Mr. Bianco said, “I believed they were leaving me alone.”

St. John the Evangelist is in the heart of San Diego’s largest gay neighborhood.
Credit
Sam Hodgson for The New York Times 


St. John the Evangelist is in the heart of San Diego’s largest gay neighborhood.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
But everything changed after this past summer, when a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report documenting sexual abuse by hundreds of priests. That followed allegations that the former cardinal of Washington had sexually abused boys and adult men studying to be priests.

In the fall, Bishop McElroy held “listening sessions” in parishes about the abuse scandal. Some in attendance shouted at him to fire Mr. Bianco and to pledge not to ordain gay priests. The bishop said he had responded that all priests have to remain celibate, adding, “I’m not going to discriminate against men who are homosexual in orientation.”

At St. John’s, the pace of the threats increased, church staff members said. After the attempted arson and the break-in, the church installed security doors. The San Diego Police Department confirmed that there have been at least five police reports made about incidents at St. John’s, and they are investigating two, including the attempt to punch Mr. Bianco, as hate crimes.

Mr. Bianco said F.B.I. agents have met with him and appear to be investigating the incidents. The local F.B.I. field office in San Diego declined to comment.

Articles showing pictures of Mr. Bianco, with his husband and his late mother, appeared in articles in Church Militant and another website read by conservatives called Lifesite News.

When they published his home address, that was the last straw for Mr. Bianco. Fearing for his safety, he submitted his resignation to Bishop McElroy. Mr. Bianco said that while the people who run the websites likely did not perpetrate the attacks, “their unfounded rhetoric and lies about me” may have incited others.

Bishop McElroy said he accepted the resignation with “great regret” because Mr. Bianco had been effective in ministry. In a statement printed on the front of the weekly bulletin at St. John’s, the bishop said, “There is nothing Christian or Catholic about the hateful and vile people whose persecution of Aaron Bianco drove him from his ministry.”

At Sunday Mass the next week, a young, straight Hispanic father whom Mr. Bianco had counseled was baptized a Catholic. Mr. Bianco was gone, but more than two dozen members of the L.G.B.T. ministry he had started were there in the pews.

A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 30, 2018, New York Times


December 13, 2018

Top Advisor to The Pope, Cardinal Pell, Found Guilty of Historical Sexual Offenses



Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court Oct. 6. 
(CNS photo/Mark Dadswell, Reuters)

Gerard O’Connell
American Magazine

An Australian jury has found Cardinal George Pell, 77, guilty on five charges of “historical child sexual offenses” that go back decades, according to various media reports and confirmed by America. The 12-member jury gave their unanimous verdict in the County Court of the State of Victoria in Melbourne on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The judge decided that the sentencing will take place in early February 2019 and released the cardinal on bail.
Little is known about the nature of the charges on which Cardinal Pell has been condemned because the entire trial and a second trial that has yet to take place are covered by a strict suppression order issued by the presiding judge, Peter Kidd. The order prohibits reporting on the case in any of the country’s media until the second trial has taken place to avoid prejudicing his case in both instances. The judge has prohibited the publication of the number of complainants in either of the two trials as well as the number and nature of the charges, except for the fact that the charges relate to “historical child sexual offenses.” 
An Australian jury has found Cardinal George Pell, 77, guilty on five charges of historical sexual offenses. 


The cardinal is the most senior churchman yet to be convicted of such offenses, though he is not the third-ranking Vatican official, as some media have reported. His conviction is a grave blow not only to the church in Australia but also to the Vatican and to Pope Francis, who placed great trust in him by nominating the Australian prelate to his nine-member Council of Cardinal Advisors (he was the only cardinal from Oceania at that time, and Francis chose one cardinal from each continent) and by appointing him as prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy with a sweeping mandate to reform Vatican finances.
Cardinal Pell made great headway in those reform efforts, but he has not finished that work when he decided to return to Australia to respond to the allegations of historical sexual offenses. The cardinal has always maintained his innocence. Committal hearings were held in May at the end of which the presiding magistrate while dismissing some of the most serious charges, ordered him to stand trial on the other charges.
His lawyers and the Victoria State public prosecutors agreed to split the charges against him into two trials: one relating to alleged sexual offenses committed at the cathedral in Melbourne (the first trial known as “the cathedral trial”) and the other for abuse said to have been committed in Ballarat, reportedly at a swimming pool (known as “the swimmers trial”). Yesterday’s verdict comes from the first trial. That trial began in September but the jury could not reach a verdict, and so a new trial began in November which resulted in yesterday’s verdict. The second trial is expected to take place early in 2019, probably around mid-February or early March, after the sentencing related to the first verdict has taken place. 
Cardinal Pell’s conviction is a grave blow not only to the church in Australia but also to the Vatican and to Pope Francis. 


The Vatican has not commented on the news of the cardinal’s conviction out of respect for the suppression order. On Wednesday, Dec. 12., the director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, responding to a question at a press brief in the Vatican about whether the cardinal would remain as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in the light of his judicial situation told reporters, “That is a good question.”
He then added, “The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities. We are aware there is a suppression order in place and we respect that order.”
Pope Francis told journalists in an airborne press conference earlier this year that he would speak only after the judicial process (which includes the possibility of appeal after sentencing) had run its course. Sources say the cardinal, who has always insisted in this innocence, will appeal.
The conviction of another Australian archbishop, Philip Wilson, was overturned by an appeals court, and sources believe the case of Cardinal Pell could follow suit. 
Pope Francis has said he would speak only after the judicial process had run its course.  


Pope Francis “granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations” on June 29, 2017. Since then, the cardinal has been unable to carry out his responsibilities as prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, a senior position in the Vatican, and as a member of the pope’s council of nine cardinals advisors.
Prior to his leave of absence—when allegations became public and some thought the pope should have removed Cardinal Pell from office—Francis applied the principle of law known as “in dubio pro reo” (“doubt favors the accused”), insisting that a person is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. The pope did not remove Cardinal Pell from his Vatican posts then because he believed to do so would be equivalent to an admission of guilt. Francis explained his stance in a press conference on the return flight from World Youth Day in Poland, July 31, 2016. He said: “We have to wait for the justice system to do its job and not pass judgment in the media because this is not helpful. ‘Judgment’ by gossip, and then what? We don’t know how it will turn out. See what the justice system decides. Once it has spoken, then I will speak.” 
Pope Francis’ words make clear that he does not intend to speak until the judicial process, including a possible appeal, has ended. He has, however, terminated Cardinal Pell’s membership of the council of nine cardinal advisors, Mr. Burke, indicated on Dec. 12. Mr. Burke revealed that at the end of October, the pope sent a letter thanking Cardinals Pell, Francisco Javier Errazuriz (Chile) and Laurent Monswengo Pasinya (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for their work in his council of cardinal advisors over the past five years.
Cardinal Pell could decide to hand in his resignation as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, since it is unlikely that his second trial and an eventual appeal will have taken place by the time his five-year term as prefect expires on Feb. 24. The cardinal, who will be 78 in June, could also resign from his other roles in various Roman Curia departments and offices. Currently, he is a member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Regardless, Cardinal Pell is not allowed to carry out any pastoral ministry in public until the whole judicial process has ended, and then only if the verdict is in his favor. 

December 3, 2018

A Priest Faces Sex Child Abuse In His Own Church When His Assistant is Arrested


     This story originally posted on The Washington Post today By Terrence McCoy                                                                        


 Brian Christensen is on his way to jail again. Clerical collar around his thin neck, rosary dangling from the rearview mirror, the priest sets out on the same trip he has taken almost every day that week.

First was Monday afternoon, when he followed the detectives down this road, then up to the third floor of the police department, where he waited outside the interrogation room. On Wednesday, he went to the preliminary hearing, where the felony charges were announced: two counts of sexual contact with a 13-year-old. On Thursday, and on Friday, he returned to arrange a visitation with the Rev. John Praveen, 38, whom he last saw being cuffed and led into a police car, and who is now being held on a $100,000 cash bond and facing 30 years in prison. 
Now, Monday again, Christensen pulls out of the parking lot at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where as lead pastor he oversaw Praveen’s clerical duties. He makes the five-minute drive to the Pennington County jail, where he plans to speak with the incarcerated priest for the first time since his arrest. 
“Aren’t you tired of all this?” his mother asked him on the phone that morning, and he could only sigh and say, yes, “I am tired of this.” 
This: a string of child sex abuse scandals that — spanning decades, continents and thousands of victims — has fundamentally altered how the world views the Catholic Church and priests like him, in particular. With every crisis, Christensen had allowed himself to hope that now, perhaps, it would be over, only to see another year like this one, when every day seems to bring news of sex crimes and cover-ups in the church. A grand jury report in Pennsylvania accused more than 300 priests of abusing about 1,000 children, spurring federal authorities to investigate. Two U.S. cardinals have been disgraced. And approval ratings for Pope Francis, who once was the world’s most popular leader, have plummeted among Americans.

Priests go visit people in prison. They don’t visit priests in prison. 

The Rev. Brian Christensen

But far beneath those headlines are churches like Christensen’s, where the same themes that have come to define the scandal at large — betrayal, hypocrisy, abuse of power, defensiveness — are playing out in a microcosm.

Ever since police arrested Praveen, who has pleaded not guilty, Christensen’s thoughts have been dominated by the same conflicts, the same questions. He believes it’s his responsibility as a Catholic leader to find a way to forgive sins, but could he this time? Already, he’d faced his flock once at weekend Mass, where he’d struggled to explain the unexplainable, but how does he steward the faith of thousands in a church beset by crisis? And how does he protect his own?

Christensen, 53, parks his Ford SUV near the jail. He kills the engine. He thinks about the day he became a priest, about two decades ago, and how he imagined his life would be. This is not a day he envisioned. “Priests go visit people in prison,” he says aloud. “They don’t visit priestsin prison.”

He climbs out, a tall, graceful man with hair as trim as it was during his military days. He walks past the mirrored glass in the jail lobby, then to a chair in front of a monitor and a phone. The monitor screen says that his appointment is beginning and that the call is being recorded. The lights on either side of the monitor come on. He picks up the phone.

“Come on, Father John,” he says and waits for the priest to arrive.Two days before this jail visit, back at the cathedral, Christensen had stepped out of the confessional. Feeling harried, he’d looked at his watch. It was 4:18 p.m. on a Saturday. The confessions that afternoon had gone way over schedule, and now little more than an hour remained until the weekend’s first Mass, barely enough time to plan how he would address what had become the most wrenching and complicated episode of his life as a priest.

To Christensen, the stakes were clear. No other major religion in the United States had lost more adherents than Catholicism over the past two decades. The combination of rapid social change, rigid church doctrine and a steady accumulation of clergy sex abuse scandals had plunged the church into turmoil. Millions of Americans raised Catholic — 41 percent of them, according to the Pew Research Center — no longer identified themselves that way.

The losses were steepest in the Northeast and the Midwest, once the center of the Catholic life in America, and among whites. Those descriptions characterized almost all of the 1,400 families in Christensen’s congregation, some of whom he wasn’t sure would, despite everything, still come to Mass and hear his homily.

He’d stepped into his office, trying to expel the freneticism of that week — the wedding receptions, church retreats and trips back and forth to jail — and brought out two notepads, a pen and a book of exegesis. He headed to the place where he did all of his best thinking. Inside, the chapel smelled of incense. It was quiet except for the sound of thin Bible pages being turned in prayer.

He knelt, hunched his shoulders over a pew and lowered his head into his hands.

He’d always wanted to say, “Not on my watch,” and that was how it had been at his parish. Even if the kids complained or the courses seemed repetitive, he’d demanded biannual abuse training for children so they could recognize what it meant to be touched inappropriately. In every church bathroom hung laminated signs encouraging victims of clergy abuse to “speak out.” But now, a scandal he’d once associated with faraway Boston or Milwaukee had arrived here, too. And it hadn’t just allegedly happened on his watch but inside the cathedral itself, down in the basement, on a late September day when hundreds of people, including him, were at the church. And none of them had any idea.
TOP LEFT: Christensen, pictured greeting young churchgoers, demanded biannual abuse training for children at his church so they could recognize what it would mean to be touched inappropriately. TOP RIGHT: Parishioners greet one another by shaking hands in a sign of peace. ABOVE: A priest allegedly assaulted a 13-year-old girl in the basement of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on a late September day when hundreds of people were at the church. (Photos by Ryan Hermens for The Washington Post)

He’d made the sign of the cross, picked up a notepad and started writing.The first time he heard about child sex abuse in the church was when he was at seminary in Winona, Minn. It was 1995, and he met a reporter who was asking seminarians what it was like to enter the church at a time when pedophilia allegations were roiling parishes in Ireland and Austria. The question startled him. What abuse? In his whole life — from ringing bells as a Long Island altar boy, to escaping to chapel during morning marches at the U.S. Air Force Academy, to his growing church involvement while flying B-1 bombers — he’d never seen anything remotely approaching abuse.

Christensen sat back in the chapel pew, wrote the words, “What do we do?” and underlined them twice.

His faith in the clergy, then so strong, began to waiver only after he put on the collar. He witnessed one elderly priest get too “chummy” with boys — crude conversations, too much time together at the rectory — and ultimately reported him to church leaders. He watched a South Dakota priest be removed because of abuse allegations. And then in 2005, he got his first solo pastoral assignment. It was a small church in Fort Pierre, S.D., where a priest had abused children in the 1980s and early 1990s. On Sundays, Christensen noticed an absence of 30-something men in the pews. And soon people were telling him that the priest had abused them, too, and that, no, they didn’t want it reported, they just wanted him to know that it was true, that it had happened.

He closed his notebooks, shut his eyes and thought about the conversations he’d been having since Praveen’s arrest.

“I was raised Catholic,” one recently returned parishioner, Leslie Bostick, told him over lunch about her mind-set when she abandoned the church following an earlier abuse scandal. “This [sex abuse] issue came up, and it bothered me, and I stopped. . . . I would never go to confession. I felt like, ‘Why should I confess my sins to someone who has committed a crime?’ ” 

Joe Carlin, 78, told him over coffee on another day: “I would not admit to people that I’m a Catholic right now if they’re not Catholic.”

“Do you feel uncomfortable wearing that?” another woman, who declined to give her name, citing the sensitivity of her work with sex abuse survivors, had asked of his clerical clothing while at a church retreat.

“I don’t, but, you know, um, no, I don’t,” he’d replied, fumbling, because it was a question he’d asked of himself before, and sometimes he didn’t know the answer. Some emotions were easier. He felt angry — angry that pedophile priests had been shuffled from parish to parish. He felt frustrated. Why all of the church secrecy? Why the sealed court cases, the priests quietly retired, the accusers silenced with confidentiality agreements? And sometimes, most painful of all, he felt betrayed. He had sacrificed his life to become a priest, a decision that hadn’t been easy. It was only in August 1993 that, after years of thinking about it, he saw a processional for Pope John Paul II while flying over Denver. In that moment, he heard God’s voice — the clearest it had ever been — telling him he belonged down there, with them. He soon gave up his military career, and the possibility of marriage and a family, and now to have this act of service become so twisted in people’s minds? To have someone ask if he was uncomfortable wearing his clerical clothing, when he should feel only pride? It hurt to think about it.

He’d stood and, smoothing out the folds of that clothing, stepped out of the chapel, having decided what he would say during his homily. He looked out into the main church hall.

Ten minutes until the service. Hundreds of people already in the pews. All eyes on him.Days later now, at the jail again, John Praveen’s face appears on the computer monitor against a backdrop of white walls, closed doors and a stairway leading out of the camera frame. It is a face that looks swollen, unshaven, on the verge of crying. Christensen stares at it, blinking in disbelief, before he speaks.

Every day since his arrest, he has thought about talking with Praveen and all of the questions he wanted to ask him. Everything that had happened that week still didn’t make any sense to Christensen, who couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried, square the man he had thought Praveen was with the man the police say he is.
The Rev. John Praveen is charged with two counts of sexual contact
with a 13-year-old. (Diocese of Rapid City)
                                                 

 He first heard of Praveen shortly before he moved to South Dakota last November from Hyderabad, India, to help fill the Rapid City Diocese’s shortage of priests. Praveen arrived at the cathedral in June, carrying himself with a childlike earnestness that almost everyone found disarming. He wanted to put every parishioner’s birthday in the church bulletin. He asked if he could redecorate the church’s understated altar with bright purples and blues. He followed church staff members around, repeatedly asking if they needed help with anything. “Always had a smile on his face,” said Margaret Jackson, a parishioner who took him out to an Indian restaurant days before his arrest.

On a Sunday afternoon three months after Praveen arrived, a local family reported to police allegations against him — details of which are under court seal — and the next day, investigators were at the cathedral. They said they wanted to talk to Praveen, not at the cathedral, but back at the station. Christensen followed them, then waited outside the interrogation room for more than an hour, counting tiles, praying, until the door opened. Praveen came out. His eyes were red. His hair, normally combed, was a ruffled mess. Disbelief was on his face. A detective took Christensen aside and told him. Praveen had been accused of sexually abusing a child. Christensen felt numb, then drove back to the cathedral in near silence with Praveen, who immediately went to his room, where he sat awake with the lights on all night.

The next day, after the police had again come to the cathedral, after Christensen had asked Praveen to change so he wouldn’t be seen cuffed in his clerical clothes, after police had photographed a classroom in the cathedral’s basement, Christensen got online. He wanted to inform the cathedral’s few Facebook followers of all the information he had, but many already had found out from the police on social media everything they needed to know.

“Is it just me, or is the vast majority of these cases that we continue to hear about, involve Catholic priests?!” one person wrote in response to the police department’s Facebook post.

“NEVER go to a Catholic Church,” another person said.

That type of reaction, the absolutism of it, was perhaps most upsetting of all to Christensen. He knew there were abusive priests, but the messy reality was that most weren’t. In fact, he’d come to see clergy members as no more likely to be sexual predators than people in other professions with access to children. Some studies, including a report in 2004 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, put the number of sexual abusers among priests at about 4 percent, roughly consistent with clergymen of other faiths. Other organizations, including BishopAccountability.org, placed it at just under 6 percent. Anne Barrett Doyle, the organization’s co-director, says it may be shown to be higher still — especially if authorities compel transparency.

And what to do about the priests who abuse? How to balance the secular need for punishment with the Catholic command to forgive? Could anger and compassion coexist?

Now staring at Praveen, who is wiping his eyes and sniffling, speaking so mutedly that he’s barely intelligible, Christensen can’t help but feel sympathy, perhaps not as much as he has for the victim and her family, but sympathy nonetheless.

He leans forward, presses the phone tightly to his ear.

“Father John, how are you?” he says softly.He decides not to ask the questions most on his mind. “Did you know that you can get e-mails?”

He decides not to ask about either of the dates listed on Praveen’s charging document, Sept. 3 and Sept. 28, both of which were days the two priests had spent together. The first had been Labor Day, when they’d gone to a barbecue at the home of a local Catholic. Christensen didn’t see the girl there, but he did see Praveen play cornhole for hours and hours. And the second date had been the day of a ceremony at the cathedral, attended by hundreds, to honor an Italian saint, and Christensen had urged Praveen, during lunch, to try some American food for once.

“What do you need?”

He will not ask how, if the allegations are true, Praveen could have possibly toggled, on both of those days, in two separate locations, between his festivities with congregants and his abuse of the same child, and without anyone noticing. (The girl’s parents have not returned multiple requests for comment.)

“You have the Bible there? You have the rosary?”

And he will not ask what he most wanted to, a question that he repeated with parishioners during a moment of exasperation and frustration days earlier: How could Praveen have done this to them, to the Church?

Instead, he will say this:

“Many, many people are praying for you.”

“We’re trying to help. We’re trying to help.”

“Let’s say a prayer.”

Christensen lowers his head and closes his eyes. Praveen does the same.“We ask for a particular blessing upon Father John,” Christensen says. “God bless you, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Christensen hangs up the phone, the light turns off, and Praveen’s face disappears.




August 23, 2018

A Jesuit Priest Before Pope's Visit to Ireland Says LGBT Have Been Treated by The Church as Lepers

World Meeting of Families hears LGBT Catholics have been ‘deeply wounded’

Father James Martin speaking at the World Meeting of Families in the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Father James Martin speaking at the World Meeting of Families in the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
 
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People from the LGBT+ community have been treated like “lepers” within the Catholic Church, a high profile American Jesuit priest has said. 
Speaking at the World Meeting of Families festival in Dublin, Fr James Martin said gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Catholics had been “deeply wounded” by the church. Fr Martin, a high profile Jesuit priest from New York, was delivering a talk on how the Church could be more welcoming to the LGBT community. 
“LGBT parishioners have been made to feel excluded from the Church for so so long, that any welcoming experience can be life changing for them,” he said. LGBT Catholics were routinely “mocked, excluded, [AND]condemned” in their parishes, he said. 
“They are as much a part of the Church as Pope Francis, your local bishop, your pastor, or anybody, it’s not a question of making them Catholic, they already are,” he said. 
Fr Martin’s more liberal views are controversial within the Church, and a lay Catholic group had called for him to be removed from the speaker line-up for the World Meeting of Families event. The Irish branch of Tradition, Family, Property (TFP) had sent a letter to Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, asking him to remove the cleric from the list of speakers. 
“Sadly many people still believe people choose their sexual orientation, despite the testimony of almost every psychiatrist, biologist, and the lived experience of LGBT people,” Fr Martin said, adding it was “not a sin to be LGBT”.

Sad stories

“Over the past few years I’ve heard some really sad stories from LGBT Catholics who have been made to feel unwelcome in their parishes,” he told the audience in the at-capacity hall. 
“A 30-year-old autistic man who came out to his family, and was not in any sort of relationship, told me that the pastoral association said that he could no longer receive communion in the Church, because even saying that he was gay was a scandal,” Fr Martin said.  Fr Martin, who has family roots in Screen, Co Wexford, said Church goers had a tendency to fixate on the sexual morality of LGBT Catholics, and scrutinise them on whether they were following the Church teaching on sex and marriage, more closely than heterosexual parishioners.
The Church also knew “so little about the transgender experience,” and needed to listen to and better understand trans people, he said. Fr Martin received a standing ovation from the large crowd attending the talk. 
Speaking at an earlier talk in the RDS, a Catholic academic and former politician Rocco Buttiglione, said being homosexual was “wrong.” Professor Buttiglione, of the Pontifical Lateran University, in Rome, Italy, was giving an address on family and marriage. 
Prof Buttiglione, a conservative Catholic, said modern society did not “honour” motherhood as past civilisations did. Artificial contraception had severed the link between sex and the conception of children, he said. 
“If the child does not stand in the centre of marriage, and of sex, what is the difference between a homosexual relationship and a heterosexual relationship,” he said. 
“I have some homosexual friends and I tell them, I think you are wrong, what you are doing is wrong,” he said. While he viewed his homosexual friends as “sinners,” he told the crowd he was also a sinner.

August 17, 2018

These Are The Most Shocking Cases of PA. Priets Sexually Abusing Boys and Girls-Watch Out for the Gold Cross


                                                                      
                                                                               

                                                                        




, York Daily Record

A two-year investigation of sexual abuse of children within six Catholic diocese came to a head on Tuesday, with the release of a report that details decades of abuse, and names 301 priests.
Even in a list filled with hundreds of shocking accusations, several stick out as particularly horrific or extreme cases of leadership turning their heads away from situations.
Here are some examples of these over-the-top cases. A warning, some of the information listed below is extremely graphic. 
A 'ring of predatory priests'
During the course of the grand jury investigation, it uncovered a 'ring of predatory priests' within the Diocese of Pittsburgh who "shared intelligence" regarding victims, exchanged the victims amongs themselves and manufactured child pornography. The group included George Zirwas, Francis Pucci, Robert Wolk and Richard Zula, and they used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims. 
One victim, who is identified as "George," was made to get up on a bed. As the priests watched, they asked George to remove his shirt. Drawing on the image of Christ on the cross, they asked George to remove his pants. The priests began taking Polaroid pictures of him. 
George said the photos were added to a collection of similar photographs depicting other teenage boys. 
The priests, George testified, had a group of favored boys who they would take on trips and give gifts. 
"He (Zirwas) had told me they, the priests, would give their boys, their altar boys or their favorite boys these crosses," George testified. "So he gave me a big gold cross to wear."
In the report, the grand jury said, the crosses "were a designation that these children were victims of sexual abuse. They were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitized to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimization."

'A touchy/feely time'

In 2003, a woman notified the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was touched sensually by Rev. George Koychick while at St. Patrick’s in York. A report in Koychick’s Diocesan files revealed that when asked if there was any truth to the allegations, he said, “Yes, it was when I was going through a touchy/feely time in my life.”
In the file, Koychick admits to sensually rubbing multiple young girls, and said he had an attraction to them.
“This is a test of ones faith,” he said in the document. “I have lived in fear for years wondering if anyone would come forward with an allegation.”
Over the years, multiple allegations were rendered against Koychick before he retired. Read more details on those here
VIDEO: Survivors of child sexual abuse from priests share their stories in a video shown before Tuesday's news conference detailing decades of abuse. Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro

'Highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls'

In October 1965, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a phone call that Rev. Charles Procopio had molested multiple girls in the seventh and eighth grade. The person who made the call said the girls told the principal of the school – Sacred Heart of Jesus in Harrisburg – but nothing happened in response.
The actions include “immodest touches” and making motions simulating intercourse while his body was pressed against a girl.
The diocese sent a memorandum in return, noting that Propocio’s touches were “manifestations of his effusive nature, imprudent but pure on his part.”
He also wrote that the actions were “distorted interpretation in the highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls.”
The diocese allowed Procopio to stay in ministry.
The historic report detailed decades of abuse by hundreds of priests. John Buffone, jbuffone@ydr.com

Sexual abuse to daughters and a granddaughter

Multiple diocesan memorandums in September 1994 advised that a family living in Florida, formerly of Lancaster, made sexual molestation allegations against Rev. Guido Miguel Quiroz Reyes, OFM, who had served at the Hispanic Center in Lancaster.
When the family moved to Florida in 1980, they asked Reyes if he wanted to live with them. He did so from 1980 to 1993. 
In 1993, the family confronted him, alleging that he sexually abused two girls in the family in the 1970s when they were minors and living in Lancaster. They said the abuse continued when they moved to Florida.
It was also believed he sexually abused a minor granddaughter.
The report does not give details about when the family learned of the abuse. 

‘You are a demon-child’

In 2004, a woman reported to the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was abused by Rev. Timothy Sperber in 1979. The victim said she was between 9 and 10 years old, and a student at St. Joan of Arc in Hershey. The girl was not doing well in math, and was sent to Sperber to tutor her.
While meeting with Sperber, he rubbed her hand, had her remove her shirt and fondled her breasts. When her back was to him, he touched her with things believed to be his finger or penis, and she believed he ejaculated on her back. According to the report, “she remembered having to sit all day at school with the stickiness of something on her back.”
When the new school year began, and she didn’t improve her math, she was sent to Sperber again. The victim told the principal that he touched her in weird ways. The principal became angry, scolded the child and said “How dare you make these terrible accusations? You are a demon-child.”
When the victim tried to talk to her mother, she replied, “We’re not going to talk about this. I don’t want anyone thinking that this was our fault.”
The attorney general's report comes after years of state and local law enforcement uncovering cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Nate Chute, IndyStar

Multiple accounts of getting victims pregnant

Throughout the report, there are at least three instances of priests fathering a child with a victim.
  • Rev. Salvatore Zangari admitted in 1986 while at St. Luke Institute for evaluation after multiple allegations, Zangari told officials that he was “literally married” for eight or nine years and had fathered a child.
  • On Aug. 29, 1988, Bishop James Timlin received a letter from the sister of a high school girl who said Rev. Robert J. Brague had sexual relations with her 17-year-old sister, who became pregnant. Timlin responded days later with a letter saying Brague was removed from office, and to keep things under wraps to not cause further scandal. “What has happened is their responsibility.”
  • In 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Diocese of Scranton received letters that Father Joseph D. Flannery had affairs with women, dated a young girl and got her pregnant. The letters were received from a member of the clergy, a parishioner and the mother of the young girl. Nothing was found in the file reflecting an investigation or questioning the priest.

Sex for pay

An allegation was made in 1991 that Father James Armstrong of the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave homeless boys from Pittsburgh drugs, alcohol and money in exchange for sex.
One victim reported he was abused by multiple priests in the course of his life.
The man said that his father was a heroin addict, and his mother a prostitute, and ran away from home at about 14 or 15. In the winter of 1985-1986, the victim said Armstrong would drive him and a “hustler” to a back road and had them do “various violent sex acts like calling him degrading things while he gave them oral sex.” This lasted for a couple of years.
 

Priest abuse in Pa. 

Read more coverage of Catholic priest and clergy abuse in Pennsylvania: 

Statewide grand jury report released in August 2018
Harrisburg diocese

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