Showing posts with label Priests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Priests. Show all posts

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.




October 20, 2018

Feds Investigating on Sex Probe Against Child Sex Abuse Cases on Pennsylvania Church

 

 St Mary's Church in PA. Where Police is investigating child sex abuse


The Department of Justice has launched an investigation of child sex abuse within Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic Church, sending subpoenas to dioceses across the state seeking private files and records to explore the possibility that priests and bishops violated federal law in cases that go back decades, NPR has learned.
In what is thought to be the first-ever such inquiry into the church's clergy sex-abuse scandal, authorities have issued subpoenas to look into possible violations of the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, also known as RICO, according to a person close to the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  
The source did not elaborate on what other potential federal crimes could be part of the inquiry, which could take years and is now only in its early stages. 
RICO has historically been used to dismantle organized-crime syndicates. 
Officials at six of Pennsylvania's eight dioceses — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Scranton and Harrisburg — have confirmed to NPR that they have recently received and are currently complying with federal subpoenas for information. The two remaining dioceses did not return requests for comment.  
Supporters of those who have been victimized by church leaders applauded federal prosecutors for initiating a criminal investigation into one of the state's most powerful institutions.  
"There is a consensus rising, which is this just has to stop. And it won't stop if prosecutors just sit on their hands," said Marci Hamilton, University of Pennsylvania professor who also runs Child USA, a group that advocates for victims of child sex abuse. "The federal government has been silent on these issues to date, and it's high time they got to work."
The federal investigation follows a sweeping grand jury report released in August by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office that found that more than 1,000 minors were abused by some 300 priests across Pennsylvania over a 70-year period.
A dozen other states have also opened investigations into clergy sex abuse.
Fallout from the Pennsylvania report has included Catholic schools that honored now-disgraced clergy being renamed and the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl, resigning after being accused of covering up sexual abuse during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh.
Numerous other church officials, the report found, participated in a systemic cover-up of the abuse that included shuffling priests around to other parishes and, in some cases, obstructing police investigations. However, because some of the allegations are decades old, many of the accused are now deceased. 
Because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations, just two of the priests named in the report were charged as a result of the state-led investigation.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, says that the federal statute of limitations could allow more time to prosecute individuals who are now out of reach under state laws.
"This could bring the full force of the federal government to bear. It's potentially enormous," he said.
The subpoenas were first reported by The Associated Press, which said investigators sought to examine organizational charts, insurance coverage, clergy assignments and confidential documents stored in what has become known as the church's "Secret Archives." 
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain authorized the subpoenas. A spokeswoman for McSwain declined to comment.
A Justice Department representative in Washington, D.C., would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the investigation.
Legal experts said accruing enough evidence to build a RICO case against the Roman Catholic Church — basically treating the influential institution as a crime syndicate — will be a burdensome task. 
Child USA's Hamilton, for one, said she thinks using federal RICO as a weapon against the church would be a stretch, since the 1970 law is not designed to deal with problems such as sex abuse and other personal injury cases. Instead, she said, most RICO cases involve financial crimes. "I hope that they can find a way to make it fit, but it will be challenging," she said.
However, Hamilton said a federal statute called the Mann Act, which prohibits moving people across state lines for the purpose of illegal sex acts, could be a more promising legal avenue. 
"As we know, there have been plenty of priests who took children across state lines," she said.
Tobias, the law professor who specializes in federal courts, said whatever comes of the investigation, the issuing of the subpoenas has likely sent a jolt across the country. If the inquiry of the Pennsylvania church results in criminal charges, it could be used as a road map for federal prosecutors hoping to pursue abusers in other states. 
"Pennsylvania might be the first state where the federal government does this," Tobias said. "But then they build on the lessons they've learned there, as DOJ often does when they have a national issue, and go to the other states and use that template again."


September 21, 2018

Serving as Escape Goats Gay Priests for Abused Children Male/Female Widens Their Divide


 

 This picture of the Vatican looks clear but is only because there is plenty of light.
The same can not be said about inside the place



The uproar over clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church is no longer just about sex abuse. It now touches on Catholic teaching about sexuality in general and even on Pope Francis himself, his agenda, and the future of his papacy.
When a Pennsylvania grand jury last month reported that more than 300 priests had molested more than a thousand children across six dioceses under investigation, it became clear that the cases were not isolated incidents. The problem of abusive priests and the bishops who cover up for them is systemic across the whole church.
Pope Francis says the crisis is rooted in a culture of clericalism, with priests and bishops so elevated in the church that their word and authority dominate over the experience of the people they serve.
Some of the pope's adversaries in the church, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke, have another explanation: Gay priests are to blame, they say. Most abuse incidents, Burke told an interviewer last month, consist of "homosexual acts committed with adolescent young men." 
"It seems clear in light of these recent terrible scandals," Burke said, "that indeed there is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root."
That view has found wide resonance in conservative Catholic circles.
Conflating homosexuality and sexual abuse
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, writing to Catholics in his diocese last month, noted that the recent incidents of clergy abuse involved "deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics."
"It is time to admit," Morlino wrote, "that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord."
When interviewed later about his letter on the Catholic television network EWTN, Morlino was asked what he would say to those Catholics who read his comments as blaming homosexuality for the problems in the church.
"I would say that homosexuality is at the root of this," Morlino answered.

Researchers who have studied patterns of clergy sex abusesay they have found no evidence of a link with sexual orientation. But the argument continues, with some Catholic leaders and prominent theologians even saying the abuse crisis justifies a purge of gay men from the priesthood.
Such reactions highlight the deep divisions in the Catholic church over issues of sexuality. Pope Francis, having advocated a more tolerant church culture in general and towards LGBT people in particular, has encountered fierce resistance from Catholics who cling to more orthodox positions. The Catholic church officially holdsthat to have a "deep-seated" homosexual orientation is to be "objectively disordered."
The new conservative focus on homosexuality in the clergy as a root cause of the abuse crisis has brought the longstanding debate over Catholic teaching on sexuality into sharper focus.
Is Catholic teaching homophobic?
"Our church's very unhealthy attitudes about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular really need to be addressed," says Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT advocacy group. Duddy-Burke sees the abuse crisis in the context of what she considers Catholic church homophobia.
"Whenever the church is under stress, particularly around the issue of sexual abuse and minors and the cover up by the clergy, gay priests have been scapegoated," she says.
Even Catholics who view LGBT people sympathetically, however, acknowledge that the abuse incidents highlighted recently mostly involve male-on-male assaults.
"Clearly, the vast majority of [clergy abuse] cases are men preying on boys and adolescents. We have to be clear about that," says James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine. "But that does not mean that every gay priest is an abuser."
Martin, who writes often about LGBT issues and Catholicism, notes that being gay and committing sexual assault are different.
"The reason we have that stereotype [of gay priests as abusers]," Martin says, "is because there are so few public counterexamples of the healthy celibate gay priest, of whom there are hundreds if not thousands."
"They are in religious orders and dioceses and parishes and schools and hospitals and soup kitchens," Martin says, "and they're doing great work. I know them personally."
Martin thinks as many as 30 or 40 percent of Catholic priests are gay, at least in their sexual orientation. But he says they are terrified to be identified as such in the current environment.
A larger divide 
The crisis also has political ramifications. In an open letter released last month, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, singled out several top Catholic cardinals and bishops as being complicit in the abuse crisis because of their association with what he called a "homosexual current" in Catholic circles. 
Among them were former Washington D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, credibly accused of molesting a minor. Vigano also targeted McCarrick's successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, for helping to cover up for abusive priests, as well as Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago. All three have been allied with Pope Francis and supportive of his social justice agenda. Francis himself, Vigano said, should resign for having accommodated McCarrick even while knowing about the allegations against him.
Vigano, however, is among the longstanding critics of Francis in the church.
"I think what's happening, unfortunately, is that the suffering of children and the crimes of sex abuse are being used by people who have always been Pope Francis's critics as an excuse to dump on him basically," Martin says. "I see in a lot of the attacks on Pope Francis more a hatred of him than a hatred of sex abuse."
The attacks may be having an effect. A new CNN poll shows Pope Francis is now viewed favorably by just 48 percent of Americans, down from 73 percent who approved of him at the beginning of his papacy.

August 28, 2018

Priests Sex Abuse Scandal Keeps Parishioners From Mass




VIRGINIA ALVINO YOUNG
Right inside the doorway of Courey and Andy Leer's house just outside of Pittsburgh, you're met with a golden cross, some palms, "and then we have a little Mary holy water holder," said Courey, 31. "We got some holy water for our wedding but we never like replenish it. It just hangs out there."
The Leers are among a number of Catholics in Pennsylvania who told NPR and its Pennsylvania stations that they opted to skip Mass this weekend, following the release of a grand jury report alleging widespread childhood sexual abuse in dioceses across the state. 
The Leers were both raised Catholic, and for the past few months were increasingly active in their parish, attending more weekday Masses and even starting a new ministry. While they each said their spirituality is personal, for them, being Catholic is really more about identity and culture.
"I think for the longest time it wasn't a matter of 'how does this make you feel, what's your relationship with Jesus?' It was just 'yeah, we're Catholic.' It's what we do. It's what our family does," Courey said.
But for the past weeks, they've been grappling with the news about the grand jury's clergy abuse report.
Andy, 32, said it's not the first time he's been thinking about this. When he was a teenager, claims against his own priest surfaced. The allegations against Father Joseph Pease were a few decades old, and appeared to be isolated. Pease was relocated to another parish.
"So we were OK back then to say 'we've gotten rid of the bad apple, the rest of the bunch is OK,' " he said. 
A few years ago he saw the movie Spotlight, about the investigation of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese, and he understood the scope of what was going on.
"But it doesn't really hit until it's in your backyard," he said.
Pennsylvania's grand jury report alleges 300 so-called "predator priests" abused more than 1,000 boys and girls across the state. It also includes evidence of a systematic cover up by church leaders dating back decades. Pittsburgh's Bishop David Zubik said the church has learned from the past, and implemented measures to prevent that from happening again. 
Courey Leer is skeptical.
"So it goes beyond just the priests and their superiors," she said. "It leads me to question entire Catholic communities. Who knew what? And not only why didn't they expose them, but, how long have people been turning the other way?"
Even before the report was released, Mass attendance had been declining for years within the Pittsburgh Diocese. Now, the Leers said they don't feel right attending services while so many others have been hurt by the church. They said they're standing in solidarity with the victims rather than the institution.
Courey did attend services with her 2-year-old daughter the day after the report was released, but they didn't stay long.
"I think a part of me was thinking I'm going to go to Mass and I'm going to get an OK to leave and not come back," she said. "And of course that's not going to happen. Part of me just wanted someone to say 'we really messed up, it's all on us, and you guys use your own moral discretion to decide what's best because we have no moral authority.'"
She said her priest did acknowledge the report, but offered little more than prayers. 
"And my daughter ran off and she found this beautiful long stained glass window, and the sun was coming in, and she was exploring all the lights coming through. There was yellow and blue and red, and it was beautiful, and to a 2-year old that's what makes church special," Leer said.
Courey said the beautiful sacred space is what makes church special to her, too. Right after the homily, the two stood up and walked out the doors.
"And I'm thinking 'is this our last Mass?' And it's hard. I can't fathom when she's 8 years old saying 'no we don't go to church, sorry you can't receive communion, even though your mom and dad did, your grandparents did, you don't get to do that.' "
The Leers said they'll miss the sacraments, community dinners, and the music ministry. But they would like to see church leaders push for more investigations into sexual abuse at diocese across the country.
"They don't need to be worried about our spirituality right now," Andy said. "They need to be worried about dealing with the corruption, and dealing with the priests that are out there that need to answer for what they've done, and the people that have potentially covered up and withheld information." 
After the report was released, Pittsburgh's Bishop David Zubik told his parishioners that an expert will review the diocese's abuse prevention and reporting policies. The church said it will also create a new position to monitor clergy who have been removed from ministry.
The Leers don't know what it will take for them to go back, but said it will take time for their faith to be restored in the Catholic Church.

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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