Showing posts with label Religion Abuses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion Abuses. Show all posts

August 26, 2019

Catholic Priest Arrested (Priest He Replaced Covered Sexual Abuse) For Stealing $98.4K for Boys





 St Joseph's Church beautiful, expensive altar
          
A Catholic priest was arrested in Pennsylvania Wednesday for allegedly stealing almost $100,000 in church donations, money authorities say he spent on traveling and his dating life.  

Father Joseph McLoone, a former priest with St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Downingtown, Pa., was charged with felony theft and other related crimes, according to the Chester County District Attorney's Office. 

Prosecutors say McLoone, 56, managed to steal $98,405.50 from the church over a seven-year span between 2011 and 2018. Large portions of that amount reportedly went toward vacations, dinners and a beach house in New Jersey. 

McLoone also allegedly sent thousands of church dollars to men he met on Grindr, a dating app for gay men.

According to a police complaint obtained by Philadelphia Magazine, McLoone — who took an oath of celibacy as part of his priesthood — would meet other men on the app and transfer them funds through services such as Square and J-Pay. He made at least 27 of these payments, according to investigators.  

"Father McLoone held a position of leadership and his parishioners trusted him to properly handle their generous donations to the church," the Chester County D.A.'s office said in a statement. "Father McLoone violated the trust of the members of St. Joseph for his own personal gain."  

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia had placed McLoone on leave in 2018 after learning about a secret bank account that he was allegedly using to embezzle funds. 

"These charges are serious and disturbing," Kenneth Gavin, chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told Philadelphia Magazine this week. "The Archdiocese and the parish will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the criminal matter enters its next phase. Pending the outcome, Monsignor McLoone remains on administrative leave."

McLoone originally took over at the church in 2011 after its former priest, William Lynn, was charged with covering up sexual abuse committed by other members of the clergy. He was the first U.S. Catholic Church official convicted of the crime.

by DILLON THOMPSON

August 20, 2019

Anti Gay Youth Minister in Illinois Charged With Sexually Exploiting Teen


 




A former youth minister at an evangelical church that condemns the LGBT community faces charges he sexually exploited a teenage boy.

Authorities claim Paxton Singer, a youth pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Aurora, Illinois, asked the unnamed 16-year-old for nude photos. He also purportedly inquired about the teen's sexual habits and requested the two spend the weekend alone together.

Prosecutors says Singer, 24, "knowingly enticed a person under 17 years of age to remove their clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant or the child." He faces a misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and sexual exploitation of a child.

Paxton Singer youth pastor gay
 Paxton Singer, 24, is accused of sexually exploiting a 16-year-old he solicited nude photos from. Another "uncharged victim" has been allowed to testify at Singer's trial, slated to start September 4.KANE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY



After he met the unnamed minor at a church event, Singer reportedly sent him a series of suggestive texts between October 2016 and August 2017. At some point the incidents were reported to Harvest Bible Chapel leaders, who say Singer was "involuntarily terminated for cause" in January 2018. In a statement, the church said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was notified the same day, as were families connected to Singer's ministry.  

But a DCFS official told the Chicago Tribune that the charges filed against Singer did not result from the January notification, but from a hotline call made months later: "The DCFS child protection investigation was completed in October 2018, and Paxton Singer was indicated for sexual exploitation." 

Singer also worked at the Harvest Bible Chapel campus in Rolling Meadows, about 40 miles away. Church officials disclosed there were allegations of inappropriate actions between Singer and three different male teens. 

"Three incidents related to the former employee in question were all reported to DCFS during the second and third week of January 2018." Scott Milholland, Harvest Bible Chapel's senior executive pastor, told the Tribune. "Further contact between our staff and DCFS beyond that time period were follow-up related and did not involve any new incidents." 

On Friday, Kane County Circuit Judge Michael Noland ruled that another alleged teen—whose exploitation Singer was not being charged with—could testify about inappropriate texts and Snapchat messages. Noland said the texts to the "uncharged victim" were similar enough that his testimony was relevant. (Another alleged victim is not being allowed to testify, as he was 17 at the time and therefore wasn't legally considered a child.) 

The Assistant State's Attorney subpoenaed AT&T for Singer's cellphone records, giving the carrier until August 29 to respond. The trial was originally slated to start in July, but was rescheduled to September 4. Noland indicated it may be delayed again to give the defense time to examine those phone records. 

Singer's attorney, Kevin Halvorsen, complained the proceedings were being unduly drawn out. "The state is investigating [phone records] that they should have investigated a long time ago," he said.

June 15, 2019

ExDeputy NowPastor Got His Pants on Fire For Calling GayBiTrans People as 'Freaks Deserving of Execution'




  

KNOXVILLE, TN (WBIR) A veteran Tennessee sheriff’s office detective and Baptist pastor are under fire for calling gay, bisexual and transgender people “freaks” and “reprobates” who deserved to be executed by the government.

Grayson Fritts, a 20-year Knox County Sheriff’s Office veteran, delivered his remarks after having already quietly decided to accept a buyout from his police job.

Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen issued a statement, saying she found the speech ‘personally offensive and reprehensible.’

“As District Attorney, my constitutional obligation is to protect the integrity of the justice system. When any potential witness in a criminal proceeding expresses an opinion of hatred and/or bias towards a class of citizens, I am ethically bound to explore that witness’ credibility,” she said.

Allen said she will be reviewing all pending cases involving Fritts and scrutinize them for potential bias. 

Along with being an investigator, Fritts pastors the All Scripture Baptist Church, which identifies itself as an “independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul-winning church.”

In a June 2 sermon at the church, Fritts said gay people “were worthy of death” and should be tried and executed by the government. Policemen, he said, had a duty to carry out their roles in seeing that gay people are prosecuted.

Sheriff Tom Spangler issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.

It reads: “Detective Fritts turned in his request for The Knox County Voluntary Workforce Reduction Buy Out approximately two weeks ago. I accepted his request. Detective Fritts is no longer on active duty with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, he is currently on paid sick leave until the effective date of the workforce reduction which will be July 19, 2019.

“I want to be very clear that it is my responsibility to ensure equal protection to ALL citizens of Knox County, Tennessee under the law, my oath and the United States Constitution without discrimination or hesitation. Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so.”

NBC4i



February 28, 2019

The Library in Anchorage was Holding a Pride-Fest When a Pastor Decided to Interrupt


  Anchorage Activists Form 'Queen's Guard' To Protect LGBT Events
 

This library in Alaska was holding a Pridefest

This pastor crashed a library's drag queen story time - then got booed out
A drag queen doing story time at the library | Photo: Facebook/NowThis Politics







 














Brendan Joel Kelley

The man dressed as the Grim Reaper and holding a sign reading “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH” had been to Drag Storytime (formerly Drag Queen Storytime) before. On a Saturday earlier this month, he was vocally disparaging LGBT people outside the Z.J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage, Alaska.

David Grisham, an evangelical street preacher and leader of the hate group Last Frontier Evangelism-Repent Alaska known for disparaging Jews, Muslims and Catholics crashed the second installment of Drag Storytime last June, during Anchorage’s PrideFest. Grisham was booed then, and swiftly escorted out.

At the fourth Drag Storytime event – which features performers in drag reading stories about tolerance, diversity and families to children – on Saturday, Feb. 9, Grisham stood outside the library wearing his bleak costume alongside a couple of fellow protesters, shouting: “You’re sick, you’re perverted, you need to get right with God today… You hate children. Stop hating children. Stop brainwashing them.”

But this time Grisham faced about 30 counterprotesters lined up on either side of the library’s entrance who responded with coordinated chants like “2-4-6-8/We are tired of the hate/2-4-6-8/Love is here, it’s just fate,” and “Don’t be a drag/Just be a queen.”

The scene marked the debut of the Queen’s Guard of Alaska, whose stated mission is “to counteract negative and hostile protests with positive, peaceful, non-engaging rebuttals.”

The Queen’s Guard is a grassroots collective of activists who plan “to be at events where we know or suspect anti-LGBT organizations or people are planning to be at,” said founder Vincent Feuilles, the 46-year-old transgender man who organized the group. “Our purpose is to respond to their hate with accuracy, and love and support for LGBT people going to or performing at the event at that time.”

The idea Feuilles and his fellow activists are pursuing is emerging in other locales as well, particularly as Drag Queen Storytime events, endorsed by the American Library Association, increase in popularity. A similar scene played out in a Detroit suburb in January, and in Anchorage, the Queen’s Guard plans on being at all future Drag Storytime events as well as other LGBT happenings around the state.

Drag Queen Storytimes around the country have also drawn protests from anti-LGBT hate groups. At the Drag Queen Storytime in Huntington Woods, a suburb of Detroit, the Michigan chapter of anti-LGBT hate group MassResistance joined with other anti-LGBT activists, including a Tennessee-based anti-LGBT hate group called Warriors for Christ (formerly of West Virginia), which travels to protest drag queen events at libraries, and the extreme-right Catholic online media outlet Church Militant, an anti-LGBT hate group. MassResistance has also protested similar events at libraries in Windsor, Colorado, and Riverside, California.

Now a nationwide phenomenon, Drag Queen Story Hour was established in San Francisco in 2015. The national Drag Queen Story Hour organization lists two dozen cities with events, but independent permutations like the one in Anchorage are widespread in locales large and small.

The first Drag Storytime in Anchorage “went swimmingly,” organizer Brooks Banker said, but the second, held in June during the annual PrideFest celebration, attracted Grisham, who interrupted the performance before being escorted out.

But it was after the third event, which took place in October, that anti-LGBT forces really took note. On Oct. 26, Arthur Schaper, organization director of hate group MassResistance, sent an email and flyer to library director Mary Jo Torgeson and all of the members of the Anchorage Assembly, decrying the “subversive introduction of an agenda which promotes homosexuality, transgenderism, transvestism, and other paraphilias.”

MassResistance is known for fighting bans against the discredited practice of so-called conversion therapy and rallying against “the homosexual agenda” in public schools. MassResistance paints transgender people as predators, and links homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia.

A few days later, Jim Minnery, the head of the Alaska Family Council and its lobbying group Alaska Family Action, which leads anti-LGBT efforts in the state, contacted Torgeson and asked about the event “before I send an alert out to our constituents.” She told Minnery the events would continue, replying in part: “The story time is not meant to endorse a lifestyle, it is about accepting differences in one another. … As a public entity, what we strive for is equal access, tolerance and respect for everyone.”

On Nov. 2, Minnery posted an alert on Alaska Family Action’s Facebook page, stating: “There is a reason to believe that with organized opposition, some of these attacks on kids, families and faith can be stopped. Libraries in some communities have been reticent to host these events – forcing organizers to look for other sites.”

“I follow [Minnery’s] page on Facebook and he was putting out the call for all the good people to come and cast aside this sin,” said Queen’s Guard founder Feuilles. “I was looking at all the misinformation and everything that was incorrect about it, how he was riling people up, and I thought, it’s almost like we need a Queen’s Guard to go guard the drag queens. That was the start.”

In January 2019, a transgender woman in Anchorage, Andrea “Drea” Redeker, committed suicide, further spurring Feuilles to action. “It was very much a result of all of the aggression she faced everyday,” he said. “I thought if maybe there was more support at things like Drag Storytime, where people saw not just the bad side, which is what Dave Grisham and his group do, and they got there and there was a group of people who were there drowning out that message of hate with love and acceptance, maybe it would stop somebody else.”

The idea of countering anti-LGBT protesters goes as far back as the 1998 murder in Laramie, Wyoming, of Matthew Shepard, who was killed for being gay. After Westboro Baptist Church members had picketed Shepard’s memorial service, LGBT activists, fearing Westboro would also appear at the trial of his killers, showed up wearing angel wings seven feet tall and 10 feet across and surrounded the protesters, effectively hiding them. The operation was called Angel Action.

“The thing I remember most about [Angel Action] is they were there kind of just to quiet and hide [the anti-LGBT protesters],” said Feuilles. “We do not want to hide the opposition. I want people to see and hear what they are saying too, because there are some people who don’t realize that there are groups like this out there.”

Feuilles rallied LGBT activists and the Queen’s Guard of Alaska made its debut at Drag Storytime on Saturday, Feb. 9. They numbered about 30, compared to Grisham’s handful of protesters across the plaza. As Grisham arrived in his Grim Reaper outfit, the Queen’s Guard amassed on each side of the library’s entrance, forcing Grisham to stand away from the doors. “He had to stand across from us – you can’t block the doors,” explained Feuilles.

Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant was in attendance and estimated the crowd for the early performance, aimed at younger children, at nearly 300, with about 150 at the later performance for older children. “What I hear from library staff is that it’s the single most popular event in the calendar year for the library,” he said.

Besides countering Grisham’s hate speech with chants, the Queen’s Guard escorted the performers into the auditorium to cheers from the audience. “I thought it was remarkable,” said Banker, the Drag Storytime organizer. “It was really inspiring and actually very necessary for the emotional, mental and even physical safety of our volunteer drag storytellers, as well as all attendees. You can attend Drag Storytime and show support that way, but to have a whole other side of support is really important too. We’re covered, we feel protected.”

The Queen’s Guard of Alaska also plans to be at the next Drag Storytime, yet to be scheduled, and will be out in force supporting attendees of the Trans Alaska Summit, to be held March 8 – 10.

Photo credit Lillian Lennon

Comments, suggestions or tips? Send them to HWeditor@splcenter.org and follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.

January 6, 2019

Pastor Donnie Romero: Celebrated Massacre of 49 people at a Church, Dirty Fag*ts Snatch our Children



BY Hermant Mehta

Pastor Donnie Romero of Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas is one of those “independent fundamental Baptist” preachers better known for spewing hate than teaching people to act like Jesus. Or at least he was a pastor at that church.
He resigned this week saying he’s been a “terrible husband and father.”
That’s… vague. But in a follow-up video, Steven Anderson, his colleague in Christian cruelty who also ordained him, Romero is no longer a pastor because he’s guilty of “being with prostitutes,” using marijuana, and gambling.
The reason these revelations ought to be discussed publicly — even though they are very much private matters and even though people may disagree on how seriously to take each of those “sins” — is that Romero has become infamous for his demonization of LGBTQ people as if they were the real sinners in society. 
In 2014, for example, Romero claimed that all “dirty faggots” want to “snatch your children” to “hurt and rape them.” He said in the same sermon that gay people should be put to death because the Bible says they’re filthy.  
Romero also celebrated the massacre of 49 people at Pulse nightclub in 2016 with a sermon declaring “the earth is a little bit better place now.”
I’ll pray that God will finish the job that that man started, and he will end their life, and by tomorrow morning they will all be burning in hell, just like the rest of them, so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and to hurt little children.
Considering how little the Bible actually says about gay people and how much he was able to extrapolate from it, one might think the sins of sexual affairs, drug use, and gambling would be even bigger deals… but in the cult he managed, calling for the execution of gay people is simply what God commands, while smoking pot is unforgivable. #IFBLogic.
No one should be surprised by this. We’re used to Christian hypocrisy. The only surprising thing, to me, is that his alleged sins didn’t involve being with another guy — the people who protest homosexuality the loudest are frequently the ones who are most closeted.
The Star-Telegram notes that Romero hasn’t been charged with any crimes. For now, all of these allegations are just in-house. But this would hardly be news in the IFB world, where hypocrisy and misconduct are part of the game.
Star-Telegram investigation published in December discovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada.
For now, the hate group is known as Romero’s church still has his pastor profile up on their website

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.




November 14, 2018

Conversion Therapy Called For Him to Surrender To His Pastor For Two Years


                                         Image result for Darren Calhoun



 Darren Calhoun recalls being 12 years old during a sex education class at school and wishing he wasn’t gay.
“I remember expecting that one day I was going to magically be attracted to girls, but I was beginning to have crushes on guys,” Calhoun says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “I began to pray, but that feeling never went away.”
Calhoun, who grew up in a Christian home on the South Side of Chicago, kept his sexuality a secret for years.
“I would look in the mirror every morning asking myself if I was going to be gay the rest of my life,” says Calhoun, now 38. “I didn’t know anyone else who was.”
He was living a double life until it became too much to keep inside. At church and at school he was quiet and hid his sexuality, but he would then turn to chat lines and telephone party lines where he could talk to other gay men. But going to college in 1997 changed everything. He began to build friendships with people who were gay and became more confident.
“I took a creative writing class and wrote a poem that was kind of me coming out,” he says. “I said I was black, Christian and gay.” The response he received from the student body — and his parents and family — was positive, but there were a few people in his life who were very religious who constantly told him that this was “not what God wanted for my life.” 
After studying the Bible with a friend on campus he began to interpret the scripture in a negative way.
“I felt very helpless and shameful,” he says. “It led me to stop identifying as gay, but I acted out and secretly hooked up with a lot of people.”
Calhoun decided to go to the pastor of the church and ask for help.
“He said he was going to make me right,” says Calhoun. “It was very subtle at first. He said I had to get rid of my gay friends, pray more and live in his church’s basement in Chicago.”
Calhoun went from identifying as gay to hiding it and keeping his desires inside.
“I felt ashamed about my sexual orientation,” he says. “My testimony and my history had kind of been deleted. He [the pastor] wanted me to act like it had just never been true.” Two years later, he went to his pastor again and said he was still struggling.
He was told that to “show my commitment to God,” he had to move to the church’s Indiana location.
“Moving there was a very, very sharp cut from everything in my life,” he says. “My father passed away right before I moved, but I could barely process his passing. I was focused on getting right with God.”
Calhoun had to drop out of school and was given $50 a week. He also had to quit his photography business that he had on the side.
“The pastor wouldn’t let me go to my best friend’s wedding because I had to be more spiritual,” he adds. “I was under his supervision 24 hours a day and was told to fast two days a week. He said this would help me become heterosexual and let me go to heaven.” Over time, Calhoun realized that this wasn’t healthy.
“It was becoming clearer to me that this wasn’t healthy, and I knew I shouldn’t feel ashamed,” he says. “I called my mom, and she came to rescue and drove me home.”
Wounded and hurt by what had happened, it took Calhoun 10 years to build up trust again. When he returned to Chicago, he began to rebuild the life he left behind.
Now an advocate for the Born Perfect Campaign, he also got back into photography and is in a band called The Many that create music that acknowledges the “hard stuff in our world.” And on Sundays, he leads his church in worship.
“I’ve gone from being forced to hide parts of myself in a basement to literally being able to stand up and remind people that God loves everyone,” he says. “That includes me as a black, gay man.”

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