Pope Francis Dodges, Weaves and Wobbles on Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis missed an opportunity to not repeat his predecessors’ failures on the crimes of clerical sexual abuse of minors.

Last month the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sharply denounced the Vatican’s failure since 2001 to report data to the United Nations on sexual abuse by priests.


“The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests…”

“The Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

In response to this harsh critique, the Holy See thought it prudent to correct the UN’s “lack of understanding,” justify its policies, claim the Vatican is “a reality different” than other countries, and complain of moral intervention into “doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.” This response only served to underscore the Committee’s findings on the Holy See’s conduct- the Vatican places its reputation over concerns for survivors of sexual abuse by priests.

Today Pope Francis again dodged, weaved and wobbled on criticisms of the Vatican’s handling of child sexual abuse and went so far as to defend the Church’s record. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Holy Father spoke in defense of the Vatican’s actions in dealing with child sexual abuse, saying “no one has done more” to address the issue. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility… Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”

La Chiesa cattolica è forse l’unica istituzione pubblica ad essersi mossa con trasparenza e responsabilità. Nessun altro ha fatto di più. Eppure la Chiesa è la sola ad essere attaccata

The Pope is simply practicing revisionist history.  Penn State faced its own Marcial Maciel Degollado or Father Donald McGuire S.J.  In Gerry Sandusky, Penn State as an institution faced serious consequences for their conduct.  To date, the Holy See has not fired anyone, refuses extradition of a Papal Nuncio wanted for child sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic and is on the verge of canonizing John Paul II who allowed Maciel to go unpunished during his reign.

If the Holy See is going to claim moral authority it will be held to a higher standard, if not by the objective measures of the UN Committee, then indeed by public opinion. In turn, if the Holy See fails miserably to address the documented crisis of clerical sexual abuse of minors, fails to follow the rule of law and continues to put children at risk, the Holy See has earned every bit of criticism.  Some simply call that justice.



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Two great reads

Both are by my fellow advocate Joelle Casteix:

Donohue Goes Too Far … And He’s Dead Wrong – She looks at how the Catholic League’s call for vigilante justice is dangerous, wrong and destructive


Women Abuse, Too – a discussion on changing societal views on women who molest children

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Things Not Remembered

What better place to find evidence of concealing clerical child abuse than in a newly opened secret archive?

For her book Fallen OrderKaren Liebreich began digging in a previously closed archive and discovered the sordid story of the Piarist Fathers and “things not remembered.”

One of those “things not remembered” was how a child abuser rose to become the General Superior of the Order. This sounds like fodder for the Darknet, but the story illustrates how the cover-up of child sexual abuse has occured in Roman circles for centuries.

Father Stefano Cherubini Sch.P. was a rich Roman lawyer’s son who was accused of sexually abusing boys in Naples in 1629. In classic cover-up language, the founder of the Piarists, Father Joseph Calasanz Sch.P. writes, “it seems best to me, that if we are allowed to be the judges of this case, we will not permit it to come into the hands of outsiders.”

Instead of being punished to a life of prayer and penance, Cherubini was promoted and became General Superior in 1643. Complaints against Cherubini, then at the Piarists Roman School, continued. Instead of facing the issue, Pope Innocent X dissolved the religious order. Pope Alexander VIII resurrected the Piarists in 1656.

So, when you read the newly released LA priest files of the Piarist Fathers and sense a cover-up, know that the Piarist cover-up reaches back to the 17th century with the founder of the order.

Find the LA priest files here:

Father Armando Pena Sch.P.

Father John Salazar Sch.P.


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The Chancellor Shows Courage

Before the recent revelations of child porn sitting in the Secret Archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, most people never stopped to think about the role of a Archdiocesan Chancellor. Some may have an image of Thomas Beckett or a librarian type. But most, honestly, just scratch their head.

So, what is a chancellor supposed to do? And how did St. Paul Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger stumble upon child porn in Archbishop Nienstedt’s secret archives?

The office of Chancellor in the Roman Catholic Church is first and foremost to “take care that the acts of the curia are gathered, arranged and safeguarded in the archive of the curia”. (1983 CIC 482)  This sounds a lot like a librarian, but the job also includes maintaining the entire inventory, or catalogue, of both the historical, secret and criminal archives.

What makes this job different than that of a librarian is that the cover up of clerical sexual abuse of minors in Saint Paul goes back to (at least) Archbishop Leo Binz in the 1960s. The cover-up documents have been stored at the Chancery on Summit Avenue as mandated by the Pope in the code of canon law. For instance, Father Jerome C. Kern’s file contains evidence the Archbishop was aware Kern was sexually abusing minor boys in 1969.

But why is there an explosion now when the Archbishop knew of the child porn in 2003?

The answer is simple: Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger.

Haselberger was the first lay female ever appointed Chancellor in St.Paul. She does not belong to the clerical “caste” and apparently she didn’t absorb the “Tradition of clerical immunity.” When she found the porn in the secret vaults, Haselberger followed her conscience and called law enforcement.

When the Archbishop was about to transfer Father Jon Shelley, Haselberger naturally reviewed the files under her care. She found a Saint Luke Institute report, an investigation by the Vicar General Kevin McDonough, and the porn vault. She found evidence that there were three computers, half a dozen morally disturbing searches and thousands of nefarious images sitting in the archives. There was nothing ambiguous about it.

What Now?

First, the Haselberger experience informs us that all church archives need to be reviewed by independent prosecutors in law enforcement. These prosecutors answer to the people, not the Pope.

Second, this 2013 experience teaches us that the Roman Catholic Church has not learned and in fact may not have the capacity to learn how to protect children in their care.

Third, we must press our leaders. Experience tells us that St. Paul is NOT unique. Are there priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors in ministry today?  We must press church leaders to make public what they know, urge prosecutors to demand files, and implore Catholics to withhold contributions until they and we can be assured that there are no criminals in active ministry.


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What if a perpetrator is getting out of jail?

S/he has served his or her time. Now what?

For victims, it can be sheer horror

There is both relief and joy for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and their families when a convicted perpetrator goes to jail.  The perpetrator can no longer gain access to a child. But that relief can be short-lived.

The typical felony child abuse sentence is a 2-3 years, unless there are special circumstances.Why? The economics of prison overcrowding and state constitutional rules regarding civil commitment.

The situation of Oblate priest James Rapp OSFS is different. Rapp is a Roman Catholic priest convicted to 40 years for child abuse, reduced to 16 years. He will be free in 2015. But his case is the exception, not the norm.

Recent Changes

The cases Bishop Finn in Kansas City and the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia have changed how criminally charged clerics plead. The last four priest perpetrators on 288 (a) child abuse in California (Father Denis Lyons in Orange; Rafael Venegas and Luis Jose Cuevas in Los Angeles and Uriel Ojeda in Sacramento) all pled guilty to reduced sentences. Why plead guilty? To keep the bishop or archbishop from testifying at trial.

But what is the perpetrator is still a threat?

If a state has a Sexual Predator Act, victims can suggest that the District Attorney charge the perpetrator as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). From a lay person’s viewpoint, SVP is a hybrid of criminal and mental health law, forcing an inmate to go before a mental health board before release is granted.

The public then can intervene and argue against the release for public safety reasons. They can show the perpetrator is still a danger, or that the paraphilia that he/she suffers from is a permanent psychic infirmity for which there is no guaranteed treatment.

Does SVP work? You bet! 

Every state needs a Sexual Predator Act to protect Children. The key is to act early and affirmatively. If your state has such a law, ensure your police report and criminal complaint plead all the violent acts with specificity. It will make the SVP determination.

It is hard and takes courage to make a police report. But do it for you—and the kids of today and tomorrow. If you know other survivors, encourage them to also come forward and make a report to law enforcement.

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The Double Dirty Dozen

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Gallup New Mexico has become the twelfth Bishop or Provincial to seek bankruptcy protection. Gallup rounds out the first dirty dozen of Dioceses and religious orders to hide behind the federal bankruptcy courts.

The filing is not a surprise. It broadcasts the clear intention of avoiding depositions under oath. Bishop James Wall and Father Lawrence O’Keefe J.C.D.  are leveraging the civil courts to avoid disclosing what they learned in auditing all the Gallup Secret Archive files.

Why file for bankruptcy protection?  Look at these 24 clerics who have been in the Diocese of Gallup.

Father William G. Allison is a Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana priest who was sent for treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, NM.  After treatment, Bishop Bernard Espelage OFM accepted him into the Gallup diocese ad experimentum where Allison sexually abused three minors in Flagstaff, AZ (before Flagstaff became part of the Phoenix Diocese). Bishop Espelage then shipped Allison to the Diocese of Fresno. His status is unknown.

Father Michael Aten was removed for childhood sexual abuse in 1991.

Father John Boland plead guilty to childhood sexual abuse in 1993.

Father James Burns plead guilty to molesting minors in 2004.

Father Santino Casimano was a Diocesan priest who worked in the Navajo Nation and is accused of sexually abusing minors in several dioceses, including the Diocese of Orange, CA.

Father Charles Chicanowicz O.F.M. is a Franciscan Friar to abused children on the Navajo Nation.

Father David Clark C.M.F. is a Claretian Order priest accused of childhood sexual abuse in Prescott, AZ.

Father Lawrence Flores was a priest of the Diocese of Gallup before parts where transferred to the newly created Diocese of Phoenix. Flores was sued for childhood sexual abuse and left the priesthood.

Father Harold Graf was ordained for the Diocese of Gallup and transferred to newly created Diocese of Phoenix. Graf is accused of sexually molesting minors at Northern Arizona University. His status is unknown.

Father Clement Hageman OMI was an Order of Mary Immaculate priest, now known as the “Route 66 priest,” who was transferred from diocese to diocese with notice of child sexual abuse going back to 1937.

Father Julian Hartig OFM was a Franciscan Friar. He has been credibly accused in both the Province of Saint John the Baptist in Cincinnati and the Diocese of Gallup.

Father Robert Kirsch was a priest of Gallup who transferred to Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Kirsch was accused of childhood sexual abuse; suit dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.

Father James Lidenmeyer was the Vicar General of the Gallup Diocese and was sued for sexual abuse of minors.

Father Diego Mazon OFM is a friar of the Saint John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati. He is accused of childhood sexual abuse in the Navajo Nation, Gallup and Santa Fe. His status is unknown.

Father Bruce Macarthur of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD was convicted of the sexual abuse of minors. He later volunteered in Gallup with the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Missionaries of Charity in 2003.  Last conviction is 2008.

Father Douglas McNeill is a former Sacred Heart priest who admitted to sexually abusing a child in Indian Country and tried to pay off the survivor with church funds. His status is unknown.

Father Harry Morgan was ordained for the Diocese of Gallup was incardinated into the Diocese of Phoenix. He plead no contest to sexual abuse of minors in 1975, removed in 2012 and his status is unknown.

Monsignor Francis Murphy of the Archdiocese of Anchorage was allowed to retire to Cuba, NM.  Murphy is credibly accused sexually abusing minors in Boston and Anchorage for decades. His status is unknown.

Bishop Donald E. Pelotte S.S.S. was the Gallup Ordinary (Bishop) from 1986 to 2008. He is remembered as the first Native American elevated to the Episcopacy, the first Bishop to make a 911 call reporting “…gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, wearing Halloween masks.…” in the Cathedral rectory, and the first modern-day Bishop to be severely beaten in the rectory.

Father James Rodriquez was removed by the Diocese in 1999 for accusations of molesting a child. His status is unknown.

Father Raul Sanchez is a Diocese priest named in several lawsuits from Madre Di Dios parish in Winslow, Arizona. Status is unknown; Sanchez thought to be in Mexico.

Father Mark Schornack OFM was a Franciscan priest who served several decades in Indian Country. Several cases against him have settled.

Father John T. Sullivan was a priest of the Diocese of Manchester, NH. He was brought to Gallup by Bishop Bernard Espelage OFM after treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs NM. Father Sullivan sexually abuse minors in Manchester, Gallup, Phoenix and San Diego.

Father Samuel Wilson was a Diocesan priest is named as a child abuser who served on several Reservations and Hispanic parishes.


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The Caged Files

Throughout the last twenty years of advocating on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I have heard countless names for the secret sex abuse archives in the Roman Catholic Church.

These files, according to the Code of Canon Law, are mandatory in every Diocese or Archdiocese around the world:

Can. 489 §1. In the diocesan curia there is also to be a secret archive, or at least in the common archive there is to be a safe or cabinet, completely closed and locked, which cannot be removed; in it documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.

§2. Each year documents of criminal cases in matters of morals, in which the accused parties have died or ten years have elapsed from the condemnatory sentence, are to be destroyed. A brief summary of what occurred along with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained.

Can. 490 §1. Only the bishop is to have the key to the secret archive.

Now comes yet another name from Newark Archbishop John J Myers J.C.D.: the caged files

Caged files, Secret Archives, Hell files, 489 files, Confidential files, the various names speak to the same reality. Big institutions like the Archdiocese of Newark maintain documents and secret histories on people who are credible threats right now. And these “caged files” are NOT designed to protect the public. Instead, they are locked, vaulted, and secreted away to protect the church from the dark immoral haunts whose release—they believe—could upend the institution. Thankfully, survivors in their relentless pursuit of justice continue to rattle the cage, in the hopes that it breaks and frees the secrets.

The thesis for child protection is not complex. We call upon Archbishop Myers to support a change in the statute of limitations; break open the caged files he alone controls; and protect children past, present and future by not allowing perpetrators to hide in the Diocese of Peoria’s and Archdiocese of Newark’s “cages.”


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