Posts Tagged U.S. bishops

Bridgeport Diocese report on sex abuse among priests blames former Archbishop Edward Egan; nearly 300 individuals allegedly abused by 71 priests since 1953 / Hartford Courant

The report concluded Egan was “profoundly unsympathetic, inadequate and openly inflammatory,” whose primary responsibility was “preserving the assets and reputation of the diocese” rather then the well-being of sexual abuse survivors. (Hartford Courant)

A scathing report released Tuesday (Oct. 1) by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport on the alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of victims by clergy since the early 1950s blames former bishops Edward Egan and Walter Curtis for violating state law, destroying records and either outright ignoring or inadequately responding to “an unfolding crisis.”

“As the number of priest abuse victims piled up, church leaders were more concerned about protecting assets and avoiding “scandalous news articles” than protecting children and removing priests, the report found.

“The report, compiled by former state Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg, was particularly harsh on Egan, who went on to become Archbishop of New York. The report found 281 victims allegedly abused by 71 priests or about 5 percent of the total number of priests that have served in the diocese. More than $56 million was paid to victims in legal settlements.

“‘The priests who committed these ghastly acts engaged in criminal acts,’ Holzberg said at a Bridgeport press conference Tuesday. A total of 10 priests, including Laurence Brett, Raymond Pcolka and Martin Federici, accounted for 61 percent of the abuse cases.

By Dave Altimari and Amanda Blanco, Hartford Courant — Read more …

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Bishop’s secret list of accused priests leaves him besieged / The New York Times

Perhaps no bishop in the United States “as become as embroiled in scandal over the past year as Bishop Malone of Buffalo, one of the largest dioceses in the Northeast.” (The New York Times)

Bishop Richard J. Malone kept a secret black binder in a closet with a list of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse. He was recorded in a conversation expressing more concern about his own reputation than about removing a priest whom he called dangerous and a “sick puppy.” And some of the bishop’s own clergy are circulating a letter of no-confidence in him.

“Numerous Catholic bishops across the United States have become involved in controversies over their handling of clergy sexual abuse. But perhaps none has become as embroiled in scandal over the past year as Bishop Malone of Buffalo, one of the largest dioceses in the Northeast.

“In an extraordinary turn of events in the hierarchical church, Bishop Malone is approaching persona non grata status in his own diocese. Some organizations are canceling events that he was set to attend, and he is declining other invitations, local Catholics said …

“But despite revelations from whistle-blowers and calls from lay leaders and priests for him to step down, Bishop Malone has declined to do so.”

By Sharon Otterman, The New York Times — Read more …

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Vatican authorizes ‘Vos Estis’ investigation into Minnesota bishop Hoeppner / Catholic News Agency in The Pilot

(Bishop Michael) Hoeppner has been accused of pressuring Ron Vasek, a former diaconal candidate in the diocese, to recant the allegation that he was molested in 1971 by a Crookston priest. (Catholic News Agency in The Pilot)

Bishop Michael Hoeppner is the first sitting U.S. bishop to be investigated under new misconduct protocols introduced by Pope Francis earlier this year.

“Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, will be investigated by Minneapolis’ Archbishop Bernard Hebda, on charges that Hoeppner thwarted a police or canonical investigation of clerical sexual misconduct in his diocese.

“‘I have been authorized by the Congregation for Bishops to commence an investigation into allegations that the Most Reverend Michael Hoeppner, the Bishop of Crookston, carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston,’ Hebda told CNA Sept. 10.

“Law enforcement has been notified of the allegations. The allegations were reported to me under the procedures set out in Pope Francis’ recent legislation addressing bishop a’ccountability, the motu proprio ‘Vos estis lux mundi.'”

By J.D. Flynn, Catholic News Agency, in The Pilot — Read more …

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Wyoming bishop’s decades of abuse destroyed lives, traumatized families / Cruxnow.com

This is part one of Crux’s three-part investigative series into Bishop Joseph Hart, who could become the first U.S. bishop to face criminal prosecution for sexual abuse. Part two will run tomorrow. (Cruxnow.com)

As parishioners attended the Feast of the Assumption Mass inside Guardian Angels Catholic Church on August 15, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) gathered outside on the sidewalk for a press conference marking an occasion that many believed would never come.

“Less than 24 hours earlier, police in Cheyenne, Wyoming recommended to prosecutors that a one-time Guardian Angels priest, who would go on to become a beloved Catholic bishop, face criminal charges for the sexual abuse of minors.

“Prior to being named a bishop, Joseph Hart had served in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for the first two decades of his priesthood, following ordination in 1956. Although his ecclesial career has spanned over five decades, serving in two states where he was widely popular, he has been trailed by allegations of serial abuse – which he has consistently denied – dodging both civil and canonical adjudication for more than two decades.

“Now, in the twilight of his life he not only faces criminal charges, where he could become the first U.S. bishop ever to face criminal prosecution for abuse, but also the possibility of being stripped of his title of bishop and removed from the clerical state as a church trial in the Vatican is also underway.”

By Christopher White, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Why the ‘Metropolitan Plan’ doesn’t work — Exhibit A: Bishop Bransfield / Commonweal

As if by an act of divine providence, however, the first trial run of a metropolitan-centered strategy to contain abusive bishops has provided a spectacular public demonstration of how this plan can fail. The case I am referring to, of course, is that of Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who has been suspended from ministry over multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of diocesan funds. (Commonweal)

The now-glaring weakness of the USCCB’s 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was that it made no provision for dealing with bishops who engage in sexual misconduct. In the wake of the scandal surrounding Theodore McCarrick, who had escaped the consequences of his abuses for decades, the American bishops realized this gap had to be closed. Without some mechanism for holding bishops accountable, the trust that the hierarchy hoped to rebuild after the devastating revelations of clergy abuse of children could never be achieved.

“In the course of discussions in the months following the McCarrick revelations, two proposals emerged: an independent lay-run board could investigate a bishop and report to Rome, or a case could be referred to the metropolitan bishop of the region (a metropolitan is the bishop of the chief see of an ecclesiastical province, usually an archdiocese), who would oversee the investigation and send his findings to Rome. In either case, the pope would make a final determination of the fate of the bishop.

“Not surprisingly, the latter option (first proposed by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago) was the one favored by most American bishops and the Vatican. It decentralizes the work of investigating accusations. It avoids thorny practical questions about who chooses the members of the lay board. And, critically, it sidesteps the canonical ‘problem’ of lay people in the church being placed in a position of authority over bishops.

“The guidelines issued this spring by Pope Francis endorsed the ‘metropolitan plan.’ At their June meeting in Baltimore, the American bishops adopted it, though with some debate over whether lay involvement in the process should be mandatory or optional. They made it optional.

“As if by an act of divine providence, however, the first trial run of a metropolitan-centered strategy to contain abusive bishops has provided a spectacular public demonstration of how this plan can fail. The case I am referring to, of course, is that of Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who has been suspended from ministry over multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of diocesan funds.”

By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal — Read more …

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Following bishops’ spring meeting, Voice of the Faithful echoes calls for mandatory civil reporting and lay involvement in bishop accountability

BOSTON, Mass., June 18, 2019 – The 2019 U.S. Bishops’ spring assembly left Voice of the Faithful and concerned Catholics across America with a nagging sense of déjà vu. Once again, the plan for resolving the Church’s lengthy, widespread child abuse and cover-up scandal is for bishops to hold their fellow bishops accountable. This is the best they could do nearly 35 years after Jason Berry’s reporting on horrendous abuse in Louisiana and Fr. Tom Doyle’s comprehensive report on the extent and potential repercussions of Catholic clergy abuse.

Over the past three and a half decades, time and again, when clerical transgressions were brought to light by others, bishops apologized and promised reform. The reform attempted at this latest bishops meeting has left bishops monitoring other bishops, controlling reports to lay boards and establishing themselves as final arbiters when abuse is reported. It has left us still waiting for substantive actions that could signal real reform. Here are two:

  • mandatory reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, even where state law does not require it, as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski emphasized during the bishops’ meeting; and
  • mandatory lay involvement in bishop accountability, without which, as the bishops’ National Review Board Chairman Francesco Cesareo has said, a culture of self-preservation would continue that suggests complicity.

For arguably good reasons, Pope Francis in his recent Vos estis lux mundi did not require either of these actions, only suggested them, while requiring that bishops’ transgressions be reported within the Church and investigated by other bishops. This is a variation of the medieval court system where only clerics were allowed to judge other clerics and not a step forward.

At their meeting, U.S. bishops adopted the metropolitan model suggested by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich wherein a metropolitan archbishop, a largely ceremonial role, would be in charge of investigating bishops within his province. But without mandatory reporting to police and mandatory lay involvement, the faithful can only hope that the bishop involved will investigate properly—investigative work that is not covered in any catechism or theology course.

VOTF agrees with canon lawyer and former National Review Board chairman Nicholas Cafardi, who has been quoted, “The system really perpetuates clericalism, which is something Pope Francis has criticized in other situations—the idea that priests exist on a different level than lay people and bishops exist on a different level than priests, and that’s by divine origin and you can’t even talk about changing it.”

Although several bishops during their spring meeting spoke in favor of mandatory reporting and mandatory lay involvement, they did not carry the day. This underscores the necessity for Lay Catholics to continue the drumbeat for reform and repeatedly ask their bishops to lobby their brothers and the Pope for whatever is needed for real reform, whether papal edicts or changes in canon law.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, June 18, 2019
Contact: 
Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org(link sends e-mail), 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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West Virginia bishop gave powerful cardinal and other priests $350,000 in cash gifts before his ouster, church records show / The Washington Post

The gifts — one as large as $15,000 — were detailed in a draft of a confidential report to the Vatican about the alleged misconduct that led to Bransfield’s resignation in September. (The Washington Post)

In the years before he was ousted for alleged sexual harassment and financial abuses, the leader of the Catholic Church in West Virginia gave cash gifts totaling $350,000 to fellow clergymen, including young priests he is accused of mistreating and more than a dozen cardinals in the United States and at the Vatican, according to church records obtained by The Washington Post.

“Bishop Michael J. Bransfield wrote the checks from his personal account over more than a decade, and the West Virginia diocese reimbursed him by boosting his compensation to cover the value of the gifts, the records show. As a tax-exempt nonprofit, the diocese must use its money only for charitable purposes.

“The gifts — one as large as $15,000 — were detailed in a draft of a confidential report to the Vatican about the alleged misconduct that led to Bransfield’s resignation in September. The names of 11 powerful clerics who received checks were edited out of the final report at the request of the archbishop overseeing the investigation, William Lori of Baltimore.”

By Michelle Boorstein, Shawn Boberg and Robert O’Harrow, Jr. — Read more …

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