Two Pittsburgh Priests named in Catholic Church Lawsuit

(August 20, 2019) Matthews & Associates Law Firm filed a lawsuit this week for a Pittsburg man who charges that he was abused by two different Catholic priests in the 1970s. The alleged abuse began when the man was 12 years old. The petitioner also filed a police report last week on the abuse with the Ohio Township Police Department in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. The abuse, he said, occurred at Holy Family Institute in Emsworth. The petition names the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburg and Holy Family Institute as defendants.

Related: Church spent $10 Million to Fight Sex Victims’ Rights

The Pittsburgh man, now 54, claims both Father Joseph Gerdes and Father Larry Smith sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions in the 1970s. The victim was living at the Holy Family Institute at the time of the alleged assault.

The petition demands a jury trial. It also calls for punitive damages, given the church’s alleged culpability in the crimes perpetrated against the plaintiff. Causes of action against the church and holy Family include civil conspiracy, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
The trigger for the victim’s coming forward now was the renewed local and national attention given to Catholic priest sex abuse cases last summer. On August 14, 2018, after a two-year investigation, a Pennsylvania grand jury revealed that at least 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children in their charge. That abuse took place over several decades. The grand jury also acknowledged that their review had only scratched the surface of the actual number of those abused by trusted elders who represented the church. Sadly, many victims, likely thousands of them — given what we know of these secret, insidious crimes — continue to suffer in silence.

End Suffering in Silence
In naming the plaintiff’s abusers, said attorney David Matthews, the petition also seeks to help any others abused by these men to summon the courage to come forward, tell their own stories, and demand justice from the church .

The petition claims these facts:
“In the 1970’s, when Plaintiff, a ward of the state, was approximately 12 years old, he was sent to live at Holy Family Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Soon after Plaintiff arrived, he was asked to and became an altar boy and was introduced to Fr. Gerdes. Fr. Gerdes lived in the same quarters as Plaintiff, and Plaintiff was required to clean Fr. Gerdes’s loft as part of his service to the Institute. Shortly after Plaintiff began his duties as an altar boy, Fr. Gerdes took Plaintiff into his brown Mercedes. While in the car, Fr. Gerdes groped Plaintiffs genitals and forced Plaintiff to perform oral sex on Fr. Gerdes. Fr. Gerdes took Plaintiff from the car to his loft where he continued the sexually assault, attempting to anally penetrate Plaintiff.”

The petition further states that the plaintiff was still required to clean Fr. Gerdes’s loft, and was again forced to perform oral sex on Fr. Gerdes. The clergyman also attempted again to anally penetrate the plaintiff, failed, and then performed oral sex on the child. The instances of abuse occurred more than ten times.

Father: Abuse was “what God wanted” and “How it was supposed to be”
The young plaintiff was told by Fr. Gerdes that this deviant behavior was “how it was supposed to be.” The plaintiff said that Fr. Gerdes told him the abuse was “what God wanted,” and that “no one would believe him even if he did tell.”

Based on the beliefs instilled in him by the Church, as well as by Fr. Gerdes’ direct statements to him, the young plaintiff believed that his immortal soul would be condemned should he reveal Fr. Gerdes’ ongoing sexual assaults.

Child Prostitution
The plaintiff said that Fr. Gerdes would typically give him money following the abuse, which he would then use to buy candy.

Priest Partners in Crime – Frs. Smith and Gerdes
Fr. Gerdes also introduced the plaintiff to Fr. Larry Smith, a visiting priest at Holy Family Institute. Fr. Smith visited the Institute several times. At first, Fr. Smith would touch the plaintiff “playfully,” a term the plaintiff used to mask the inappropriate groping he thought normal at the time, given his grooming by Fr. Gerdes. Then Fr. Smith’s “touching” escalated quickly to sexual groping and forced oral sex on the 12 year old. Fr. Smith also forced the child to perform oral sex on Fr. Smith.

These deviant acts occurred during Fr. Smith’s different visits to the Institute.

The petition reads: “Due to Plaintiffs forced and inappropriate relationship with Father Gerdes, he believed this to be the norm. According to a transmittal received by Plaintiff, Fr. Smith is retired, but still has his faculties with the Diocese.

These are just the instances of abuse that Plaintiff recalls at this time and merely
summarize the torture that Plaintiff experienced at the hands of Perpetrators. Further, the whereabouts of these priests are unknown. Due to the secrecy of Defendants, and its agents and institutions. Plaintiff is without proper means to determine where his abusers are or if they have harmed others.”

Two Pittsburg Priests named in Catholic Church Lawsuit

The petition also demands that the church open up its secret books in order to determine what church officials knew about the abuse and when they knew it. The Pennsylvania grand jury report showed again and again that Catholic church officials not only routinely failed to report the crime of child molestation to the proper authorities, but also failed to remove the offending priests from service, often shuttling them off to another parish where they were able to abuse other children.

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Catholic Church spent $10 million to lobby against sex abuse victims’ rights

(July 7, 2019) A new report released last month  reveals that the Catholic Church has spent more than $10 million in just the past eight years in the northeastern U.S. to fight legislation seeking to help clergy sex abuse victims seek justice. The church spent more than $10.6 million to lobby against child sex abuse victims’ rights. The church’s clear intent was to stop state legislatures from changing laws which limit the time a sex abuse victim has to file a claim against an abusive priest or other elder. Sex abuse laws the church has lobbied against affect not only those abused by Catholic priests, but also others abused by trusted elders, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

Catholic Church Duplicity in Pennsylvania

While a Pennsylvania grand jury was preparing a report which showed that more than 1,000 children were abused by more than 300 priests, the Catholic church in Pennsylvania was busy spending $5,322,979 lobbying to keep victims out of the courtroom. Rather than fighting for victims’ rights, which the Pope and church leaders always claim to be doing, the church was busy lobbying to prohibit sex abuse victims from filing civil claims against their abusers and the church.

Catholic Church Duplicity in New York

According to CBS News’ Christina Capatides, in New York the Catholic Church spent $2,912,772 lobbying against the Child Victims Act. The church’s duplicity failed in that state when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Act into law, on February 14, 2019. The New York Child Victims Act gives survivors more time to seek justice against their abusers. It increases the age at which victims are able to sue from 23 to 55.

Four law firms jointly commissioned the report, which one attorney said was inspired by frustration:

“We’ve heard a lot about the church’s desire to be accountable and turn over a new leaf. But when we turn to the form where we can most help people and where we can get the most justice — the courts of justice — the church has been there blocking their efforts.”

Following The Money Trail

In Connecticut, the Catholic church spent more than $875,000 lobbying; in New Jersey more than $633,000; in Massachusetts more than $537,000; more than $134,000 and $124,000 in New Hampshire and Maine respectively. 

The funneling of such a large chunk of money to the Church’s lobbying arm, the Catholic Conference Policy Group, runs directly counter to the Pope’s and other church leaders’ proclamations of a new era of transparency in the church.  The sole intent of the church’s spending more than $10 million in eight years was to turn back reforms that would benefit sexual abuse victims. It gives the lie to church leaders’ public avowals to promote transparency and accept responsibility for failing to rein-in wayward priests.

Pope Francis’ Duplicity

Pope Francis proclaimed a year ago, in August 2018: , “The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

Sadly, the money trail clearly shows that the church categorically fails to put its money where the Pope’s mouth is. The church’s payouts for lobbying efforts to stifle victims’ rights far exceeds its efforts to come clean and help victims.

According to the report, “CHURCH INFLUENCING STATE: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse,” the Catholic Church has not only continued to invest in lobbying against the interests of victims, but to actually increase its investments in stifling victims’ rights over the years.

Church Standing against Survivors

The money trail shows that not only has the church not worked to help victims seek justice for the crimes against them; the church has worked hard to delay or completely deny victims their rights.

The report data is based entirely on public filings in the states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.  It seems likely that at least some of the money used by the Catholic Church to help deny survivors justice came from Sunday collections from parishioners. One wonders if parishioners are aware how their money is being spent to deny the rights of child sex abuse victims.

No matter how you see it, that is money that could have gone to the victims themselves, or money that could have been used for more constructive purposes.  Meanwhile, the statutes of limitations’ laws that the church has fought with more than $10 million also includes those victims who were sexually abused by elders aside from Catholic priests. So the church, with its $10 million lobbying investment, is also aiding and abetting sexual predators and abusers outside the church.

A Come to Jesus Moment

Many millions of us were raised Catholic, and we have learned, and we take, much goodness from our well-meaning priests, nuns, and other Catholic authorities.  But even that goodness we have taken is at stake when the current church leaders continue to coddle abusers and do all they can to deny victims’ rights behind the scenes, while in front of God and everybody they claim to care and  accept responsibility.

Canon Law Changes Needed

Current church Canon law codifies the “secret archives” which the Pope and other church leaders refuse to release.  Those archives hold the names of thousands of predator priests and their victims. Canon law also allows priests like Richard Dorsch – who raped children in the 70s, 80s, and 90s (according to a woman whose brother committed suicide afterwards) – to continue to receive a stipend, a place to live, a car, health insurance, all the comforts which non-criminal citizens enjoy. Canon law needs changing to punish evil men like Richard Dorsch and others credibly named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report as sex abusers. If perverted priests knew they wouldn’t be coddled for the rest of their lives if they abused children and young adults in their charge, perhaps they wouldn’t be so cavalier in abusing those whom they are entrusted to protect and help.

CBS News reported that at the time it published the $10 million lobbying story last month, neither the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, nor the Archdiocese of New York had responded to the news agency’s request for comment.

Catholic Church spent $10.6 million to lobby against sex abuse victims

In a statement emailed to CBS News last month, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Al Gnoza, said the church had not reviewed the report.  Mr. Gnoza said: “For more than a half century, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has lobbied on a myriad of issues that are important to people of the Catholic faith. We do not have a breakdown of costs, but our lobbying budget funds this broad effort.”

The Money Trail and Your State Representatives

Now it is time for a complete accounting of how much of that $10 million went to each state representative who has voted repeatedly against allowing sex abuse victims a chance to see their day in court. The Catholic Church is an extremely wealthy concern, and it must not be allowed to spend its money as corporations do, in order to drive legislation which benefits the corporation at the expense of the citizen.

Related

• The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

• Abuse by Clergy Lawsuit

• Clergy Abuse Attorneys

• Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Lawsuit

• Gay Lavender Mafia in the Catholic Church?

• New New York Law helps Sex Abuse Victims

• NJ eases Limits on Sex Abuse Lawsuits

• Catholic Church spent $10.6 million to lobby against the rights of child sex abuse victims

 

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Penn. Court Ruling gives Clergy Abuse Victims Time

(June 24, 2019)  A Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling this month gives clergy abuse victims more time to file a claim.  On June 11, 2019, the state’s highest court reversed a lower court which had found the claims of a woman time-barred after she alleged that she was abused as a child in the church.  This reversal in her case potentially opens the door for many others to pursue claims which were previously thought to be time barred by statutes of limitations.

Related:  Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Lawsuit

The woman’s case – and perhaps the fate of hundreds of others – turned on the work of a special Pennsylvania grand jury.  Last summer, that jury published the results of a two-year study which found that more than 1,000 Catholic students had been abused by more than 300 priests in the last several decades in the Penn diocese. The church’s cover-up of all those crimes led to the June 11 ruling.

Church’s Cover-up Opens up SOL

The Penn Superior Court ruled on June 11 that the woman’s lawsuit is not time barred because the church engaged in fraud and covered up her abuser’s previous crimes prior to his sexually abusing her. When the plaintiff had previously filed her case and attempted to pursue a lawsuit against her alleged abuser and the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, church officials claimed not to know that her abuser had also been previously accused of abusing other children before her.  Documents uncovered in the 2018 Penn. grand jury investigation appear to show that those church officials were lying. They knew of the priest’s prior history of abuse, yet failed to take proper action.

Fraud, Constructive Fraud, Civil Conspiracy

The Penn. Superior court’s ruling explains that Ms. Rice read the 37th Investigative Grand Jury Report detailing a systematic cover-up of pedophile clergy in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. She sued the Diocese, Bishop Adamec, and Monsignor Michael E. Servinsky 1 (“the Diocesan Defendants”) a few months later. Ms. Rice alleges that they committed fraud, constructive fraud, and civil conspiracy to protect their reputations and that of Reverend Charles F. Bodziak, her childhood priest and accused abuser.

Case was previously Time Barred

Because Fr. Bodziak allegedly molested Ms. Rice in the 1970s and 1980s, the trial court, relying on the Penn. Superior Court’s precedents and the statute of limitations, dismissed her lawsuit. Claiming that the trial court should apply the discovery rule, the fraudulent concealment doctrine, and the statute of limitations for civil conspiracy, Ms. Rice appealed.

Nicolaou v. Martin

Ten months later, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided Nicolaou v. Martin, 195 A.3d 880 (Pa. 2018). The High Court emphasized the jury’s prerogative, under the discovery rule, to decide whether a plaintiff’s efforts to investigate a defendant were sufficiently reasonable to toll the statute of limitations. The court wrote that, “Nicolaou has opened the courthouse doors for Ms. Rice’s case to proceed past the pleadings stage, notwithstanding this Court’s precedents to the contrary.”

Fraudulent-Concealment Theory

The court further wrote:  “In addition, Ms. Rice’s alleged circumstances allow her to argue to the finder of fact that the Diocesan Defendants owed her a fiduciary duty to disclose their ongoing cover-up and Fr. Bodziak’s history of child molestation. By failing to disclose, the Diocesan Defendants’ silence may have induced Ms. Rice to relax her vigilance or to deviate from her right of inquiry. The trial court, therefore, erred by not permitting her case to proceed according to her fraudulent-concealment theory. 

Finally, even if a jury rejects those two tolling theories, Ms. Rice’s civil conspiracy count remains viable. She alleges a continuing conspiracy and that the last act in furtherance of the conspiracy occurred in 2016. Based upon these allegations, Ms. Rice has filed this lawsuit well within the statute of limitations for civil conspiracy. 

Accordingly, we reverse the order granting judgment on the pleadings to the Diocesan Defendants and remand for the case to proceed in the trial court.”

Facts Alleged in the Complaint

Ms. Rice alleges in her First Amended Complaint that she belonged – as a child and teenager – to St. Leo’s Church in Altoona. She attended the Catholic school associated with her parish when the Diocesan Defendants assigned Fr. Bodziak to serve as St. Leo’s pastor. They did so despite knowing or having reason to know he had molested young girls. Fr. Bodziak began sexually abusing Ms. Rice in the mid-1970s when she was about nine years old. He  continued abusing her until she turned 14.

Fr. Bodziak asked Ms. Rice’s parents if she could clean the rectory where he lived. They agreed, and while she cleaned his home, the priest gave Ms. Rice wine and sexually assault her. Ms. Rice also played the organ at St. Leo’s Church and sang at masses. Under the auspices of allowing her to practice her music, Fr. Bodziak gave her a key to the church. Then he repeatedly kissed and molested her in the choir loft. The abuse increased to twice a week – in the priest’s car, a nearby cemetery, the rectory, the church itself. Some 35 years later, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania convened the 37th Statewide Investigative Grand Jury to examine child-sexual assault throughout the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. It issued an official report of its findings on March 1, 2016.

From that report, Ms. Rice first learned that the Diocesan Defendants knew or should have known of Fr. Bodziak’s pedophilia prior to assigning him to St. Leo’s Church. The Defendants kept the evidence about abusive priests in a secret archive, separate from other personnel files. Ms. Rice asserted a confidential relationship between her and the Diocesan Defendants, based upon her work as a parish organist, cantor, and rectory cleaner, coupled with her young age, Catholic schooling, and the trust she had placed in the Diocesan Defendants to guide and to protect her.

The high court ruled that the “Diocesan Defendants purportedly violated their corresponding fiduciary duty to warn her about Fr. Bodziak’s past as a child predator. They thereby placed their own reputation and finances ahead of her safety and mental health.”

Penn. Court Ruling gives Clergy Abuse Victims Time

The case – WL 2427919 – is Renee’ A. RICE v DIOCESE OF ALTOONA-JOHNSTOWN, Bishop Joseph Adamec (Retired), Monsignor Michael E. Servinsky, Executor of the Estate of Bishop James Hogan, Deceased, and Reverend Charles F. Bodziak.

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New NY Law helps Sex abuse Victims

(June 10, 2019) A New York state law change this year helps sex abuse victims seek justice that may otherwise have been lost to them. The Child Victims Act had languished for years at the NY state Capitol before finally becoming law on Jan. 28, 2019. The new law gives victims of child sexual abuse a new opportunity to seek justice against their tormentor(s).

Governor Cuomo signs Bill S2440 into Law

The bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law will give some long-suffering victims a belated victory which they had awaited for years. The governor announced in Manhattan at a special signing ceremony for the bill: “After a 13-year ordeal and after decades of personal pain for so many, I hope you can find a slight sense of peace and a slight sense of vindication that you did not endure this pain without reason.”

What does the new law do?

The 2019 Child Victims Act changes the state’s strict statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children. It opens up a one-year window to revive past claims of any age.

The new law:

  • extends New York’s statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against child sex abusers until their victims turn 28 for felony cases, up from the current 23.
  • allows victims to seek civil action against their abusers and institutions that enabled them until they turn 55.
  • opens up a one-year, one-time-only period to allow all victims to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Who Can File for the Child Victims Act?

A survivor of sexual abuse may be able to bring a claim against the abuser or entity responsible for facilitating the abuse if:

  • The abuse began prior to the victim’s 18th birthday.
  • The abuse took place in New York State.
  • The victim suffers from physical, psychological or other injuries; or
  • The victim previously filed a claim that was dismissed based on the (previously) expired statute of limitations (SOL).

Childhood sexual abuse survivors of any age may be able to bring a claim until August 14, 2020.

After August 14, 2020, sexual abuse survivors may only be able to bring a claim until age 55.

Why the Law Change Now?

The new law came into being after citizens and lawmakers in several states responded to the shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report last summer which revealed that more than 300 Catholic priests had abused more than 1,000 school-aged children over several decades. The Pennsylvania report opened the eyes of the country to the ongoing problem of child sex abuse.  The report showed that the abuse was aided and abetted by churches that hid the monstrous crimes while often coddling the criminals and shielding them from prosecution.

Amid the Penn scandal and others involving the church, a full-throated outcry from advocates and some lawmakers said victims should have further recourse against those who either committed the crimes or failed to face the problem.

Mr. Cuomo noted that Pope Francis said the church should not protect abusive priests.

“The priests should be punished,” said Mr. Cuomo at the signing.  “Pope Francis said these people should have access to the courts for legal resolution. (I) think the bishops have worked to protect the church. [T]hey compounded the problem by covering it up and not taking responsibility.”

Opposition to the New Law

In the state Capitol at Albany, the law faced fierce opposition from the church as well as from insurance companies fearing a flood of Priest abuse lawsuits.

Republicans controlled the NY state Senate for the past decade and blocked the measure, though it repeatedly passed the Democrat-led Assembly. Everything changed in November 2018 when Democrats won control of the Senate.

The state Catholic Conference dropped its opposition at the end of 2018 after it got the NY Legislature to back language stating that public institutions can also be sued during the one-year look-back period.

“We therefore remove our previous opposition and pray that survivors find the healing they so desperately deserve,” the Catholic Conference tweeted, though critics said church officials acquiesced only after they knew the new Democrat control of NY government meant the law could no longer be stopped from passage.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill on Jan. 28, and the Assembly passed it 142-3.

New NY Law helps Sex abuse Victims

The most serious felony sexual crimes against children already had no statute of limitations prior to the new law, though mid- and lower-level felonies had a five-year statute of limitations, which kicks in when the victim turns 18.

The statute of limitations will now be based on a person’s age, not the length of time since the allegations.

Clergy Abuse Lawsuits

With the look-back period now opened up, more lawyers and victims are planning to come forward with clergy abuse lawsuits.

The look-back period opens in summer 2019, and remains open for a year, beginning Aug. 14.

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NJ eases limit on Sex Abuse Lawsuits

(May 16, 2019) New Jersey passed a bill to ease the limit on filing sex abuse lawsuits. Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation May 13 to ease time limit restrictions on when childhood sexual abuse victims can seek damages in civil court. The bill takes effect on December 1, 2019.  It will “revive any action that was previously dismissed on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had expired for a period of two years following the effective date.”

The bill means means a sex abuse victim now has from 12/1/19 until 12/1/2021 to file a case which was previously time barred.

Related:  NJ.com: Bill extends sex abuse limitations statute

This change to the law comes after a wave of details last year revealed the abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church.

The New Jersey governor said in a statement that he recognized opponents’ worries that the expanded statute will expose organizations to financial liability. However, he said that fear is outweighed by concern for sex abuse victims.

“I cannot deny victims the ability to seek redress in court for sexual abuse that often leaves trauma lasting a lifetime,” Governor Murphy said in a statement as he signed the new bill.

Victims now have until Age 55 to Pursue Litigation

The legislation allows child victims to sue until they reach age 55, or else within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. The current statute of limitations protects only those up to age 20, or else two years after they first realized the abuse caused them harm.

The NJ bill also gives a two-year window to victims previously barred by the statute of limitations.  It also allows victims to seek damages from institutions.

New Jersey’s Catholic Conference opposed the bill during committee hearings. In a May 13 statement, the Archdiocese of Newark said it was committed to “comprehensive healing of those harmed.”

“(The) Catholic community, the legislature, and the Governor sincerely agree on one key position – the need to restore justice for the victims of sexual abuse in New Jersey,” said archdiocese spokeswoman Maria Margiotta.

Supporters of the new law gathered later Monday for a news conference that turned emotional.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg teared up while thanking survivors who had previously testified in support of the bill.  She said the stories were “so painful and so graphic. Thank God we’re standing here today.”

Churches, BSA, Others Liable

While the Catholic Church has been a focal point of debate on the legislation, it would also make other institutions, like the Boy Scouts – liable. Attorneys in New Jersey and elsewhere have begun recruiting people to sue the BSA, which says it now has policies in place to curtail abuse.

Many states have revisited their criminal and civil statutes of limitations since the 2002 Boston Globe reporting detailing abuse in the Catholic Church. (Dramatized in the 2017 film Spotlight.)  But only a handful of states – including California, Delaware, Hawaii, and Minnesota – have created new windows for abuse victims to file lawsuits. New York enacted a bill earlier this year that creates a window similar to the one in New Jersey, a state which already has no statute of limitations on criminal charges.

188 New Jersey Priests Credibly Accused

New Jersey legislatures have discussed the law change for nearly a decade.  It finally comes soon after the state’s five Catholic dioceses released the names of 188 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over several decades. It also comes after they announced in February 2019 the creation of a compensation fund for victims.

New Jersey’s attorney general launched a task force in September 2018 to investigate the clergy abuse scandal. That task force came after a long grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found that more than 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over several decades.

The bill had broad support from lawmakers and victims’ advocacy groups. The committee hearings on the bill featured hours of emotional testimony from abuse survivors.

Among those opposed to the measure were the state Catholic Conference and the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute.

Patrick Brannigan, the conference’s executive director, told lawmakers that the New Jersey church is fully cooperating with state law enforcement officials who are investigating abuse claims in the state.

He said that the church “sincerely regrets that some in the church failed to protect children.”

Mr. Brannigan also said the church agrees with the intent of the bill but differs on its approach, asking instead that the bill’s take-effect date of Dec. 1, 2019 be made for a later date.

Gov. Murphy also said that lawmakers have committed to send him a new bill correcting an error in the new law. Specifically, he said, part of the law fails to establish a standard of proof for cases against public entities.

Failing to hold them to the same standard as other institutions would be “unjustified,” said Gov. Murphy, and the new legislation would hold public entities to the same standard as other organizations.

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Conroe, Texas Priest named in Sex Abuse Lawsuit

(April 6, 2019)  A Conroe, Texas priest was named in a civil lawsuit yesterday in a sex abuse case filed in Houston’s Harris County Courthouse. The plaintiff – referred to as “J.R.” in the petition – is an adult male who now lives in Galveston. Defendants are the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Conroe; and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston, Houston – which employed Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who was known as “Fr. Manuel” when he was working for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Conroe.

Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez first came to the greater pubic’s attention when he was arrested by Conroe police last year for allegedly sexually abusing minors.

J.R. vs. Sacret Heart Catholic Church

The lawsuit petition reads that “Fr. Emanuel and other employees of the Defendants (were) obligated to arrange, render, and coordinate the religious and educational care of the children enrolled in (the school).”

The Defendants had, says the petition, “total responsibility for the protection and prevention of the numerous acts of sexual mental and physical abuse by (clergy) member, Fr. Manuel.”

The Sacred heart Catholic church diocese is charged with having knowledge of Fr. Manuel’s sexual abuse of several students, and then hiding that knowledge from civil authorities and putting him back in circulation, where he was able to abuse other children.

Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez

J.R., the petition alleges, was abused in 2000, eight years after the first incidence of Fr. Manuels’ sexual abuse of minors was first revealed to church officials.

In 1992, a sixth grade boy accused Fr. Manuel of inappropriately touching him. The church then hired an attorney to investigate whether the Church was required to notify Child Protective Services.  Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza wrote to an attorney saying a psychological exam would be conducted on Fr. Manuel before he was re-admitted into the seminary. The wayward priest then spent nine months in the Shalom Recovery Center. He was re-admitted to the seminary in the spring of 1993.

In 1999 and 2000, an underage male and female accused Fr. Manuel of sexual abuse. The female victim and her family reported the abuse in 2001 and then moved to Israel. Fr. Manuel then went back to the Shalom Recovery Center for nine more months, from April 2001 to Jan. 2002.

Boy Abused during Confession

J.R., says the petition, was abused by Fr. Manuel during the summer of 2000.  Then 15, the boy had gone to make a confession, as many Catholics regularly do, to a priest in the confessional booth.  Rather than hearing J.R.’s confession and then offering guidance or absolution through an assignment of prayers and penance, Fr. Manuel attempted to engage the boy in a profane conversation about sex with a same-sex partner.

J.R. said that he was confused by the questions and wondered if this was part of a new confessional process.  The 15-year-old did not respond to any of the several questions the priest asked him. Fr. Manuel then opened the partition window between them in the booth and exposed himself to J.R.

J.R. came forward after he saw in the news that Fr. Manuel had been arrested.  Shortly before that arrest, J.R. had confided his abuse at the hands of Fr. Manuel to a therapist.

Statute of Limitations

Sexual abuse cases brought more than two years after the alleged crime can often be successfully defended under statute of limitations laws in Texas.  However, writes J.R’s. lawyer, David Matthews, in the lawsuit petition:

“Defendants are prevented from relying on any statute of limitations defense by virtue of their acts of fraudulent concealment, because of Defendants’ knowledge of the wrongful acts of Fr. Manuel, while allowing him contact with trusting children, their representations that Fr. Manuel was fit for priesthood and supervision of children, their silence on his known sexual abuse, and their fixed purpose to conceal the wrong.“

Texas Priest named in Sex Abuse Lawsuit

The petition demands a jury trial. The case is J.R., Plaintiff v. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Conroe and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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Brooklyn names 100+ Priests accused of Sex Abuse

(Feb. 15. 2019)  Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio today released the names of more than 100 priests in his parish who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a child.  His actions follow those of several bishops across the country who have chosen in the last few months to lift the veil of secrecy in the Catholic Church’s ongoing epidemic of abuse.

Related:  Brooklyn Diocese suspected abusers named.

The Brooklyn disclosure is one of the largest to come from an individual diocese.  The Brooklyn diocese is also among the largest in the nation; it includes Brooklyn and Queens, where more than 1.5 million people identify as Catholic.

The most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio announced in a 2/15/2019 statement:

“We know this list will generate many emotions for victims who have suffered terribly. For their suffering, I am truly sorry. (Many victims) have told me that more than anything, they want an acknowledgment of what was done to them. This list gives that recognition and I hope it will add another layer of healing for them on their journey toward wholeness.”

Bishop DiMarzio follows dozens of other bishops in the United States in deciding to publish the names of suspected abusers.  The latest round of Catholic administration confessions began last summer with a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report which documented seven decades of accusations.

Earlier this week, bishops of the five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey released the names of nearly 200 priests who have been credibly accused. Last month, the Jesuit province of the northeastern United States identified 50 accused priests. Many had served in the order’s schools in New York City.

Bishop DiMarzio had promised last year that his diocese would release the names of priests who were credibly accused, though his accompanying letter also states that not all of the accusations against the accused have been proven.

Many Accused are Deceased

The diocese said that more than 40 of the named clergy members died or resigned before the accusations were found credible.  Most of the priests named – nearly two-thirds – have since died, leaving their reckoning to a higher power.  Two of the total of 108 listed clergy were deacons.

The Brooklyn diocese included a graph which showed that cases of suspected abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s.  Many of the allegations were reported after 2002, showing once again that many of the abused do not come to terms with their abuse and report it until decades after the fact. New York state has taken steps to help those long-grieving victims.

New York Law Changes to Help Victims

Last month, New York legislatures changed state law to allow victims of clergy abuse a longer grace period in which to file potential civil claims against their abusers. Many of those victims who, for years had believed the statute of limitations on their potential claims had passed, may now have another chance to seek justice in civil court.

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Sexual Abuse of Nuns Stuns Catholics (again)

(Feb. 5, 2019)  As if the Catholic Church and its Pope were not busy enough apologizing for the sexual abuse of minors by predatory priests, it now has a terrible new problem on its busy hands:  the sexual exploitation of nuns stuns faithful Catholics all over again.  A Reuters story broke today regarding the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops.  Some of those trusted men had used the women as sex slaves.

Empowered by the worldwide #MeToo movement which began with the outing of Hollywood-power players like Hurricane Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, several nuns have stepped forward to relate their tales of woe at the hands of men who took advantage of their positions in the Catholic church hierarchy to abuse the women who had been taught to respect them.

Pope Francis told Reuters yesterday that he was committed to stopping the abuse of nuns by said priests and bishops.  The pope made his comments on a plane returning from Abu Dhabi after a reporter questioned him over a Vatican monthly magazine story published last week about nuns being abused in the Catholic Church.

Union Urges Nuns to Come Forward

More and more nuns are now coming forward to describe sexual abuse by priests and bishops. The International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 500,000 Catholic nuns, last year urged their members to report abuse.

Pope Francis told Reuters: “It is true … There have been priests and even bishops who have done this. I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it.”

The pope acknowledged the church has been working on the sexual abuse of nuns problem “for a long time” and had suspended several priests because of it. He added that the Vatican was in the process of shutting down a (still unnamed) female religious order because of sexual abuse and corruption.

“I can’t say, ‘This does not happen in my house.’  It is true.  Do we have to do more? Yes.  Are we willing? Yes,” he said.

Nuns in Sexual Slavery

Former Pope Benedict dissolved a religious order of women shortly after his election as pontiff in 2005, Pope Francis told Reuters: “[B]ecause slavery had become part of it [the religious order], even sexual slavery on the part of priests and the founder.”  Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that sad situation had occurred in France.

Church Politics Delays Justice

As with the recent cases of sexual abuse by priests recently uncovered in Pennsylvania, New York (where victims recently received a legal reprieve), and elsewhere, internal church politics allowed some abusive priests to continue their duplicitous deceptions against nuns in the church.

Before becoming the pope, Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that investigates sexual abuse. The pope at that time was John Paul.  Then-cardinal Ratzinger wanted to investigate the religious order where women were being abused, but he was blocked, Francis said, by someone or some people he would not identify.  Francis told Reuters that after Ratzinger became the pope, he reopened the investigation and then dissolved the order.

Pope Summons Bishops for Sex Abuse Summit

Pope Francis has summoned key bishops from around the world to a February summit at the Vatican over the Catholic church’s problem of clergy members committing sexual abuse. The pope is seeking a unified response to this ages-old, worldwide problem.

Reporters asked the pope if he would  also propose a similar action to confront abuse of nuns in the Church.  “I want to move forward,” Pope Francis replied.  “We are working on it.”

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Illinois Catholic Church withheld 500 Accused Priests’ Names

(Dec. 27, 2018)  The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the Illinois Catholic Church withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.  The Illinois attorney general accused the church of failing victims by neglecting to investigate their allegations.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan concluded in a preliminary report that Illinois’ Catholic dioceses are incapable of investigating themselves.  She said that church officials, “will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own.”

Ms. Madigan reported that 690 priests were accused of abuse, but the dioceses made only 185 names public of those who have been found credibly accused of abuse.

“The number of allegations above what was already public is shocking,” Ms. Madigan said.

The report is Illinois’ state prosecutors’ latest attempt to hold the Catholic Church accountable by examining the church’s own records. At least 16 state attorneys general have initiated various investigations since August 2018, which have included examination of the church’s own records.

The movement to uncover the truth about clergy sexual abuse of minors began in Illinois and other states across the country following a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report which came out in the summer of 2018.  That was when the Pennsylvania grand jury accused more than 300 priests of sexual abuse over a 50-year span. And just as shocking, if not moreso, they also accused Catholic bishops of covering up the scandal, which some clergy abuse lawyers, as well as priests, have suggested goes all the way to the Vatican, and stems from a culture of corruption, even a “lavender mafia,” a secret gay culture within the church that at least one priest says runs the church.

Church covered for Abusers

Unlike Pennsylvania’s 1,356 pages of a grand jury report, Illinois’ nine-page report does not name accused priests or call out particular bishops for negligence.  It does, however, question the enormous gap between the number of accusations made by victims who dared to contact the church, and the number of accusations the church deemed credible.

Ms. Madigan’s office report noted that three-fourths of the allegations against clergy were either not investigated or were investigated but not substantiated by the dioceses papers turned over to the attorney general’s office.

A pattern emerged from the files: the dioceses often failed to find a claim credible if only one victim reported.  The dioceses also failed to investigate at all if the accused priest had died or been reassigned, or if he belonged to a religious order  – such as the Franciscans, Marists, or Jesuits. The report said the dioceses often discredited survivors’ claims by “focusing on the survivors’ personal lives,” which is a pattern that was also found in the Boston clergy abuse scandal that was uncovered by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight and made into a 2016 movie.

Church Cooperation

The Illinois report said that representatives of all six dioceses cooperated with the investigation by meeting with the attorney general and her staff.  The six voluntarily produced thousands of documents and gave access to hundreds of clergy files related to abuse allegations.

Once the attorney general’s office began investigating, the Illinois dioceses disclosed the names of 45 more clergymen deemed by the church to be credibly accused of sexual abuse.  Most were cases about which the dioceses had known for years.

Cardinal Apology

“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Chicago’s.  “It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”

Roman Catholics have long dominated some Chicago neighborhoods and held a place in the political fabric of the city.  Thirty-three percent of Chicago-area residents are Catholic, ranking it among the top five most Catholic of American cities.

A spokeswoman in the Chicago area’s branch of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), Kate Bochte, said the idea that nearly three-quarters of the allegations were not deemed credible was a “huge indicator that the church is incapable” of investigating itself.

“[T]hink about all those people who came in – 75 percent of the people – what happened to them?” asked Ms. Bochte. “They were basically turned away after they explained the most difficult thing that had ever happened to them.”

300 More Victims?

Ms. Madigan said that survivors of abuse were owed a sense that their concerns were being pursued.  Since her office announced a hotline for survivors to report such abuse several months ago, 300 people have called.

The attorney general, who will leave office in a couple of weeks, also said she wanted to release her findings before the American bishops gather at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago in early January 2019.  About 300 bishops are expected at a weeklong spiritual retreat ordered by Pope Francis to pray and reflect on the church’s role in the sexual abuse of children.

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Cardinal quits amid Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal

(Oct. 12, 2018)  Cardinal Donald Wuerl quit today amid the ongoing Catholic church sex abuse scandal.  Pope Francis accepted the Archbishop of Washington’s resignation.  Mr. Wuerl is the latest casualty in the ongoing fallout from the shocking Pennsylvania grand jury investigation which concluded in August.  After working for two years interviewing dozens of priest abuse victims and reading thousands of pages of internal church documents, the grand jury found that more than 300 priests had sexually molested more than 1,000 children — and likely abused thousands more — in the last six decades.

Cardinal Wuerl Apologizes

“Once again for any past errors in judgment, I apologize and ask for pardon,” said Mr. Wuerl.  “My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the church of Washington.”

Related:  Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Lawsuit

The Church Cover-up

The extent of the priest sex abuse in itself is demonstrably provable and acknowledged by church officials in the church’s own documents.  But what is equally troubling and even more shocking is the extent of the church’s top-down cover-up of priest sex crimes against children.

Like Pope Francis and other top church officials, Mr. Wuerl has been accused of covering up sexual abuse to protect clergy members.   He stands accused of reassigning accused priests to new posts without punishing them.  He effectively let abusive priests off the hook for their alleged abuse, and worse.  He reassigned them to unwitting parishes where they could abuse children again.

Mr. Wuerl, 77, was at the center of the Pennsylvania grand jury findings that priests had sexually abused more than 300 children over a 70 year period.  As the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, Mr. Wuerl oversaw the height of the sexual abuse.  He was then appointed to the archdiocese of Washington.  There, he denied knowing that the man he replaced – now a disgraced Cardinal and former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, whom the pope also protected — was suspected of child sex abuse.

Pope-a-Dope

Mr. Wuerl praised Pope Francis as he departed.  “I am profoundly grateful for [Francis’]  devoted commitment to the well-being of the archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.”

Men of God?

Are we all taking crazy pills?  Both these “Men of God” appear to be riding a lunatic merry-go-round of shared adulation on which neither can claim credibility or honor. Their robes are scorched with the burning tears of abused children who were taught to trust their elders, and to trust their priests most of all.  The innocence of thousands of abused children lies broken and bleeding at the coddled feet of these men of God.

Pope Francis Engineers Ongoing Coverup

Instead of encouraging the soul-cleansing mea culpa which the Catholic church teaches all of its penitents is the one true path to heaven, the pope has called for a very different M.O. for accused priests.  Pope Francis has told his clergymen to remain silent “like Jesus on Good Friday,” when they stand accused of sex abuse crimes.

That histrionic nod to martyrdom may represent sound legal advice for a man running a corporation cowering under the potential weight of its legal liability in child sex abuse lawsuits.  It is hardly the message to send true Christians or free thinkers who already suspect that the church’s hierarchical structure has led to this terrible crisis in the first place.  The pope’s message for accused priests to remain silent instead of confessing their sins perverts the most salient teachings of the church itself.

What need of Catholic priests at all if not to hear confessions and help people pay penance and cleanse their souls?  But for priests we get a double standard?  Is their God different from ours?  Does he, or she, as you will, offer a separate set of rules for those perched closer to the top of the church’s artificial hierarchy?  It won’t wash.  The pope is all wet.

The Catholic church is in trouble. The Pennsylvania grand jury report makes it impossible for many Catholics to ever look at their church in the same way again, to see it as a place of justice, where Christ’s light shines through the daily darkness of the temporal world, and love and truth reign supreme.  Unless the truth be told, the light cannot shine through the darkness.  Light and Truth must be synonyms for any viable church.

States investigate Catholic Church for Sex Abuse Crimes

In more bad news for the Catholic church, thirteen state’s attorneys general have requested all documents from their Catholic dioceses pertaining to sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic church in their states.

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