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Australian bishop to the forces arrested on abuse charges: The Church of England Newspaper, July 4, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Roman Catholic Bishop to the Forces in Australia has been arrested for child abuse. The Rt. Rev. Max Davis, bishop of the diocese for the armed forces, is accused of abusing a student at St Benedict’s College near Perth in 1969. The Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia said in a statement: “An allegation has been made to the police that in 1969 Bishop Max Davis abused a student at St. Benedict’s College in New Norcia,” adding that “at that time ― 45 years ago ― the bishop was not ordained. The bishop emphatically denies the allegation and the charge will be defended.” The Australian Defence Force: “Bishop Davis has stood aside from his office as Catholic bishop of the ADF and Catholic member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services.”

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Stockport vicar arrested for rape: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

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The Diocese of Chester has confirmed that the vicar of St Michael and All Angels Church Bramhall in Stockport, the Rev. Simon March (54) has been arrested by the Greater Manchester Police on suspicion of rape.

A spokesman for the diocese told CEN: “We are shocked and surprised at the arrest of the Vicar of Bramhall and the allegations he faces. We will cooperate fully with police enquiries. Simon Marsh will be suspended from his parish duties. A senior priest will be asked to stand in and provide pastoral and church services support.”

A GMP spokesman said: “Police are investigating a report of historic sexual abuse in Bramhall. The offences occurred between 2011 and 2013 when the woman was aged between 16 and 19-years-old. A 54-year-old man from Bramhall has been arrested on suspicion of rape. He has now been bailed pending further enquiries. Enquiries are ongoing.”

Francis links abortion with abuse, yet press doesn’t follow: GetReligion, April 16, 2014 May 9, 2014

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The Italian press has placed an interesting interpretation on Pope Francis’ Friday comments on the clergy abuse. It reports that in the pope’s mind clergy abuse of children is tied to the “abomination” of abortion. Look for this theme in the Anglo-American press and tell me if you can find it? I can’t.

Francis’ comments to the International Catholic Child Bureau meeting at the Vatican on April 11 received wide spread coverage. CNN reported:

Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church” who harm children.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.

As an aside, I chose CNN’s story over the others because of its aesthetic and journalist quality. It is really quite good. To my mind Daniel Burke is one of the most highly skilled writers covering religion and this article shows why he deserves that accolade. The language is tight, conveying the story in a minimum of words.  The story is told well with very little fluff or filler. The article is balanced — offering comments from abuse activists while also allowing Francis to speak. The author’s views on the issue can be discerned by the layout of the story — paragraph placement is one of the key elements in constructing an article — yet there is no preaching or bombast in a topic (clergy abuse of children) that is often spoilt by opinion masking as news. A great job all round.

Yet, Burke is back in America and must rely on material provided by others when reporting on Rome. Has he been given the full story by his stringers in Rome?

For on the same day as the pope spoke to the International Catholic Child Bureau, he addressed a pro-life group. For the Italian press, the messages Francis offered on the clergy abuse scandal and abortion were intertwined. The lede to the story ”Pedofilia, il Papa chiede perdono per gli abusi commessi dai sacerdoti” in the Milan-based Corriere della Sera makes this clear. (N.b. with a circulation of over 350,000 Corriere della Sera is one of Italy’s largest and most influential newspapers. It’s main competitors are the Rome’s la Repubblica and Turin’s La Stampa.) It states:

Pope Francis has asked “forgiveness” for the child abuse perpetrated by men of the Church. In unambiguous tones, Francis said: “I am called to this burden” to “ask for forgiveness”, and to assure you that we will not take any “step back” in addressing this problem and seeing that “penalties will be imposed.” Children should be protected and have a family, the pontiff said. “They have a right to grow up with a father and mother.” And before that children must be protected in the womb, he added, because “the unborn child is the innocent par excellence.” Drawing upon the words of the Second Vatican Council Francis added “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

The Corriere della Sera article gives a fuller picture of Francis’ views on the clergy abuse scandal than the CNN piece by stressing Francis’ argument that both are crimes against children and against God.

 

It could be argued that a pope condemning abortion is not news. However, Francis was the center of a media frenzy last year when in an interview the the Jesuit publicationAmerica, he said:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” …“The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

This was interpreted by some media outlets as evidence that Francis would change, perhaps not the substance, but certainly the tone of church teachings. The New York Times lede to its September 19 story on the interview followed this line:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Why the silence from the Anglo-American press on the pope’s latest abortion comments? GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly has addressed the dichotomy between the coverage and reality of Francis’ views on abortion in other posts. Is there something in the mindset of American reporters that prevents them from making the link between abuse and abortion that the Corriere della Sera has made?

Vatican Radio and the Holy See Press Office / Vatican Information Service released reports on the addresses made by the pope, but these came out in separate stories. If all you had to work with were the press releases, connecting the dots may not have been obvious to US based reporters.

The “why” should also be examined in the context of “should”. Should CNN and other news outlets linked the abortion and abuse stories? Is this an editorial step too far byCorriere della Sera? Or have they offered the insight and context expected of quality newspapers?

My imperfect knowledge of the situation does not allow me to say CNN or the Corriere della Sera had it right. My instincts though tell me the Italian report gives a broader, and ultimately better, picture of what is actually happening in Rome.

Propaganda vs. journalism in PBS Catholic abuse coverage: GetReligion, March 12, 2014 April 24, 2014

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Good Episcopalian that I am, I am ready to believe the worst about the Catholic Church.

Perhaps it was my upbringing, the culture in which I was formed, the schools where I was educated, my crowd. But accusations hurled against the Catholic Church of corruption, cruelty, mendacity — of being downright un-American –stick in the back of my mind. “Why not?”

I was also reared in Philadelphia and as a boy worshiped at the altar of the Eagles and Phillies. Longing and loss then were taught to me early on, as was support for the underdog.

Yet as much as I enjoy watching a good thrashing of the Vatican, I also am troubled by unfairness, foul play and sneakiness.

Which brings me to the documentary broadcast by PBS’s Frontline show entitled “Secrets of the Vatican“. This is an extraordinary film. It is beautifully made. I would not hesitate to say that the camera work, the musical scoring, the editing, and the writing are exquisite. Documentary film making does not get any better.

And yet, “Secrets of the Vatican” is also vile. Repulsive in that art and the extraordinary talent of its creators are put to malign purposes. It is propaganda — a film crafted to make arguments rather than to speak the truth.

At this point I must stop and respond to the cries of two competing choruses. My opening remarks about my own anti-Catholic bigotry are hyperbole designed to introduced the topic of bias. Nor am I claiming “Secrets of the Vatican” has suborned perjury from those whom it has presented on film.

It is, however, exaggerated, unbalanced, and seeks to inflame rather than inform. I do not expect a plaintiff’s attorney who specializes in clergy sexual abuse cases to present both sides of an argument in the documentary, but I would expect a film maker to do so, giving voice to the opposing side.

Catholic commentators have excoriated the film, accusing it of rehashing old stories and telling only half the tale. The popular conservative blogger Fr. Z wrote:

 The objectives of the show are to pin all responsibility for every case of clerical sexual abuse not just on local authorities but on “the Vatican”, to detach sexual abuse from homosexuality, to undermine a celibate clergy, and to convince you that there are more homosexual priests than there really are.  Finally, Pope Francis is the most wonderfullest Pope ehvurrr.

Let’s look at one vignette from the film — the claim that Catholic clergy are more likely to be child molesters than non-Catholic clergy — that illustrates my disquiet.

Frontline interviewed Dr. Martin Kafka, a Harvard University psychiatrist who has studied this issue. Kafka made the claim:

The number of Catholic clergy who are accused of or prosecuted for child and adolescent sexual abuse vastly outnumber the number of Protestant clergy.

Taken in isolation this statement could be construed to mean that reports of child abuse by Catholic clergy “vastly outnumber” reports of child abuse by Protestant clergy. That would be a statistic compiled by the FBI that would speak to reports of abuse.

However, in light of the surrounding comments, images and testimony offered by the film, the implication of Dr. Kafka’s statement is that Catholic clergy are more likely to offend than non-Catholic clergy.

 

The link comes in through the discussion of repressed sexuality and the film’s advocacy for allowing Catholic clergy to marry.

As a religion reporter I have covered the clergy abuse scandals for over a decade, but my reporting has focused on the Episcopal and Anglican churches. The Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the US, and the Anglican churches in Australia and Canada have seen their fair share of abuse cases. The scandal even touched the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who received into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in Nevada a laicized Catholic priest who had been disciplined for abusing children while he was a choirmaster in Missouri and Minnesota — but did not tell the parish in Las Vegas where he had been assigned about his past.

But there has never been any evidence or study that I have read that substantiates claims that Catholic clergy are more likely to offend than Protestant clergy.

The Denver Post‘s Electa Draper addressed this issue in 2010 — and I have seen nothing that would challenge her reporting.

Draper states that while no studies comparing the rate of abuse between different denominations and faiths has been made that would substantiate the claim that Catholics are more likely to offend, the insurance companies who insure churches against abuse claims do not charge Catholics higher premiums than Protestants.

Wisconsin-based Church Mutual Insurance Co. has 100,000 client churches and has seen a steady filing of about five sexual molestation cases a week for more than a decade, even though its client base has grown. “It would be incorrect to call it a Catholic problem,” said Church Mutual’s risk control manager, Rick Schaber. “We do not see one denomination above another. It’s equal. It’s also equal among large metropolitan churches and small rural churches.”

Iowa-based Guide One Center for Risk Management, which insures more than 40,000 congregations, also said Catholic churches are not considered a greater risk or charged higher premiums. “Our claims experience shows this happens evenly across denominations,” said spokeswoman Melanie Stonewall.

She also reports that the:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen said his organization has received more than 825,000 reports of child abuse and does not see any statistical indication the Catholic Church has a greater prevalence of cases than any other setting — after accounting for the size of the church, the largest Christian denomination in the U.S. and the world.

“There is a common denominator among those who abuse children,” Allen said. “They seek out situations where they have easy access and cover. It should surprise nobody that an abuser is a teacher, coach, youth leader, pediatrician, minister, priest or rabbi.”

This is what we call reporting. What we see in “Secrets of the Vatican” is called propaganda.

Sussex cleric banned for Life: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of Chichester has banned a retired clergyman imprisoned for child abuse in 2013, the Rev. Wilkie Denford from “ministerial practice for life.”

On 21 March 2014 the diocese released a statement saying: “Following the conclusion of criminal proceedings and a subsequent statutory disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, sentences of prohibition for life from exercising any functions of ordained ministry within the Church of England have been imposed upon the Reverend Keith (Wilkie) Denford. The sentences are imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure following the respondents’ convictions and imprisonment for a series of indecent assaults, including offences against minors.”

In May 2013 Denford was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Hove Crown Court for sexually abusing two teenage boys.  “There can be no greater breach of trust than a man playing the role of a man of God, and as the spiritual adviser to the family concerned, to take advantage of that position to abuse small children,” Judge Paul Tain told Denford at his sentencing.

In a 9 May 2013 statement released after the sentence was handed down, the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner, said “today will mark a milestone for the survivors who have had to live through this trial.  To them we offer an unreserved apology and an assurance that we have heard and we believe the terrible story they have had to tell.”

Church property cannot be used to compensate abuse victims says archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Anglican Church of Australia has urged a Royal Commission investigating child abuse to distinguish between legal and moral responsibility for the crimes of abhorrent clergy and church workers, noting the national church is not liable for the actions of individuals.

Church lands and buildings thus cannot be sold to compensate victims of child abuse, the church argued.

submission made following investigations into the Diocese of Grafton’s handling of child abuse at a church run children’s home in Lismore stated, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall wrote “However, as the assets of all dioceses in Australia are usually held on charitable trusts the Commission should examine the terms upon which assets are held before concluding that they are available for a purpose such as paying compensation claims.”

The paper prepared by Dr. Aspinall, the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Secretary Martin Drevikovsky and the Diocese of Brisbane’s Professional Standards Director Rodney McLary came in response to a finding by the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, that the Diocese of Grafton had sufficient assets to settle abuse claims arising from the North Coast Children’s Home abuse cases.

In a harsh indictment of the diocese and its leaders, Mr. Beckett concluded the church had put its financial interests ahead of the good of the victims.  ”The evidence established that the diocese was able to liquidate a substantial number of assets in order to service the debt incurred from the Clarence Valley Anglican School,” Mr. Beckett wrote, “but did not do so for those claiming they had suffered from child sexual abuse.”

While not excusing the actions of the Bishop of Grafton and diocesan officials, Dr. Aspinall urged the commission to be more precise in its terms.

“The Anglican Diocese of Grafton was at all relevant times an unincorporated association with a fluctuating membership. At all relevant times prior to 1 January 1962 the Anglican Diocese of Grafton was part of the Church of England. The Anglican Church of Australia did not exist until 1962. It is submitted that the Commission needs to be explicit as to what is meant by the term ‘had responsibility’. If it is legal responsibility then that was with the particular Management Committee constituted from time to time. If it is ‘moral responsibility’ it raises a range of issues and circumstances in which individuals could, in good faith, reach different conclusions about what are the relevant moral principles and how they should they be applied,” the submission stated.

The question of compensation for abuse has arisen in a number of the cases examined by the commission, however under Australian law the charitable trust status of churches and some institutes is a legal bar to their being held liable for abuse.

Lifetime ban on 2 Chichester clergy imposed: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Two Chichester clergymen jailed for child abuse have been given a life-time ban on exercising any functions on ordained ministry.

On 14 February 2014 the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner said that in light of the conclusion of the criminal cases against the Revs Gordon Rideout and Robert Coles and their subsequent incarceration, the ban had been imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure.

“A sentence of prohibition for life is the most severe sanction that can be imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure and is a further indication of the gravity of the offences committed,” the bishop said.

“Whilst neither of the clergy in question has been permitted to function as clergy in the Diocese of Chichester since their respective arrests, the imposition of these sentences now concludes the Church’s disciplinary processes. I hope this announcement is of some comfort to the survivors of abuse, both within the Diocese of Chichester and more widely.”

In February 2013 Coles (72) was jailed for eight years Brighton Crown Court after he pled guilty on 14 Dec 2012 to 11 counts of child abuse committed between 1978 to 1984 in West Sussex, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.

On 20 May 2013 the jury found Rideout (74) guilty of 31 incidents of abuse at the Barnardo’s children’s home — Ifield Hall in Crawley, West Sussex — and one in Barkingside, Essex between 1962 and 1968, and four indecent assaults at the Middle Wallop army base in Hampshire between 1971 and 1973 where he served as a chaplain. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Last month Rideout was taken from prison to a local hospital. He has since been returned to jail, but has petitioned the Ministry of Justice for an early release on compassionate grounds.

A spokesman for the ministry declined to speak to Rideout’s petition, but stated compassionate release could be granted if the prisoner had a terminal illness or was bedridden or otherwise permanently incapacitated and would prove to be no harm to society.

 

Diocese found to have put money above justice in child abuse cover up: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is expected to hand down a report that will accuse the Diocese of Grafton of withholding information from police and failing to exercise proper oversight of a church run children’s home.

Last week the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, released a report stating the church’s “legalistic and cumbersome” clergy disciplinary process allowed priests accused of child abuse to escape punishment if they retired or left the ministry.

Mr. Beckett further stated that he believed the Diocese of Grafton’s first priority in addressing child abuse claims was to minimize potential claims for compensation from victims and make the problem go away rather than seeing that justice was done.

In his report Mr. Beckett said the former Bishop of Grafton, the Rt. Rev. Keith Slater, failed to refer allegations of sexual abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore to the church’s professional standards director. This failure to act had prevented police from investigating the claims, he concluded.

The report further stated that while the diocesan registrar was aware that one priest associated with the home had been convicted of sexual offences against a child, he failed to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the sex offender clergyman.

The report recommended the diocese initiate an investigation into two priests accused of abuse and “regularly review” its clergy disciplinary proceedings and keep its professional standards director appraised of all outstanding claims of sexual abuse. Final submissions arising from the November public hearings into abuse at the home closed on 24 Jan 2014.

In May 2013 Bishop Slater resigned in the wake of charges he had mishandled the Lismore abuse investigations. Last August the diocese released a statement saying it “apologises  unreservedly to children who, in the past, suffered from sexual abuse, harsh punishment or a lack of appropriate and nurturing care while resident at the North Coast Children’s Home, Lismore.

“We also apologise, and ask forgiveness, for the unacceptable manner in which those who in recent years reported their abuse were hindered by church leaders. Our Diocese acknowledges with sadness the serious and long term effects of such abuse. We are committed to assist in the provision of appropriate support and assistance for those who were harmed and who continue to suffer.”

No charges for Bishop Ball: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The former Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Peter Ball, who was arrested in November 2012 on suspicion of child abuse, has not been charged following an 18 month investigation by detectives from Sussex Police.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was still considering the case against Bishop Ball, who was arrested in his Somerset home in November 2012 as part of Operation Dunhill. The bishop was reported to have been taken ill following his arrest.

Sussex Police had initiated an investigation after the Church of England turned over the results of its internal review of Bishop Ball.

In 1993 Bishop Ball resigned after he was cautioned by the police for having committed an act of gross indecency against a teenager. The now 81 year old bishop was licenced to officiate at church services following his resignation, but has not had the licence renewed since 2010.

In 2012 a Sussex Police spokesman it had “received from Lambeth Palace two reports from a Church safeguarding consultant, which contain reviews of Church safeguarding files relating to historic issues in the Chichester Diocese. We have also received the files themselves.

“The reports and files relate to matters more than 20 years ago and we will review the contents in order to establish whether any police investigation of possible criminal offences would be merited.”

The late Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Eric Kemp, was skeptical of the veracity of the charges brought against Bishop Ball. In his 2006 memoirs, Shy But Not Retiring, Bishop Kemp stated: “Although it was not realized at the time, the circumstances which led to his early resignation were the work of mischief makers.”

Chichester priest arrested for abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

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A retired Diocese of Chichester priest has been charged by police with a host of sex crimes dating back almost 40 years.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Sussex Police released a statement saying the Rev. Vickery House (68) had been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault “on the authority of the Crown Prosecution Service following an investigation by detectives from Sussex Police over the past 18 months”.

Mr. House of Handcross, West Sussex was arrested in November 2012 and has been on bail pending the outcome of the investigation.  He faces two charges of molesting a 15 year old boy in Devon between 1970 and 1971, two charges relating to a man in East Sussex between 1976 and 1978, and 1983 and 1985, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1978 and 1980, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1981 and 1984, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986 and one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986.

The Diocese of Chichester released a statement last week saying it was “aware that a retired priest, previously arrested as part of Operation Dunhill in November 2012, has been charged today with eight counts of indecent assault.”

“As this case is under investigation no further comment will be made. The Diocese of Chichester has been assisting Sussex Police with the inquiries and continues to do so,” it reported.

Mr. House has been granted bail and is charged to appear before the Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 27 Feb 2014.

Chester priest pleads guilty to child porn charges: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

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A Merseyside vicar has plead guilty in the Liverpool Crown Court to 16 counts of possessing child pornography.

On 3 Jan 2014 the Rev. Ian Hughes, (46) former priest in charge of St. Luke’s Poulton and St. Paul’s Seacombe in Wirral in the Diocese of Chester admitted to possessing over 8000 images and films  depicting child pornography and bestiality. Following his arrest on 22 May 2013 the Diocese of Chester suspended Hughes from his benefice and he was stood down as governor of the Wallasey School Park Primary.

Judge David Aubrey QC adjourned sentencing until 28 January 2014 pending the submission of a pre-sentencing report. However he told Hughes he could face imprisonment as “all sentencing options were open to the court.”

Eastbourne priest arrested on child abuse charges: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

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A priest of the Diocese of Chichester was arrested by police last month on suspicion of having sexually abused a 12 year old boy in 1988. On 3 Dec 2013 the 56 year old man, identified as the Rev. Jonathan Graves by the BBC ,was arrested at his home in Eastbourne by Sussex Police and held on “suspicion of acts of indecency, indecent assault and cruelty against a boy known to him”.

Mr. Graves, who currently does not have permission to officiate in the diocese, was released on bail and ordered to appear before a magistrate in April.

The allegations of abuse were referred to detectives following the 2011 review of diocesan records conducted by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. Sussex Police stated the Diocese of Chichester were “co-operating fully” with the investigations, and further noted there were “currently no allegations of recent or current offending.”

AP reports he did have sexual relations with that woman: Get Religion, December 10, 2013 December 11, 2013

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“Can a bad person be a good theologian,” asked Mark Oppenheimer in the lede of an October column on the scandals surrounding John Howard Yoder. Should private failings overshadow public achievement?

This question has been asked of prominent figures ranging from T.S. Eliot to Bill Clinton to Mike Tyson. Is the aesthetic value of the Wasteland diminished by Eliot’s anti-Semitism, or the former president’s accomplishments wiped away by his claim he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Does biting Evander Holyfield’s ear or being convicted of rape undo sporting achievements? Will Pete Rose ever be inducted into the baseball hall of fame?

Religious leaders are held to a different standard, Oppenheimer wrote:

All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.

By that standard, few have failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. In his teaching at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and in books like “The Politics of Jesus,” published in 1972, Mr. Yoder, a Mennonite Christian, helped thousands formulate their opposition to violence. Yet, as he admitted before his death in 1997, he groped many women or pressured them to have physical contact, although never sexual intercourse.

Oppenheimer does not cast stones, but he pulls no punches in discussing Yoder’s flaws. He does not call him a hypocrite, but asks whether interpretations of his work should be colored by  personal failings. This week MennoMedia, the publishing agency for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, announced it will add a disclaimer to new editions of Yoder’s books that speak to his history of sexual harassment and abuse.

These musings on celebrity right and wrong were prompted by an Associated Press article reporting on the marriage of a former Catholic priest who left the Legion of Christ under a cloud. The article begins:

Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child’s mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers.

The second paragraph notes Glendon’s position as President of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and names his wife to be — Elizabeth Lev. It then moves back to Williams.

Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier. At the time, Williams apologized for “this grave transgression” against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond “this sin in my past” to do good work for the church. …

Towards the end of the article the Legion of Christ scandals are recounted and Williams’ fall from grace is placed against the order’s larger problems. The article closes on a curious note, however.

The Legion said the numbers indicate that less than 1 percent of the 1,133 priests ordained in the 72-year history of the order had been found guilty by a church trial of abuse, and less than 4 percent had been abused. A Legion spokesman said he didn’t know what the percentage was for the current number of Legion priests.

One percent of priests are abusers and four percent have been the subject of abuse? And what is the unknown percentage, abusers or victims? Should “abused” in the second clause of the first sentence be “accused”, or is the AP setting the two numbers against each other?

That technical point aside, my discomfort with this story comes in the middle of the piece when it shifts style, moving from reporting to commentary.

Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: “We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum.”

She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.

Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams’ superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she became a regular contributor to the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?

Who is asking these questions? And for that matter, why the move to the “‘enquiring‘ minds want to know style”? While asking out loud these questions may titillate some readers, to me they speak to the reporter’s frustration of not being able to get past the “no comment” email.

There is no balance to this article. By that I do not mean a “yes he did, no he didn’t” exchange, but an appreciation of Williams’ work as a moral theologian. Was he a clerical hack and hypocrite, or did he produce valuable work? The article does not ask nor answer this question — leaving it the level of a “moral theologian” who was caught engaging in immoral practices.

The degree of vehemence in this piece may lead one to suspect personal animus. Why else would the AP omit the news that their child has Downs syndrome. The Daily Mail, which takes great delight in exposing the foibles of naughty clergy, found time in its piece to applaud Williams for having done the right thing in marrying the mother of his disabled child.

Yet the story the AP has reported is true. Where then is the line between a harsh but fair report and a hatchet job?

In this instance the back story of the scandals at the Legion of Christ do have a place, as does Williams’ personal fall. Yet a complete story would tell us about human failing and redemption.

There is no context in this story, only anger. Not moral outrage at a priest failing in his vows, but a cartoonish depiction of one man’s fall. There is no humanity, no decency in the tone and presentation of this story. It is a hatchet job.

First published in Get Religion

Oxfordshire priest imprisoned for child abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2013 November 28, 2013

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A NSM priest in the Diocese of Oxford and former magistrate has been sentenced to prison for child abuse.

On 22 Nov 2013 the Rev. Christopher Tadman-Robins (66) was sentenced to two and half years imprisonment by the Luton Crown Court after having been convicted last month of five counts of sexually abusing a ten year old girl.

Ordained in 1989 Dr. Tadman-Robins had sat as a magistrate in Witney, and had taught music. He was also the former musical director of the Northern Ballet.

While his barrister pleaded with the court for his client to be spared a term of imprisonment as no other complaints of abuse had been made, Judge Philip Bartle QC said his past good deeds would not spare him.

“Your victim was aged from 10 to 12 and you were in your 50s. The impact on her of these offences has been devastating. She has suffered untold stress and has self-harmed.”

“Your actions took away her innocence which is something from which she will never recover,” the judge said as he handed down sentence.

Following his conviction last month, the Bishop of Dorchester noted Dr Tadman-Robins had served as a non-stipendiary curate in the Burford Benefice from 1989-1992. “Since then he has held no ecclesiastical office in the Diocese of Oxford, but used to take occasional services at the invitation of the parish clergy in West Oxfordshire. His permission to officiate was withdrawn as soon as he was arrested last year.”

“Any case like this is a matter of sorrow and regret for the Church of England. We recognise that the suffering of survivors of sexual abuse is profound and long lasting. The Church of England will not tolerate abusive behaviour in its clergy or anyone else for whom we have responsibility. We take allegations of offences such as these extremely seriously and always work closely with the statutory authorities to ensure abusers are brought to justice.”

“We would expect Dr Tadman-Robins to be referred for barring and prohibited from ever holding office in the Church of England again as a result of his conviction,” Bishop Colin Fletcher said.

Rochester vicar suspended for 8 years for sexual misconduct: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 24, 2013

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A disciplinary tribunal has banned a Diocese of Rochester vicar from serving in the ministry of the Church of England for eight years.

In a decision handed down last week, the Rev. Paul Meier vicar of St Margaret’s Church in Horsmonden and youth missioner for the Storrington deanery in West Sussex for the Diocese of Rochester, had engaged in gross misconduct for having had an affair with an 18-year old girl.

Mr. Meier had been suspended in October 2012 from his benefice after a complaint was made that he had engaged in a sexual affair with an 18 year old girl who had attended his youth group.

The tribunal learned the 47-year old married father of two whom he had known the girl and her family for at least six years prior to the incident and that the girl was “unbalanced”.

The relationship began in 2007, the tribunal learned, and in 2008 Mr. Meier invited the girl, then 18, to move in to his family home.

Mr. Meier had “hoped for further sexual intimacy” with the girl, Judge John Lodge, the chairman of the tribunal, observed. However, in 2008 the girl’s parents had their daughter admitted to a psychiatric unit for evaluation and treatment.

Judge Lodge held: ”The complainant became mentally disturbed, as evidenced by attempts to self-harm, and she acted bizarrely.

“Mr Meier admits the complainant self-harmed and that she told him about it. Rather than cease his misconduct and provide her with the support she needed and deserved, he allowed things to continue unchanged.”

Mr. Meier’s actions were “inappropriate to the work of a clerk in Holy Orders,” the tribunal ruled, and suspended him from the ministry for eight years.

Does The New York Times hate Timothy Dolan?: Get Religion, August 29, 2013 August 29, 2013

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”The question is, should this indictment have ever been brought? Which office do I go to to get my reputation back? Who will reimburse my company for the economic jail it has been in for two and a half years?”

So said former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan to The New York Times following his acquittal on state charges of fraud and theft in 1987. Accused by the Bronx DA of attempting to defraud the New York City Transit Authority of $7.4 million on a subway construction project in the late 70’s, before he entered the Reagan Administration, Donovan and his co-defendants were found not guilty on all charges — with one jury telling the Times she believed the prosecution was politically motivated. While rejoicing in the not guilty verdict after his two year ordeal, Donovan lamented that it was not fair that the news of his being a decent man would receive far less publicity than the accusation he was a criminal.

What should a newspaper do in this situation? How can it restore the reputations of those falsely accused? Human nature being what it is, the news of an evil man is far more interesting than that of a good one. Critics often accuse newspapers of printing only bad news — senior church leaders upbraid me from time to time for focusing on scandal, corruption and hypocrisy and downplaying the good works performed by church. It does little good to respond that I dutifully report on the good news, but no one reads it. Stories of church sponsored campaigns to stop child marriage in Africa or of female genital mutilation, for example, are read by only a few, while a naughty vicar story is good for tens of thousands of hits, while an Al Gore in bed with the Church of England will get picked up by Drudge and crash the servers.

In the Donovan case The New York Times acted properly and professionally according to the dictates of the craft. They reported without bias, cant or agenda. To have done more would have been special pleading, engaging in propaganda to sway public opinion to think as our masters tell us.

What then should we make of The Times coverage of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee abuse lawsuit? On 1 July 2013 The Times printed a story entitled “Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show”. This was followed on 3 July 2013 with an editorial entitled “Cardinal Dolan and the Sexual Abuse Scandal” and a 6 July op-ed piece by Frank Bruni entitled “The Church’s Errant Shepherds”. Apart from a correction on 16 July The Times does not appear to have followed up on the story.

Which is curious as the first article starts off with a bang.

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”

However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

The article continues in this vein, proffering evidence and arguments that while Archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Dolan acted disreputably by moving church assets out of the reach of creditors. The Times editorial doubled-down on this assertion writing:

Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.

While not labeling him a crook, the editorial board was quite clear in its opinion the archbishop had engaged in shady dealings and had not lived up to the high moral standard The Times expected of the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. The censure of the op-ed pales in comparison to the rage that seethes through Frank Bruni’s piece. The underlying acts of abuse were bad enough, but the institution’s response has been worse.

I mean the evil that an entire institution can do, though it supposedly dedicates itself to good.

I mean the way that a religious organization can behave almost precisely as a corporation does, with fudged words, twisted logic and a transcendent instinct for self-protection that frequently trump the principled handling of a specific grievance or a particular victim.

However, Bruni’s column is a column. A reader may agree with his sentiments or find them unhinged. They are written to provide entertainment based on current events — they are not reporting in and of themselves. The Times‘ op-ed piece is also only the opinion of the editorial board. One either agrees with its sentiments or does not. The underlying news stories however, are what makes or breaks the newspaper’s reputation for reporting. And here the paper disappoints.

On 30 July the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a Federal District Court had ruled that Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had acted properly — and morally — by shielding cemetery funds from creditors. The Journal Sentinel story entitled “In win for Milwaukee Archdiocese, judge shields cemetery funds from creditors” reported:

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for religious institutions around the country,a federal judge has ruled against forcing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to tap its cemetery funds to pay sex abuse claims in its bankruptcy.

In issuing the ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa said including the funds would violate free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and a 1993 law aimed at protecting religious freedom. Randa cited the Catholic belief in the resurrection, which teaches that the body ultimately reunites with the soul, and the role of Catholic cemeteries in the exercise of that belief under canon law.

“The sacred nature of Catholic cemeteries — and compliance with the church’s historical and religious traditions and mandates requiring their perpetual care — are understood as a fundamental exercise of this core belief,” said Randa in overturning an earlier decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley.

Yet there has been nothing from The New York Times on this issue. When the ruling was handed down, I expected to see something. Perhaps another angry Bruni jeremiad on the courts protecting an evil institution, tut-tutting from the editorial board — but nothing. Perhaps it being August the staff are on holiday and no one was about to write this piece. Yet The Times has an AP subscription and could have run the wire service story.

What message is The New York Times sending by not reporting the court verdict, which as the Journal Sentinel story points out, stressed the judge’s decision that what Cardinal Dolan did was not only lawful, but was a moral act based upon the Catholic Church’s doctrines. Is The Times motivated by animus towards the Roman Catholic Church? Does it hate Cardinal Dolan?

I doubt the newspaper has a grudge against the archbishop. Life’s events are more often motivated by mistake and omission than deliberate aggression. Nevertheless, this does episode does not do credit to The New York Times.

Caveat: The New York Times may have reported this decision — if so, I have not seen it, nor been able to find it on their website. Times image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

First printed in Get Religion.

Australian church readies for criticism from child abuse report: The Church of England Newspaper, June 30, 2013 p 6 July 2, 2013

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The primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, has warned the church will come under heavy criticism when The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse publishes its findings.

In his address to the 22 June 2013 meeting of Brisbane Synod Dr. Aspinall said the “truth will come out”.

“It will. And we want it to even though there will be times when we will feel ashamed and sickened at that truth,” he said.

Dioceses across Australia have been stung by revelations that some clergy and church workers abused young people and that a culture of silence once governed the church’s response. However child safeguarding reforms and an aggressive policy in combating and reporting abuse to police has been in place for over 10 years.

Nevertheless the church’s current are “not going to stop us from copping heavy criticism in the years ahead,” Dr. Aspinall told reporters at the end of the meeting. “People ought not to be discouraged by the criticism.”

“Yes we have to face squarely and cop criticism where it is deserved we have to face the fact that abused happened and fix it,” he said according to press accounts from Australia.

Mersyside priest suspended after arrest for possession of child pornography: The Church of England Newspaper, June 6, 2013, p 4. June 13, 2013

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The Rev. Ian Hughes

The Diocese of Chester has suspended a parish priest following his arrest on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. On 22 May 2013 Merseyside Police arrested the Rev. Ian Hughes, 45, priest-in-charge of St. Luke’s Poulton and St. Paul’s Seacombe in Wirral.

Mr. Hughes, who has also been stood down from his post of governor of a Merseyside primary school, has been released on bail and is to appear in court next month to answer the charges.

A statement released by the diocese said the Bishop of Chester, the Rt. Rev Peter Forster, at suspended Mr. Hughes “immediately when we knew of his arrest.”

The diocesan spokesman said:  a spokesman for the diocese said: “Full co-operation is now taking place with the police and the authorities. We await outcomes from the current investigation and the workings of the justice system.”

Berkshire vicar arrested on child sex charges: The Church of England Newspaper, June 2, 2013, p 6. June 12, 2013

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The associate rector of St Michael’s Church in Spencers Wood has been suspended by the diocese of Oxford following his arrest last week on suspicion of sexually abusing children.

The Rev Peter Jarvis was arrested last week following an investigation by police into accusations the 49-year-old vicar had groomed and incited sexual activity with a number of children aged 12 to 16. The offenses are alleged to occur have occurred between 2009 and 2011 at a West Berkshire school.

A statement released by the Bishop of Reading’s office said: “We can confirm that the Rev. Pete Jarvis has been arrested on suspicion of sexual offences. The Church of England expects the highest standards of personal conduct in its clergy, and the Diocese of Oxford takes allegations such as this extremely seriously.”

“Mr Jarvis will not be undertaking any duties in relation to the church’s ministry while the police investigation continues. The Bishop of Reading is aware of the situation and has made arrangements for the continued pastoral care of the parish during this time of uncertainty. He is holding in his prayers all those affected by this case.”

Mr Jarvis has been released on bail and is to return to court on 15 June to answer the charges.

Australian bishop resigns over abuse complaints: The Church of England Newspaper, May 26, 2013, p 7. May 30, 2013

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An Australian Bishop has resigned after an internal review found he had failed to conform to the church’s child protection and abuse reporting guidelines.

On 17 May 2013 Bishop Keith Slater of the Diocese of Grafton announced he was stepping down for having mishandled abuse allegations brought to his attention by former residents at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore NSW. “The abuse took place over a number of decades (1940’s to 1980’s). The alleged perpetrators included staff at the Home, visiting clergy, members of holiday host families and other residents,” he said.

Bishop Slater said that in 2007 the diocese settled 39 claims of abuse and paid up to $22,000 to each of the victims.  The names of two clergy still living that were alleged to have engaged in the misconduct were also turned over to the police.

After the settlement had been reached the additional victims came forward, some contacting Bishop Slater directly.  Under a 2004 protocol adopted by the diocese all allegations of sexual abuse were to be reported to the professional standards director. Bishop Slater is accused of ignoring some of these complaints.

“I acknowledge that I was responsible for ensuring full compliance with the Protocol and that I failed in this duty. Some matters detailing sexual abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home were not referred to the Professional Standards Director as they should have been,” the bishop wrote.

“I apologise to those complainants who were not given access to the Professional Standards Director. I also acknowledge that, by not referring these matters, the Professional Standards Director was not provided with information that could have assisted ongoing internal and Police investigations. All information has now been provided to the Professional Standards Director who is currently liaising with the Police to ensure that all relevant information has been provided to them,” he said.

On 10 May 2013, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and the general secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia, Martin Drevikovsky, met with Bishop Slater and urged him to consider the consequences of his actions.

“I put to him that if there was substantial truth in the report then I believed that he needed to consider whether it was tenable for him to continue as bishop,” Archbishop Aspinall told Australia’s  Daily Telegraph.

“I told him to go away, pray and take whatever advice he wanted,” the archbishop said.

10-years imprisonment for abuser priest: The Church of England Newspaper, May 26, 2013 p 7. May 30, 2013

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A retired Diocese of Chichester clergyman has been found guilty by a jury at Lewes Crown Court of 36 counts of sexual abuse committed against 16 young girls and boys in their early teens over an 11-year period between 1962 and 1973.

On 20 May 2013 the jury found Canon Gordon Rideout (74) guilty on 31 incidents of abuse at the Barnardo’s children’s home — Ifield Hall in Crawley, West Sussex — and one in Barkingside, Essex between 1962 and 1968, and four indecent assaults at the Middle Wallop army base in Hampshire between 1971 and 1973 where he served as a chaplain.

A charge of having molested a five-year-old girl in Crawley was dismissed.

The court sentenced Canon Rideout to a 10-year term of imprisonment.

“Gordon Rideout has been the cause of immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time; he has also betrayed the trust and respect of many who have valued his ministry. Today’s verdict will have repercussions in many different ways across Sussex and beyond,” the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said.

The bishop said: “Our primary concern today is with the people who have had to live for a very long time with the consequences of the shameful abuse they suffered from Gordon Rideout.”

“We should pay tribute to those who, at considerable personal and emotional cost, have been able to come forward, to provide evidence, and to substantiate accusations as witnesses in the trial which has led to a guilty verdict.”

The bishop thanked the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Colin Perkins, and the police for their work on the case. But he lamented the diocese’s failure to act sooner.

“We are left with the question of why it has taken so long for these grave accusations to be taken seriously and brought to trial. What lessons do we all have to learn from this terrible catalogue of abuse about the strength and effectiveness of our communication within and between agencies that have responsibility for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults?”, the bishop asked.

Prison for Sussex priest convicted of abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, May 19, 2013 p 6. May 22, 2013

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A retired Sussex clergyman has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Hove Crown Court for sexually abusing two teenage boys.

The Rev. Keith Wilkie Denford (78) will also undergo two years supervision and he added added to the registry of sex offenders. His co-defendant church organist Michael Mytton (69) was given a suspended nine-month jail term by Judge Paul Tain for indecently assaulting a third boy.

“There can be no greater breach of trust than a man playing the role of a man of God, and as the spiritual adviser to the family concerned, to take advantage of that position to abuse small children,” Judge Tain told Mr. Denford at his sentencing.

In a 9 May 2013 statement released after the sentence was handed down the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said the “sentencing is an indication of the seriousness of their crimes and the importance of bringing their actions to light and to justice.”

“We would like to place on record our thanks to the police for the way in which they conducted this investigation and supported survivors and their families in the pursuit of truth.

He noted the crimes “were not reported to the Diocese of Chichester prior to 2011. Notification of the serious allegations against these two men we had formerly trusted was the result of our working relationship with Sussex Police and the local authority.”

The Bishop added that he hoped ” today will mark a milestone for the survivors who have had to live through this trial.  To them we offer an unreserved apology and an assurance that we have heard and we believe the terrible story they have had to tell.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 72, May 18, 2013 May 18, 2013

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Episode 72 of Anglican Unscripted brings even more news about the Anglican Church (Communion) around the world. Kevin and George talk about stories from Tanzania and Nigeria, who are dealing with internal conflict and Muslim-on-Christian violence.

It is also time to give an update on the Temporary Same Sex Liturgies the Episcopal Church passed at General Convention last year and who is using them and who is not.
AS Haley updates all the major legal cases around the country and discusses the late breaking news from The Falls Church.

Peter Ould talks about the growing conflict and investigation in Jersey. It is hard to tell if the biggest issue is jurisdiction or lack of trasparency.
Finally, in the blooper real at the end of the episode (after the credits) one of our contributors reveals a hidden talent. #AU72 Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com

Paedophilia and the left redux: Get Religion, May 16, 2013 May 16, 2013

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Absent a priestly predator is paedophilia a religion news story? In comments posted in response to my 24 April 2013 story “Paedophilia and the Radical Left of ’68″, Ira Rifkin questioned whether politics and paedophilia were properly within the ambit of GetReligion. Was I pushing too hard? Confusing the moral and ethical issues in the story I cited in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) — protests over public honors to a prominent politician who 30 years ago as one of the stars of the radical left wrote of his sexual encounters with children, which he now claims are fiction –with religion news?

Whatever his crimes and immoralities, Cohn-Bendit’s actions are in no way comparable to those of the Roman Catholic Church. The 60s are long over; history has moved on. The media’s faults, blind spots and assorted deficiencies are not always at their root worthy of GR’s attention. Agreed: ain’t no ghost here worth the commentary.

… The Cohn-Bendit story contains little if any grist for GR.  As for Cohn-Bendit and the RC Church, it seems clear that the magnitude of the crimes Church leaders committed are far greater quantitatively, as well as qualitatively because of the Church’s unique position as a global religious/moral authority. Cohn-Bendit has far less reach. Whatever his personal responsibility, it cannot be compared to that of the Church. Bash the 60s if you like, even it’s values. But molestation – real or imagined – was not one of its identifiable hallmarks.

Some took issue with Mr. Rifkin’s comments, seeing religious ghosts in the story exhumed by GetReligion. Others noted that Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a prominent politician – – a public figure whose stock in trade has been lecturing Europe on how it should adopt his moral worldview on the environment, economics, immigration, foreign affairs, and social issues such as gay marriage. My observations focused on the different treatment accorded Mr. Cohn-Bendit and the Catholic Church by the media on the issue of paedophilia. I argued:

The opprobrium held by right thinking people against paedophilia in Europe does not apply, however to revolutionaries and left wing politicians. A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on the fracas over the award of a prize to Daniel Cohn-Bendit suggests a double standard is being applied to paedophiles in Europe. Those who molest children out of lust are criminals and beyond the pale — those who molest children out of revolutionary fervor to bring down the capitalist regime really aren’t so bad.

The paedophilia and the left story has now moved back into the public eye in Europe  with articles in Stern, Deutsche Wella, Der Tagesspiegel and other news outlets on protestations by Green Party leaders that their movement had not provided political respectability for pedophile activists.

Der Spiegel reported:

 He is a boy, roughly 10 years old, with a pretty face, full lips, a straight nose and shoulder-length hair. The wings of an angel protrude from his narrow back, and a penis is drawn with thin lines on the front of his body. The 1986 image was printed in the newsletter of the Green Party’s national working group on “Gays, Pederasts and Transsexuals,” abbreviated as “BAG SchwuP.” It wasn’t just sent to a few scattered party members, but was addressed to Green Party members of the German parliament, as well as the party’s headquarters in Bonn.

Documents like this have become a problem for the Greens today. Some 33 years after the party was founded, it is now being haunted by a chapter in its history that many would have preferred to forget. No political group in Germany promoted the interests of men with pedophile tendencies as staunchly as the environmental party. For a period of time in the mid-1980s, it practically served as the parliamentary arm of the pedophile movement. A look at its archives reveals numerous traces of the pedophiles’ flirtation with the Green Party. They appear in motions, party resolutions, memos and even reports by the party treasurer. That is because at times the party not only supported its now forgotten fellow campaigners politically, but also more tangibly, in the form of financial support.

The protests over Cohn-Bendit have led to an internal party investigation. the Guardian reported:

Germany’s Green party is to launch an investigation into its active promotion in the 80s of paedophile groups who lobbied for the legalisation of sex with children. The party’s leadership has said it will commission an independent researcher to investigate “for how long and to what extent” such groups had an influence. The party’s chief whip, Jürgen Trittin, said the initiative aimed to take a close look at the “totally unacceptable demand” in the 80s that sex with children should be made legal. He admitted that the party had made wrong decisions about paedophilia.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, the Guardian wrote  Mr. Cohn-Bendit conceded his confessions were lies, prompted by a desire to shock.

“It was a type of manifesto against the bourgeois society,” he said. … He said he had written the descriptions of his time in the kindergarten in an attempt to “appear to be more dangerous than I was”, and admitted they had been “irresponsible”.

Germany’s tabloids and conservative political parties are not likely to let this story die. But is Ira Rifkin correct in saying this is the a political story, not a religion story.

Like Lord Copper, he is right up to a point. All social interaction, all life is based upon choices. Making a choice implies using moral judgment. It could be argued that the political pedophile scandal is a story about the moral failings of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the Green party.

Here I agree with Mr. Rifkin. This is a political story that has moral and ethical overtones. But what makes this a Get Religion story is a comparison to the reporting by the Guardian, Der Spiegel and other European newspapers on the Catholic clergy abuse scandal. The perspective these newspapers have brought to the Catholic scandal is that the institution is tarnished by the actions of pedophiles within the clergy ranks. The perspective in these articles is that the institution is to be applauded for examining its historical support for pedophiles within the party’s ranks.

What makes this a Get Religion story is the context of the European press environment. I am not defending or excusing the Catholic Church. I am however pointing out inconsistencies and double standards in media coverage.

First printed in Get Religion.

Surprised by sin – African clerical celibacy: Get Religion, May 9, 2013 May 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of the Province of Uganda, Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
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Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”

Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”

“True Humility” by George du Maurier, in Punch, 1895.

There is much to praise in the Los Angeles Times article “Uganda priest ostracized for publicizing sexual abuse”. The May 4 article addresses the question of sexual misconduct by Roman Catholic clergy in Africa – – child abuse and violations of the vow of celibacy. And it does so through the voice of Fr Anthony Musaala, an Ugandan priest suspended in March by his Archbishop for having brought the church into disrepute for exposing these problems.

I also like the article because it “gets Africa”. It understands the culture of shame that often manifests itself as cover up and denial, and makes reporting about the African scene so difficult. But there is also curate’s egg quality to the piece. Parts of it are quite good yet there is a bit that is off.

It is a mistake to conflate the sexual abuse of children scandal with the question of clerical celibacy. In this case while the African church is loathe to talk about child abuse it is not correct to say that they are silent on the question of celibacy. The article would also have been helped by addressing the question “why” — Why the homosexual abuse of young boys prompts such a visceral reaction by the church in Uganda.

The article begins:

He is a celebrity across eastern and central Africa, a gospel music star known to many as the “Dancing Priest.” But for years he also was a keeper of painful secrets — his own and many others’. In going public, Anthony Musaala has forced the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda to confront a problem it had insisted didn’t exist. And he may stir a debate far beyond Africa’s most Catholic of countries.

The Ugandan priest has been suspended indefinitely by the archbishop of Kampala for exposing what he calls an open secret: Sex abuse in the Catholic Church is a problem in Africa as well as in Western Europe and North America. The African Catholic Church is fast-growing, pious and traditional. As the church elsewhere forks out billions of dollars to compensate the child sex abuse victims of priests, few African Catholics have questioned the assumption, voiced recently by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson that the African church is purer than its counterpart in the West, which is regarded as secular and permissive.

It’s not more pure, says Musaala. He says he has the evidence to prove it. “The Vatican turns a blind eye because it doesn’t want to be embarrassed about this blooming church. But I think it’s time we had the truth,” Musaala says.

The article reports that in March Fr Musaala wrote Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga “about priests who fathered children, kept secret wives or abused girls or boys, and called for a debate on marriage for priests” and stated that as a young boy he too had been abused. It said:

The letter was leaked to the news media. And in response, Lwanga suspended Musaala, saying his statements stirred up contempt for the Catholic Church and damaged the morale of believers. Later in the month, Lwanga acknowledged that abuses had taken place, apologized to victims and set up an internal inquiry. But he did not backtrack on Musaala’s unpaid suspension.

This account conflicts with other press reports. All agree that Fr Musaala was suspended, but the Ugandan press reported this was an open letter given to them and to the Archbishop. It would also have helped this story if the LA Times had unpacked the religious context. The Catholic and Anglican churches in Uganda, who account for 80% of the population, celebrate the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda. As an aside if you should ever want evidence as to why you should not trust Wikipedia compare the politically correct and false version on Wikipedia with the story told on the website of the shrine to the martyrs.

The first martyr to die was King’s major domo and leader of all Christians, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, on 15th November 1885. He was killed because he had pleaded to King Mwanga to abandon the vice of homosexuality and not to kill Bishop Hannington, an Anglican missionary who had entered Buganda from Busoga (the backdoor of Buganda kingdom). From that time he became angry with all Christians as they all refused to give in to his sinful demands and were persuading all other pages to do the same. On 25th May, 1886, King Mwanga ordered for a number of Christians to be brought before him and he passed on them the death penalty. 20 of the 22 martyrs were killed between 26th May 1886 and 3rd June 1886.

The Ugandan martyrs died because they refused to countenance the king’s homosexual advances because their Christian faith taught them that sodomy was a sin. Omitting this historical context — one of the defining sagas of the Catholic Church in Uganda leave the story untold.

Would the story have been helped by mention of the Ugandan Martyrs? Or by mention of Fr Musaala’s on-going fight with the archbishop in the press? Does it make a difference to the denouement of the piece if the letter was leaked to the press or given to the press by Fr Musaala?

The linkage between abuse and clerical celibacy was also unfortunate, as the Church has been far from silent on this point.  The 2009 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Africa convened by Pope Benedict discussed the question and problems of priestly celibacy for the African church. In the neighboring Central African Republic an archbishop was suspended for having families, while a number of clergy in Kenya have quit the church over mandatory celibacy. Silence over celibacy and its challenges for the clergy is not a problem — silence over abuse is.

First printed in Get Religion.

Melbourne archbishop testifies before Parliamentary commission on abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2013, p 6. May 2, 2013

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A culture of denial had hindered the Church’s handling of child sex abuse cases, the Archbishop of Melbourne told a parliamentary committee last week. On 22 April Dr Philip Freier said that “as you look backwards you can see broadly as a culture we’ve not readily listened to children when they’ve made complaints.

“There have been opportunities for people who wanted to breach the trust of children to do that, and often for children’s accounts of that trust being broken, being disbelieved,” he said adding that some victims were “even punished for having raised a question about the conduct of an adult.”

The diocese had received 46 complaints of child sex abuse since the 1950s, the Archbishop said, and had paid out $268,000 in compensation to 10 victims since 2003, but only reported 12 of the 46 complaints to police.

Dr Freier told the committee of the reforms instituted by the Church since the implementation of a professional standards practices regime in 1994. In his concluding remarks he spoke of the church’s abhorrence for abuse and its zero-tolerance about the issue. The archbishop apologized for the pain and misery that such abuse has caused both victims and the broader community and welcomed the Inquiry as a way in which that confidence might begin to be restored in the church.

Portsmouth pays £200,000 to compensate abuse victim: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2013 May 2, 2013

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Maxwell Halahan

The Diocese of Portsmouth has agreed to pay compensation of £200,000 to cover the cost of psychological treatment and loss of earnings to the victim of clergy sexual abuse.

The victim, now in his 40s, was abused by the Rev. Maxwell Halahan, vicar of at St Faith’s Church in Cowes, Isle of Wight, in the 1970s. After joining the choir at the age of eight the victim, who was granted anonymity by the courts, was abused by Mr. Halahan for five years. In 2011 Mr. Halahan, then aged 81, was jailed for three years by the Portsmouth Crown Court after being found guilty of four counts of indecent assault.

In a statement released on behalf of the victim by Irwin Mitchell, the victim recounted the emotional, psychological and spiritual toll the abuse had taken on his life.  “In 2010 I plucked up the courage to go to the police because I realised he could still be out there putting other children through the same horrendous ordeal,” he said adding that “although nothing can make up for the horror of what that vile man put me through and the effects it has had on my life, the settlement does finally give me some closure and I can concentrate on getting the best possible psychological support to try and rebuild my life.”

Stephanie Pelling from Irwin Mitchell solicitors said: “The settlement agreed will provide the necessary therapies which we hope will help [the victim] to come to terms with what happened and allow him to move forward with his life.”

Sussex clergyman found guilty of child abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, April 21, 2013 p 6. April 22, 2013

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A Sussex clergyman has been found guilty of sexually abusing two boys. On 5 April 2013 the Rev. Keith Wilkie Denford, (78) and his codefendant, church organist Michael Mytton (69), were found guilty following a three-week trial at Hove Crown Court of molesting boys under the age of 16.

While serving as vicar of St John the Evangelist Church in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, Mr. Denford committed and indecent assaults on two boys between June 1987 and January 1990.    He was found not guilty of a third charge of indecent assault against the first boy. Mr. Mytton was convicted of three counts of indecently assaulting a boy under 16 in the Newick area between 1990 and 1994. He was found not guilty of one count of aiding and abetting Mr. Denford.

After the verdict was handed the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, stated: “I note the verdict reached by the Court today and we will now move swiftly to implement our own disciplinary procedures following this verdict in the case of Mr Denford.

“The Diocese fully acknowledges the suffering caused both to survivors of abuse and their families. We deeply regret the betrayal of trust in the context of public pastoral ministry and we extend our prayers and support to those caught up in the events highlighted by this case.

“The Diocese has learned many lessons from past cases and continues to do so. Our safeguarding procedures have been revised and updated and I am committed to ensuring that every person is safe in our church communities.”

The case has been adjourned for sentencing to 2 May 2013 and the defendants remain on bail meanwhile.

Ex-priest claims abuse whistleblowers shunned by Australian church: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2013, p 7. March 26, 2013

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A former Anglican priest testified last week before a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that he had been ostracized by the church after reporting incidents of clergy sexual child abuse.

Fr. Paul Walliker, who now serves as a priest of the Antiochian Orthodox archdiocese of Australia, said whistle blowers were shunned by the Anglican church. “The support we received from the diocese was zip, zero, zilch,” he told the committee taking evidence at the Bendigo town hall.

On 13 March 2013 Fr. Walliker said he had helped five women press charges against the Rev. Alan Sapsford, however the abuse claims were not believed by many members of the congregation.

“I received death threats. My family was harassed. People abused me in the street,” he told the parliamentary inquiry.  “I lost money, I had to sell my house and had to move. I had to pay for counselling for my daughters.”

While the “support we received from the diocese was nothing.”

In 2003 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7:30 Report claimed Mr. Sapsford, who was a parish rector in Seymour from 1966 to 1996 and archdeacon of the diocese of Wangaratta, had sexually abused over 30 boys and a number of women while serving at the parish.

After one of his victims, who later became an Anglican priest informed the church of the abuse, Mr. Sapsford confessed his guilt in a letter to Bishop Paul Richardson of the Diocese of Wangaratta.

Fr Walliker said Bishop Richardson withdrew Mr. Sapsford’s licence and allowed him to retire due to ill-health. Archbishop Keith Rayner subsequently gave him a limited licence to officiate in Melbourne. In September 2002, Mr. Sapsford was arrested and charged with child abuse. He died in March 2003 before his case went to trial.

The committee is investigating the response of religious and other non-government groups to the criminal abuse of children. It has received over 300 submissions and heard testimony from more than 90 witnesses.  Its report is due in September 2013.

Der Spiegel really doesn’t like Catholic Bishops: Get Religion, January 10, 2013 January 10, 2013

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … A European magazine has written a hit piece on the Catholic Church and the clergy abuse scandal that is unfair, incomplete and one-sided … Sound familiar?

The latest installment comes courtesy of Der Spiegel. In an English-language piece entitled “German Catholic Church Cancels Inquiry” published on 9 Jan 2013, the mass circulation news weekly takes a stick to the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, over the cancellation of a study it had begun on the clergy abuse scandal.

The German bishops could well paraphrase Sally Fields, “You don’t like me, you really don’t like me!”

Here is the lede:

It was a major promise after a major disaster: In summer 2011, the Catholic Church in Germany pledged full transparency. One year earlier, an abuse scandal had shaken the country’s faithful, as an increasing number of cases surfaced in which priests had sexually abused children and then hidden behind a wall of silence.

The Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute (KFN) was given the job of investigating the cases in 2011. The personnel files from churches in all 27 dioceses were to be examined for cases of abuse in an attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.

But now the Church has called off the study, citing a breakdown in trust. “The relationship of mutual trust between the bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed,” said the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, on Wednesday morning.

How’s that for telegraphing your editorial opinions. Der Spiegel opens the story with a slippery trick — it defines the terms of the argument and then savages its opponent for not meeting those terms. The lede all but accuses the church of hypocrisy.  “They promised transparency but have cancelled the investigation.”

It makes an assertion the church is a shallow self-serving institution stating the abuse study was undertaken as a public relations stunt, an “attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.” Der Spiegel may well think so, but should not it have cited a statement to this effect by the church, or even from one of its detractors?

Following the bishop’s explanation as to why the study was cancelled — the church did not trust Prof. Christian Pfeiffer of the KFN — Der Spiegel offers Dr. Pfeiffer space to air his complaints about the bishops lack of cooperation. A politician is then given a platform to criticize the church for cancelling the study, followed by an old quote from a Church spokesman stating:

Before the inquiry was called off, the spokesman for the German Bishops’ Conference, Matthias Kopp, had insisted that the project should continue regardless of the outcome of the conflict: “Should cooperation with the KFN fall through, there would be a continuation of the project with another partner,” he said.

The story then peters out with a few more quotes from Dr. Pfeiffer and a gratuitous editorial aside followed by a spiteful jab at Bishop Ackermann.

The project was of incalculable importance to the Catholic Church, because the loss of confidence after the abuse scandal was enormous. The cancellation of the inquiry throws into high relief Bishop Ackermann’s statement from 2011: “We also want the truth, which may still lie hidden in decades-old files, to be uncovered.”

The story as told by Der Spiegel  is the Catholic Church organized a face-saving study on the clergy abuse scandal, but pulled out saying they did not trust Dr. Pfeiffer just as the KFN’s investigators began digging in the bowels of the chancelleries. The clear insinuation being the Catholic Bishops Conference are a bunch of hypocrites.

Let me stop for a moment and say I have no special knowledge of this case. I have no reason to privilege the testimony of the bishops over Dr. Pfeiffer  or Dr. Pfeiffer over the bishops. The only dog I have in this fight is that of professional journalism. And this story as journalism stinks.

Why? Take a look a the press release from the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz that served as the basis for this story. Bishop Ackermann explains in detail the study was ended due to a personal dispute with Dr. Pfeiffer — and that the study will continue with another investigator.

This is a critical omission by Der Spiegel. The study has not been cancelled — the investigator has been fired and the study will be restarted with a new team. Rather than report what Bishop Ackermann said in his statement,

Ich bedauere, dass der jetzige Schritt unumgänglich wurde, der allein mit dem mangelnden Vertrauen in die Person von Professor Dr. Pfeiffer zusammenhängt. Gleichzeitig bin ich zuversichtlich, dass wir schon bald das Forschungsprojekt mit anderen Partnern in Angriff nehmen können.

Roughly translated as: Regrettably this step was inevitable due solely to our the lack of trust in the person of Prof. Dr. Pfeiffer. At the same time I am confident that we will soon be able to address this research project with other study partners.

Der Spiegel brings up an old quote from a spokesman for the bishops saying that should there be a conflict between the bishops and the KFN, the study would continue. By not mentioning the current statement while inserting the older one, Der Spiegel is insinuating bad faith.

I have never worked with the German bishops and do not know their reputation for truthfulness or transparency. There are some English and American ecclesiastical entities and figures whom I have learned not to trust — if  one London based Anglican agency were to tell me the sun will rise tomorrow morning, I would not print that story until I saw the sun rise myself and then I would ask for a second opinion — their reputation for integrity is so poor. There well may be bad faith on the part of the bishops. Dr. Pfieffer thinks so. But Der Spiegel is improving the story — sexing it up (to use a British newspaper phrase) — so that the reader will be led to believe one side over another. If deliberate that is journalistic misconduct, it an accident that is a most unfortunate error.

First printed in Get Religion.

Retired Suffolk vicar jailed 22 months for child abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2013, p 2. January 4, 2013

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A retired Suffolk clergyman was sentenced to one year and 10 months imprisonment this week by the Norwich Crown Court for child abuse.

At the sentencing hearing on 17 December Judge Mark Lucraft told the Rev. John Haley Dossor (71): “You sexually abused these teenage boys who were committed to your care for recreation and education. As a clergyman you were in a position where people looked up to you and respected you. Parents trusted you with the care of their children.”

In addition to a term of imprisonment, the judge ordered Mr. Dossor placed on the sex offenders’ register and issued a sexual offences prevention order to last for five years. On 16 Oct 2012, Mr. Dossor pled guilty before the Ipswich Crown Court of having abused six boys between 1990 and 1994 while serving at St Mary’s Church in Hadleigh. In 2001 Mr. Dossor became vicar of St Mary-at-the-Elms, Ipswich, retiring in 2007. In 2009 he resigned his orders after the abuse allegations came to light.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock, responded to the guilty plea by saying: “Clergy hold a position of trust and whenever such trust is broken it is widely felt, most of all by those who have been directly affected.”

“Whilst these events took place a long time ago, it is only right that the Church should acknowledge the broken trust and offer sincere and deep apologies.”

Gavin Stone, assistant diocesan secretary for the diocese, said after the sentence was handed down that bishop Stock “continues to offer unreserved regret and apologies to all those whose lives have been damaged by this individual, fully acknowledging the impact that broken trust by someone in a position of responsibility can have on the lives of all those involved.”

Chichester priest committed for trial on abuse charges: The Church of England Newspaper, December 29, 2012 January 4, 2013

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A retired Sussex clergyman appeared before the Chichester Crown Court last week and has been committed for trial for allegedly sexually abusing a teenage boy.

The Rev. Robert Coles (71) pled not guilty to sexually abusing a boy between 1982 and 1984, when the child was 15 to 16 years of age.  Mr. Coles was arrested in March and charged in August with several counts of sexual abuse committed between the 1970s and 1990s.  The Crown Prosecution Service said it will decide next month whether to bring further charges of indecent assault against the defendants.  Trial has been set for 10 June 2013.

On 17 Dec 2012, the Diocese of Chichester released a statement confirming Mr. Coles, “a priest formerly licensed in the diocese, has been committed for trial to face charges relating to allegations of sexual abuse in the 70s and 80s.”

“Today’s hearing is the latest development in a 16 month police investigation in which the Diocese of Chichester has been cooperating with Sussex Police. A diocesan spokesperson said: “Our prayers are for anyone affected by today’s hearing. We are unable to comment further at this stage whilst we allow the judicial system to take its course.”

“Our cooperation with Sussex police in this investigation is in line with our ongoing commitment to do all that is necessary to bring any allegations of abuse to the attention of the public authorities, and to ensure that the Diocese of Chichester is a safe place for all,” the diocesan statement said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Celibacy and the clergy abuse scandal: Get Religion, December 11, 2012 December 12, 2012

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Last Friday the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, the German Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church, released the results of a study on the psychological make-up of clergy who had sexually abused children. I was surprised by the weak coverage of this story, especially in light of the 2010 German media frenzy when the clergy abuse scandal broke.

I  am also wondering how many reporters actually attended the press conference in Trier given by Bishop Stephan Ackermann? The Reuters story had a Paris date line, the Frankfurter Rundschau story was written from Cologne, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung was written from Munich. Other German newspaper accounts were re-writes of the press release from the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz. Might this explain the lousy job two of Germany’s major newspapers did in reporting this story?

The lede from the English-language Reuters’ story states:

A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results presented on Friday. Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.

Psychological tests commissioned by priests’ dioceses around Germany found only five percent could be classified as ephebophiles – attracted to teenagers, it said. “There are no significant differences to results found in the general population in Germany,” said Dr Norbert Leygraf, one of the experts reviewing reports on predator priests found out in the past decade.

All of the newspaper stories I have looked at have reported this basic information, but each developed their own angle. The Frankfurt-based national daily, the Frankfurter Rundschau, had a balanced story in its article „McKinsey auf Katholisch” — the balance being half news-half hit piece. The first five paragraphs of the Frankfurter Rundschau’s story summarized the bishops’ press release. It then moved to the attack.

The first voice speaking in response to the news conference was identified as a spokesman for: Die katholische Reformbewegung „Wir sind Kirche“. (The Catholic reform group “We Are the Church”). The label a newspaper gives to an advocacy group is one way it expresses its editorial voice. “We Are the Church” is a group of German and Austrian Catholic clergy and lay people who have been advocating for a change in the church’s teaching on clerical celibacy, women priests, married priests, birth control, homosexuality and so forth. For the Süddeutsche Zeitung these innovations are reforms, e.g., changes for the good.

“We are the Church” takes exception to the findings as well as cites them as an example of the need for the Catholic Church to come over to their way of thinking. Mandatory celibacy is part of the problem, they argue.

„Welche Männer werden Priester? Und wie werden sie in der katholischen Kirche sexuell sozialisiert?“

Roughly translated as: “What kind of man becomes a priest, and how are they sexually socialized in the Church?”

A professor of pastoral theology at the University of Augsburg (and a supporter of We are the Church though that is not mentioned) Fr. Hanspeter Heinz, is then brought on board to criticize the church, this time noting that as half of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse were heterosexual, the church’s ban on homosexual clergy is wrong. And to present the other side of the argument we hear from? … no one.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is not as heavy handed. It offers the same general facts as the Frankfurter Rundschau, but provides some context. Its article Studie sieht bei Priestern keine besondere Pädophilie-Neigung” states that a study conducted by psychologists at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York in 2011 found the same rate of psychiatric disorders among American clergy child sexual abusers.

However, in its closing paragraph, the newspaper’s editorial voice wondered if the cause of clergy sex abuse may be linked to mandatory clerical celibacy.

So bleibt die Frage offen, warum einige Priester offenbar Kinder oder Jugendliche missbraucht haben, obwohl sie nicht unter einer entsprechenden psychischen Störung litten. Spekuliert wird häufig, dass Priester – besonders katholische Geistliche, die im Zölibat leben – möglicherweise ihrem Sexualtrieb dort nachgeben, wo sich eine Gelegenheit bietet. Kinder würden sie dann missbrauchen, weil diese sich im Gegensatz zu Erwachsenen leicht manipulieren lassen und die Täter aus Angst danach nicht verraten.

This leaves open the question of why some priests abused children or teenagers even though, apparently, they did not suffer from a mental disorder. A common speculation that priests — especially Catholic priests who live celibate lives — may yield to their sex drive where the opportunity arises. They would abuse children because in contrast to adults, children can be easily manipulated and the perpetrators have little fear of being betrayed afterwards.

The clerical celibacy angle as a contributing factor in the child abuse scandal should be explored. But in raising this issue on their own, the newspapers should also have included Bishop Ackermann’s statement at the press conference that there was no link between mandatory celibacy and child abuse. Reuters managed to report this — the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Süddeutsche Zeitung should have done so also.

Sloppy reporting or anti-Catholic animus? You decide. Or, does it really matter what the cause of this omission was? The result was these two major German national newspapers mangled the story.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. First printed at Get Religion.

Carlisle vicar sentenced to jail for abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2012 December 5, 2012

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A Carlisle vicar, the Rev. Ronald Johns, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment by the Carlisle Crown Court for child abuse.  On 27 Sept 2012 Johns pled guilty to two charges of indecent assault and four counts of gross indecency against one victim, two charges of gross indecency with a second victim, and two charges of gross indecency with a third.

A statement released by the Diocese of Carlisle on 19 Nov 2012 said that a “prison sentence can never be a matter of pleasure, nor can it put right wrongs that were done, but the sentence given to Ron Johns today is just and fair and reflects the gravity of his offences.”

“We know that those abused are so manipulated by the abuser that they are the ones who end up feeling guilty, while the abuser attempts to excuse himself.  The Diocese of Carlisle therefore hopes that Ron John’s victims will feel that this sentence lays clear the truth:  Ron Johns did wicked things, which were not their fault or responsibility.”

Bishop James Newcome added that “we unreservedly condemn this and any abuse.  Jesus made it clear that those who are most vulnerable should be most precious, and hence safest with the Church.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.  We apologize again to them for failing to take the action we should have done when Ron John’s crimes first came to light.”

In his summing up, Judge Rabinder Singh said he was incarcerating Mr. Johns (75) as a pre-sentence evaluation found him to be a danger to society and that his behavior was manipulative and predatory.

On 15 Oct 2012 Bishop Newcome apologized for the way his predecessor, Bishop Ian Harland, dealt with Mr. Johns after allegations of abuse were raised. After Johns admitted the charges were true, Bishop Harland did not report the incidents to the police but transferred him from his post as canon at Carlisle Cathedral to serve as vicar of Caldbeck and Castle Sowerby with Sebergham in 1994. No charges were pressed by the victims at that time, and the diocese did not inform the police of the accusations or Mr. John’s confession.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Call for Royal Commission on child abuse in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2012 p 7 November 29, 2012

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Anglican leaders in Australia have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s creation of a national Royal Commission to investigate institutional responses to instances of child sexual abuse.

“The Diocese of Sydney expresses its unqualified abhorrence of child abuse, wherever it occurs,” Archbishop Peter Jensen said on 12 November 2012.

“While the terms of reference have yet to be decided, we will work and pray for an outcome that will result in a safer society for the most vulnerable,” Dr Jensen said.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall, voiced his support for the Commission also. “Of the nearly 3.6 million Australians who call themselves Anglican, statistically, one in four women and one in eight men are victims of abuse, so it is something that affects our Church on many levels,” he said.

A spokesman for the Primate said: “A decade ago Brisbane Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall called for a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. His call was dismissed by the Prime Minister of the time, and also rejected at a state level. Archbishop Aspinall believed then, as he does now, that the evil of child sexual assault needs to be addressed nationally, without fear or favour, respecting only the facts.”

On 12 November, the Prime Minister told reporters that she had asked the Governor General to charter a Royal Commission with wide-ranging powers to investigate church, charitable and state child care institutions as well as the responses of child service agencies and the police to allegations of abuse.

The formation of a Royal Commission comes amidst mounting media pressure in Australia to investigate child abuse committed in institutions such as orphanages, hostels and foster care homes. Last week a senior New South Wales police official accused the Roman Catholic Church of covering up child abuse in its institutions and protecting paedophile priests.

“The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking,” Ms Gillard said at a Canberra press conference.

“These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.”

“Australians know… that too many children have suffered child abuse, but have also seen other adults let them down – they’ve not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser but other adults who could have acted to assist them but have failed to do so.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil.

“I believe in these circumstances that it’s appropriate for there to be a national response through a Royal Commission,” the Prime Minister said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pedophile priest sentenced to four years imprisonment: Anglican Ink, November 19, 2012 November 19, 2012

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The Rev.Ronald Johns

A Church of England vicar, who had been shielded by his bishop after charges of sexual abuse were leveled against him 20 years ago, has been sentenced today to four years imprisonment by the Carlisle Crown Court for molesting children.

Judge Rabinder Singh said he was incarcerating the Rev. Ronald Johns (75) as a pre-sentence evaluation found him to be a danger to society and that his behavior was manipulative and predatory.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Retired Bishop of Gloucester arrested for child abuse: Anglican Ink, November 13, 2012 November 13, 2012

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Peter Ball

The former Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Peter Ball has been arrested for child abuse.

On 14 Nov 2012 detectives from the Sussex Police serious crimes unit arrested the retired bishop at his home Manor Lodge in the Somerset village of Aller – a “grace and favour” property owned by the Duchy of Cornwall – and charged him with eight counts of abuse on boys aged 12 to their early 20’s committed approximately 25 years ago while Bishop Ball served as Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester.

In 1993 Bishop Ball resigned after he was cautioned by the police for having committed an act of gross indecency against a teenager. The now 80 year old bishop was licensed to officiate at church services following his resignation, but has not had the license renewed since 2010.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

The Hot Dog theory of history: Get Religion, November 5, 2012 November 6, 2012

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It is touching to see that in spite of everything that has happened over the course of the Twentieth century, there is still a belief in the Whig theory of history — of the inevitable march of progress. One can see this philosophical framework of man’s “move forward into broad, sunlit uplands” in this story on gender violence from the AP’s New Hampshire reporter.

The article entitled “8 Pakistanis tour NH domestic violence programs” recounts the visit to the Granite State of  “women’s rights advocates from Pakistan” underwritten by the U.S. State Department to “learn how to combat domestic violence.” It seems the money expended by the government was not well spent as the situation in New Hampshire is as bad as that in Peshawar. The eight were “stunned by the magnitude of the problem here,” the AP reports.

Opening with the observation:

‘‘All the violence we are facing, you have here,’’ said Ishrat Jabeen Aashi, a gender specialist based in Islamabad.

And closing with:

Aashi said she now feels domestic violence is more of a problem in the United States than it is Pakistan. ‘‘People know how to highlight issues here in the media,’’ she said. ‘‘We cannot give any negative impression of the country.’’

Aashi said Pakistan’s domestic violence issues are more prevalent among the poor and uneducated. ‘‘If we can address the poverty issues and people have enough money to survive, domestic violence will decline,’’ she said.

This article adopts the moral equivalence model of reporting. It accepts without question or verification statements that reflect badly on Western culture but asks nothing about those making the criticisms. If the statements put forward in this article were true, the AP would have a great story on hits hands. Who knew of the rash of honor killings taking place in New Hampshire?

The article also lacks any sense of context and intellectual maturity. Is gender violence in Pakistan the same thing as gender violence in the U.S.? This is not to minimize the problem of domestic abuse in the U.S., but rather to say this story lacks the necessary sophistication to be treated seriously. The terms need to be defined.

In the bad old days, one of Pravda‘s stock stories was to speak of the terrible conditions facing the American working class. Pictures of hard hat construction workers consuming hot dogs for lunch at a job site were proof positive of the superior living standards of homo sovieticus. Are the Russians particularly credulous? Are hot dogs so nekulturny as to be evidence of the superiority of the socialist workers’ paradise? No. Lunch is the main meal in Russia and the casual hot dog consumed from a cart in Manhattan seemed to the ordinary Russian to be a demonstration of his country’s material prowess.

The AP story is written from the hot dog fallacy point of view.  Like the characters from a modern day Ninotchka, the Pakistani visitors in this article praise their home country and culture when on a visit to a foreign land. Might I say, good for them. Always nice to see loyalty to the home side. But the AP might have done a bit better.

This story is framed by the belief that if only the problem of poverty and an inadequate education were resolved, the ills of this world will fade away. I do not dispute that poverty is bad and education a good thing — but morality and ethics play their part as well.

The “I”-word is also not mentioned in the story — Islam. Nor is the question of honor killings, the position of women in Pakistani society, or the treatment of Pakistani women from minority religious groups addressed.

Gender violence is a problem across the world — but it is foolish to think that its causes are limited to the material. This story from the Daily Dispatch from South Africa caught me eye on this point.

Butterworth police spokesman Captain Jackson Manatha said a suspect had been arrested over the murder of the Centane granny in the belief she was a witch. “A 37-year-old suspect has been arrested in connection with her murder.”

“The elderly woman was allegedly attacked and stabbed several times at her home by the suspect, who was accusing her of bewitching his family.”

Viewing the world through a materialist lens does not capture reality. In Africa, gender violence sometimes has a pronounced religious element to it — be it the murder of witches in South Africa or the rape of Christian women by Muslim militias in the Sudan. In Pakistan gender violence is closely tied to the country’s social and religious culture. Can the same be said of gender violence in America? A staple of the anti-Islamist websites is the story of some Muslim sheik somewhere issuing a fatwa approving the beating of women or of a group of men beating a Muslim woman for having offended their religious sensibilities. While it is fun to pick on Pat Robertson, I don’t remember his having gone that far as to having commended spousal violence.

The AP’s gender violence story has a religion ghost, but appears deaf to its shrieks. It is written from the Hot Dog theory of history — assuming words and actions in one culture have an identical meaning in another. They don’t.

First printed in GetReligion.

Bishop of Carlisle offers apology for clergy abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, October 28, 2012 p 4. October 29, 2012

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The Rev. Ronald Johns

The Bishop of Carlisle has met with parishioners of St Kentigern’s Church, Caldbeck in Cumbria to apologize for his predecessor’s handling of allegations of child abuse committed by the church’s former vicar, Ronald Johns.

On 15 Oct 2012, Bishop James Newcome apologised for Bishop Ian Harland’s actions. After allegations of abuse were made against Johns in 1993, Bishop Harland transferred him from his post as canon at Carlisle Cathedral to serve as vicar of Caldbeck and Castle Sowerby with Sebergham in 1994.

While the victims did not press their charges against Johns at that time, on 27 Sept 2012 Johns (75) pled guilty to two charges of indecent assault and four counts of gross indecency against one victim, two charges of gross indecency with a second victim, and two charges of gross indecency with a third.

Following Johns’ plea, the diocese released a statement saying “We have been deeply shocked and grieved by the Rev. Ron Johns’ admission of very serious child sexual abuse. It is right that the highest standards should be expected of clergy – and Mr. Johns has not lived up to his vocation and profession.”

The diocese added that it “too must take its share of responsibility. When the first allegations of abuse were made in 1993, the matter was not well handled by the then Bishop: even though at that time the complainants did not wish to pursue the matter with the Police, it was absolutely wrong that Mr Johns should have been offered another post.

We apologise unreservedly to his victims that we failed to take the action that we should have taken to prevent children and young people being harmed. We also apologise to the parishioners at Caldbeck and recognise the profound and damaging impact on all those affected,” the diocesan statement said.

Bishop Newcome said, “I unreservedly condemn this and any abuse. Jesus made it clear that those who are most vulnerable should be most precious, and hence safest with the Church. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Johns will come before the Carlisle Crown Court on 19 Nov 2012 for sentencing.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Suffolk clergyman pleads guilty to abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, October 28, 2012 p 4 October 29, 2012

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A retired Suffolk clergyman has plead guilty to six charges of indecent assault against young boys.  On 16 Oct 2012, the Rev. Haley Dossor  admitted before the Ipswich Crown Court of having committed the abuse between 1990 and 1994 while serving as vicar of St Mary-at-the-Elms, Ipswich.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock, responded to the guilty plea saying: “Clergy hold a position of trust and whenever such trust is broken it is widely felt, most of all by those who have been directly affected.

“The Church has learnt much over the years and has in place very high standards of safeguarding in this diocese, which I am sure both the police and the local authority will endorse.

“Whilst these events took place a long time ago, it is only right that the Church should acknowledge the broken trust and offer sincere and deep apologies.”

Mr. Dossor (71) has been remanded on bail and is to appear before the Norwich Crown Court next month for sentencing.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bennison to step down: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 6 October 27, 2012

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The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has agreed to step down from office on 31 December 2012.

One of the American Church’s most controversial bishops, Charles Bennison was inhibited in Oct 2007 by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from exercising his ministry as Bishop of Pennsylvania and as a priest when the Episcopal Church’s Title IV Review Committee formally accused him of misconduct.  The Trial Court found him guilty but the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned the conviction. While it found that he had been guilty as charged, the lower court erred in proceeding against Bishop Bennison as the passage of time had tolled the statute of limitations. Bishop Bennison returned to office in August 2010.

In September 2010, the Pennsylvania Standing Committee called upon the House of Bishops for their aid in having Bishop Bennison resign. The Fall 2010 meeting of the House of Bishops subsequently passed a non-binding resolution calling upon Bishop Bennson to submit his “immediate and unconditional resignation.” Bishop Bennison declined.

Charles Bennison notoriety began at the start of his episcopal ministry when he angered Anglo-Catholics for violating an election pledge.  In return for their votes, Charles Bennison promised to give members of the Episcopal Synod of the USA (now Forward in Faith) alternative episcopal oversight from a fellow Angl0-Catholic bishop. After his consecration the new bishop declined to honor his election promise.

Some conservatives responded to Bishop Bennison’s actions and theological statements by refusing to allow him to visit their parishes. In one Easter letter to the diocese he observed that Jesus was a sinner like other men. A series of lawsuits  led to the deposition of a number of clergy and the withdrawal of several congregations. It also marked the first use of the church’s Abandonment Canon, which had hitherto been used to remove clergy from the ministry without trial after they had entered the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Bennison also incurred the enmity of the Standing Committee, who called for the bishop to resign due to his management style, financial dealings, and troubling inter-personal skills.  Past attempts by the standing committee to remove the bishop had proven fruitless, but changes to the rules governing a bishop’s tenure adopted at the July 2012 General Convention in the wake of the Bennison scandals now permit the involuntary dissolution of the bishop’s relationship with his diocese.

In his 9 Oct 2012 letter announcing his resignation, Bishop Bennison said he was leaving the diocese in good shape.

“I have informed the committee that I will retire on December 31, 2012,” Bishop Bennison wrote. “I will do so in the confidence that my work is done.” He will be 69 years of age at that time.  The Pennsylvania Standing Committee is expected to call for the election in early 2013 of a provisional bishop as an interim before beginning the search for a new diocesan.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Appeals court doubles ex-youth worker’s jail time: The Church of England Newspaper, October 6, 2012 p 6. October 11, 2012

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The New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal has doubled the jail sentence of a former youth worker of the Diocese of Newcastle following an appeal by prosecutors.

In April the Director of Public Prosecutions in Newcastle, Australia announced his intention to appeal the sentence of James Michael Brown, 60, a former youth work and member of the staff of St Alban’s Boys’ Home in Aberdare. Brown had pled guilty to charges that he molested 13 boys aged 11 to 17 between 1974 to 1996, committing 38 counts of sodomy and 60 indecent assaultss. On 2 March 2012 the East Maitland District Court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of from six to ten years.

On 18 Sept a three-judge appeals court panel doubled Brown’s sentence to a term of 12 to 20 years imprisonment. The original sentence had been “manifestly inadequate to reflect the seriousness of the offending over 22 years upon 20 victims,” the judgment said.

In a statement released after Mr. Brown’s arrest in 2010, Newcastle Bishop Brian Farran confirmed he had worked for the diocese in the 1970s and early 1980s in a variety of duties, including youth work and as a carer at the St Alban’s Home.  The diocese had assisted the police with their inquiries and was ‘‘strongly committed to addressing the issue of current and historical child sexual abuse in the church,” the bishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Boston priest accused of abuse dies from drug overdose: The Church of England Newspaper, October 7, 2012 p 7. October 8, 2012

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The Rev. Paul LaCharite. Photo: Somerville Police Dept.

The Boston priest accused of child rape has died of drug overdose, the Diocese of Massachusetts reports.

“With sorrow I received news this evening that the Rev. Paul LaCharite has died, an apparent suicide.  This is a shocking tragedy, and I’ve asked our diocesan community to pray for everyone concerned,” Bishop M. Thomas Shaw said in a statement posted on the diocesan website on 26 September 2012.

Boston police are investigating the death of Fr. LaCharite, whose body was found at his home last week. On 7 Sept the Middlesex District Attorney’s office announced that the former rector fo St James Episcopal Church in Somerville, Massachusetts had been charged with multiple counts of child abuse, assault and battery and attempted rape of a young boy, now 26, over a period of ten years. The abuse began when the boy was 7 years of age and ended when Fr. LaCharite retired, the victim alleged.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy,” David Meier, a lawyer for LaCharite, told the Boston Herald. “Fr. Paul LaCharite was truly an innocent man who was driven to the depths of despair by a false accusation.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Boston priest accused of child rape found dead: Anglican Ink, September 27, 2012 September 27, 2012

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Paul LaCharite. Photo: Somerville Police Department

The Massachusetts priest facing charges of attempted child rape and sexual abuse has died.

“With sorrow I received news this evening that the Rev. Paul LaCharite has died, an apparent suicide.  This is a shocking tragedy, and I’ve asked our diocesan community to pray for everyone concerned,” the Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, said last night.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Newcastle dean defrocked: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 7. September 20, 2012

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Graeme Lawrence

The Bishop of Newcastle (Australia) has defrocked three priests for misconduct, including the former Dean of Newcastle, the Very Rev. Graeme Lawrence.

On 10 September 2012 Bishop Brian Farran announced he had accepted the recommendation of the diocesan Professional Standards Board and removed Dean Lawrence, the Rev. Bruce Hoare and the Rev. Andrew Duncan from the ministry.  The Rev. Graeme Sturt was suspended from the ministry for five years, while cathedral organist (and Dean Lawrence’s partner) Gregory Goyette was banned from working in Anglican churches.

“There will be people in Newcastle who will be extraordinarily angry with me, but unfortunately the processes must be followed,” Bishop Farran told the ABC. “The Professional Standards Board considered some very disturbing material and determined that some of the respondents engaged in sexual misconduct, including misconduct when the complainant was a child,” he said.

The five men had been brought up on charges before the Professional Standards Board for sexual abuse and misconduct and on 15 Dec 2010 the board found that Dean Lawrence and Mr. Goyette had engaged in sexual relations with a 17 year old man at a church camp in 1984, and that Mr. Sturt had observed the act and recommended their dismissal.

Dean Lawrence and Mr. Sturt asked the New South Wales Supreme Court to review the proceedings, charging the standards board failed to observe procedural fairness.

On 27 April 2012 NSW Justice John Sackar held the civil courts did not have the authority to intervene in the church’s internal deliberations by issuing an order granting a permanent stay on the proceedings of the standards board, as the standards board was not a statutory tribunal subject to government oversight.  His ruling dismissing the cleric’s appeal did not address the merits of the charges of abuse brought before the standards board, but held the board’s proceedings had not been arbitrary or capricious.

Dean Lawrence, who served as Dean of Newcastle for 25 years until his retirement in 2008, was a member of the Anglican Church of Australia General Synod Standing Committee task force that in 2003 created the recommendations for the current professional standards proceedings.

The 2003 Sexual Abuse Working Group recommended that the church change clergy disciplinary proceedings from an adversarial procedure involving a prosecution for an offence before a tribunal, to panel review process that looked at the fitness of the church worker to hold office.  The Standing Committee subsequently accepted these recommendations, which were subsequently adopted by the 2004 General Synod.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Priest arrested for attempted child rape: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 6. September 17, 2012

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A priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has been arrested by police on suspicion of indecent assault and attempted rape of a young boy.

On 7 September 2012, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office reported the Rev. Paul A. LaCharite (65) had been taken into custody by the Somerville (Mass.) Police Department.

“We allege that this defendant, holding a trusted position within the Episcopal Church, indecently assaulted and touched the victim over several years, only ending his 10-year long predatory abuse of the victim when the defendant left the church,” District Attorney Leone said.

“Our office will continue to prosecute those who harm or exploit children, as they are our most vulnerable victims and most deserving of our protection,” she said.

Fr. LaCharite, who presently serves as priest associate of Old North Church in Boston, is accused of molesting a boy over a period of ten years when he was rector of St James Episcopal Church in Somerville from 1989 to 2005.  According the district attorney’s office, the alleged abuse began when the victim was an elementary school student and continued until Fr. LaCharite’s retirement earlier this year.

Fr. LaCharite is alleged to have begun inappropriately touching the child and progressed over time to acts of indecent assault and attempted rape. The victim reported the assaults to the police earlier this week, and after investigation a warrant was arrested for Fr. LaCharite’s arrest.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Massachusetts told The Church of England Newspaper it was “cooperating fully with the investigation, and is making arrangements for pastoral care for the congregations where Paul LaCharite had affiliations and for Paul LaCharite himself.”

The diocesan spokesman said the church’s “canonical disciplinary process was initiated upon receipt of news from the DA’s Office.  The diocese remains committed to making our congregations safe through transparency, diligence, care for victims and due process.  We face this situation with real sorrow and concern for everyone affected.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Catholic bishop guilty of cover up in U.S. child abuse case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 6 September 16, 2012

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A Missouri state court has found Bishop Robert Finn of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. The 7 September 2012 conviction of Bishop Finn makes him the most senior U.S. Catholic cleric convicted in that church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.

After pleading no contest to the charges and declining to exercise his right to a trial by jury, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrence placed Bishop Finn on probation, ordered him to ensure the diocesan staff implements an effective child abuse prevention programme, and create a fund to pay for the counselling of abuse victims.

Last week’s ruling follows the August conviction by a Philadelphia court of the secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment for covering up child sex abuse by Philadelphia priests.

In May 2010 teachers at a Kansas City parochial school shared their concerns with the bishop over the behavior of Fr. Shawn Ratigan.  The bishop brought Fr. Ratigan into his office and counseled him over “boundary issues” but made no further inquiries into the school’s concerns.

In December 2010 a computer technician discovered a photograph of a child’s genitals on a computer brought in for repair by Fr. Ratigan. Further investigations subsequently discovered hundreds of pornographic photographs of the pudenda of pre-pubescent girls.

Contrary to state law, the bishop did not report the discovery to the police, but after consultation with diocesan lawyers sent Fr. Ratigan to a psychiatrist for an evaluation, who said he did not believe Ratigan was a threat to children.  A parish priest subsequently informed the police of the discovery six months after the diocese learned of the photos.  Fr. Ratigan has been indicted by Federal prosecutors on child pornography charges.

Prosecutors hailed the ruling as a “clear and ringing victory for the victims.”

This decision by the court “helps protect children and continued anonymity for these young victims,” Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said.

“We can be assured now that if an allegation of child abuse comes to the attention of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, there will no hesitation to report it immediately to the proper authorities.”

However, a spokesman for a victims’ rights’ groups disagreed. “Only jail time would have made a real difference here and deterred future horrific cover-ups, anything less will not produce any meaningful reform,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

57 Communists – McCarthyism from The Australian: Get Religion, September 10, 2012 September 11, 2012

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I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.

One thing to remember in discussing the communists in our government is that we are not dealing with spies who get 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprints of new weapons. We are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy. …

This brings us down to the case of one Alger Hiss, who is important not as an individual anymore but rather because he is so representative of a group in the State Department. …

Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wisc.) Congressional Record, 81st Congress, Second Session, Vol. 96, Part 2, 1954-1957.

One month after Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury, Senator Joseph McCarthy began his now famous series of speeches on Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. He told a Wheeling, West Virginia Republican Women’s Club there were 57 Communist spies in the State Department, repeating this charge in a speech to the Senate on 20 Feb 1950.

Exaggeration, hyperbole and guilt by association were among the tools used by Sen. McCarthy in achieving his political ends — and he was also helped by the fact that there had been Communist spies in the U.S. government — Alger Hiss being one.

My mind turned to Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism as I read a story this morning in The Australian, the largest daily newspaper in Australia and a part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire. The article entitled “Fears Anglican abuse linked to Catholics” is filled with exaggeration, hyperbole, guilt by association and the omission of key facts. But yes, there are abusers in this case — though not 57 of them.

The news behind this article is the September 2012 announcement from the Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle, Brian Farran. Acting upon the recommendation of the diocesan professionals standards board he had defrocked three clergy, suspended one priest for five years, and banned a lay employee from further employment in the church for having engaged in sexual misconduct with a teenaged boy.

Here is how The Australian reports this story:

NSW police are investigating allegations four Anglican priests, including the former dean of Newcastle, had sex or were involved in group sex sessions with a teenage boy aged as young as 14.

The establishment of the inquiry, which was referred to police by the church itself, means detectives are now involved in two separate investigations into alleged child abuse by church officials in Newcastle during the 1970s and 80s. The second, Strike Force Georgiana, is investigating the Catholic Church and has charged six priests with pedophile abuse.

While neither police investigation is looking specifically at any connection between members of the two churches allegedly involved in pedophile abuse, detectives believe such relationships may exist. One source within the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle said: “It’s possible there are links. There’s no strong evidence of it, but it’s possible …

“There’s certainly been a strong network up here and they infiltrated the church.”

It is not suggested any of the four priests currently under investigation were involved.

The article then goes into details of the abuse, quoting graphic extracts from the professional standards report. This is followed by:

Each of the four priests has previously denied the allegations against them while a previous police inquiry was suspended after the state Director of Public Prosecutions found there was insufficient evidence to lay charges. Mr Goyette could not be contacted yesterday.

And closes with a statement from the unnamed victim:

In a written statement, M said: “Making my complaint and having it heard has been a long and difficult journey. “I urge anybody else who has had similar experiences to speak out.”

What is wrong with this story? Where is the exaggeration, hyperbole, guilt by association, and omission of facts? Let me start off by saying I have been following this closely for two years and have written a half dozen articles on this story. So I come to this story encumbered with a degree of knowledge.

Let us begin with the lede. It reports that police are investigating the four Anglican clergy for child abuse — and they may be part of a clergy pedophile ring that includes six Catholic priests who are suspected abusers. And then we have an unnamed source within the Diocese of Newcastle saying that it might very well be possible that there is a clergy pedophile ring involving priests from the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland

But then again, the third and fifth paragraphs tells us that there is no evidence of a clergy pedophile ring and the police had investigated the four Anglican clergy once already and had taken no action.

And — the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the actions of the Anglican clergy. Does The Australian work on the principle that any abuse story by any cleric must somehow be tied into the Catholic abuse scandal? As the story states there is no link between the Anglicans and Catholics, what else is this but Catholic-bashing?

What is omitted from this story are several key facts that provide context for this story. Two of the clergy and the lay employee — a cathedral organist — had filed a civil suit that was heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court. They argued the professional standards board process violated natural justice and their due process rights. Supporters of the accused have brought Bishop Farran up on charges for the way he has handled this case. The diocese also halted disciplinary proceedings for over a year while this issue was taken through the civil courts and has defrocked the accused clergy now that the Supreme Court has held that it will not intervene in the church’s internal disciplinary proceedings.

There is omission of the fact that the lay employee, Gregory Goyette — the former organist of the Anglican Cathedral in Newcastle — and the most prominent of the accused, Graeme Lawrence, the former dean of the cathedral are same-sex partners. What we have are five gay men (and Angl0-Catholics) being accused of being part of a pedophile ring by persons unknown. Is it because they are gay men and hence potential pedophiles? That is what I hear in the unnamed quotation in the lede.

By raising the spectre of a pedophile ring and omitting the legal battles and questions about probity of the professional standards board’s actions, The Australian crosses a line. Whether this is a subtle form of gay bashing (“Well, we know that all Anglo-Catholics are like that don’t we”, wink wink) or a case of improving a story — sexing it up — is hard to tell. But to me this smells bad.

One of the odd things about this is that Lawrence, who served as Dean of Newcastle for 25 years until his retirement in 2008, was a member of the Anglican Church of Australia General Synod Standing Committee task force that in 2003 created the recommendations for the current professional standards proceedings.

He was a member of the 2003 Sexual Abuse Working Group that recommended that the church change the clergy disciplinary proceedings from an adversarial procedure involving a prosecution for an offense before a tribunal, to panel review process that looked at the fitness of the church worker to hold office. His complaint to the Supreme Court was that he never had an opportunity to face his accusers or dispute the charges — and now he has been deposed by the process he helped create.

Also — here is what I am not saying. I am not excusing or condoning the behavior described in this article.

There are evil people in this world. Some of the clergy sexual abuse stories I have covered have sickened me, while stories on the cover up of abuse have left me ashamed. Yet in the evil and sickness that I have seen, I am always mindful that the perpetrators of crimes are still human beings — and deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity — even if they never showed this compassion to their victims.

In writing clergy abuse articles there is a temptation to paint the abuser in the blackest of terms. Monster A is as bad as Monster B who is just short of being another Charles Manson. Yet there needs to be nuance and clarity in reporting on these cases so that the truth can be told.

The bottom line in this article is that the whole truth has not been told by The Australian. It throws in a gratuitous and unproven assertion of a pedophile ring, omits important facts that provide context to the case, takes an uncalled for swipe at the Catholic Church, and relies upon an unnamed sources to make its most important point. This is not the way to write a newspaper story. It stinks.

First printed in GetReligion.

Massachusetts priest arrested for attempted child rape: Anglican Ink, Sept 7, 2012 September 8, 2012

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A retired Diocese of Massachusetts priest has been arrested by police and charged on one count of assault to rape a child and three counts of indecent assault and battery.

On 7 September 2012, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office reported the Rev. Paul A. LaCharite (65) had been taken into custody by the Somerville Police Department.

“We allege that this defendant, holding a trusted position within the Episcopal Church, indecently assaulted and touched the victim over several years, only ending his 10-year long predatory abuse of the victim when the defendant left the church,” District Attorney Leone said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Chichester priest arrested for assault: The Church of England Newspaper, September 2, 2012, p 5. September 2, 2012

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A retired Chichester clergyman has been arrested at his home in Eastbourne on suspicion of sexual assault.  On 16 August 2012 the Rev. Robert Coles (71) was charged with 29 counts of sexual abuse committed against three boys between 1978 and 1984 in West Sussex, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.

On 6 March 2012, detectives from the Sussex police child protection team arrested Mr. Coles following a six-month investigation. He was released on conditional bail, but charged last week following further inquiries.

The investigation followed the release of a report prepared last year by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss into the Diocese of Chichester’s child protection practices.  A criminal complaint was lodged against Mr. Coles and investigated by police in 1997, but there was insufficient evidence to support criminal proceedings.

A police spokesman said: “The charges, authorized by the South East Complex Case Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service, follow a nine month enquiry by Sussex Police detectives into these allegations.

“None of the charges relate to any allegations of recent or current offending and police emphasise that there is nothing to suggest that any children are currently at risk.”

The Diocese of Chichester released a statement in March saying it was aware of the arrest and was “co-operating fully with the police and other statutory agencies in all their activities, including this investigation.”

The Bishop of Horsham, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sowerby stated: “We are absolutely committed to making sure that our churches are safe communities for children and vulnerable adults and to giving the highest priority to statutory safeguarding practice and Church of England policies on safeguarding. We owe this to those who have suffered abuse and most especially to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of people exercising a ministry in the name of the Church.”

“We are resolved to do whatever is necessary to prevent the abuse of children and vulnerable adults and to ensure that no one fails victims of abuse by failing to report information or knowledge of wrongdoing to the police.”

Mr. Coles is set to appear at Chichester Magistrates’ Court on 5 September.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.