Archive for March, 2012
Finally someone is trying to bring these monsters to justice. This guy knew what he was doing, and he knew directly the consequences of his actions. He knew the priests that he was shuffling around were still raping little children, so he just kept shuffling them around to more unsuspected parishes. Now if this isn’t criminal behavior of the worse kind, then I don’t know what is.
This article from the New York Times:
March 26, 2012
By ERIK ECKHOLM and JON HURDLE
The landmark trial of a senior official of the Philadelphia Archdiocese who is accused of shielding priests who sexually abused children and reassigning them to unwary parishes began on Monday with prosecutors charging that the official “paid lip service to child protection and protected the church at all costs.”
The defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic supervisor in the country to be tried on felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy — not on allegations that he molested children himself, but that he protected suspect priests and reassigned them to jobs where they continued to rape, grope or otherwise abuse boys and girls.
One of Monsignor Lynn’s lines of defense was indicated in an opening statement when his lawyers suggested that he had acted responsibly and reported allegations of abuse to higher officials, including a recently deceased cardinal.
The trial is a milestone, legal experts said, in the legal battles lasting decades over sex abuse by priests. For years, many Catholic dioceses have been battered by civil suits seeking monetary damages for failing to stop errant priests. More recently, prosecutors have brought criminal charges against abusers.
“What has not happened up to now is for church officials to be held criminally accountable,” said Timothy D. Lytton, a professor of law at the Albany Law School and an expert on Catholic abuse cases.
Whatever the outcome, he said, this trial “will dramatically increase the pressure on diocese officials to fulfill the church’s promises to be more transparent and accountable.”
More immediately, the trial promises to further roil the 1.5 million-member Philadelphia Archdiocese, which was convulsed by grand jury reports in 2005 and 2011 alleging that it had not responded forcefully to dozens of credible abuse complaints and had allowed known offenders to have continued contact with children.
From 1992 to 2004, Monsignor Lynn, who maintains he is innocent, was secretary of the clergy in the archdiocese, directing priests’ job assignments and handling complaints about their behavior.
An assistant district attorney, Jacqueline Coelho, told the jury that Monsignor Lynn had repeatedly played down credible reports of child abuse, stashing them away in secret files.
“The victims are met with skepticism, and the priests are believed at all costs,” Ms. Coelho said in a 58-minute opening statement in Common Pleas Court.
The scathing grand jury report released in January 2011, which led to the charges, described examples in which Monsignor Lynn “knowingly allowed priests who had sexually abused minors to be assigned to positions where unsuspecting parents and teachers would entrust children to their care.”
The report alleged that Monsignor Lynn had acted with the leader of the archdiocese at the time — Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died in January — to shield the archdiocese from scandal and financial liability.
As the trial began, Monsignor Lynn, sitting between two lawyers and dressed in a black suit with a clerical collar, answered “not guilty” to all charges. He could face up to 28 years in prison if convicted of the two counts of endangerment and two counts of conspiracy.
Thomas Bergstrom, a defense lawyer, said in his opening statement on Monday that his client had reported abuse allegations to senior, clergy including Cardinal Bevilacqua.
“Everything that Monsignor Lynn did with respect to the allegations of abuse was put in writing and sent up the chain,” Mr. Bergstrom said.
He also attacked prosecution assertions that Monsignor Lynn had been responsible for appointing suspect priests to positions where they could prey on more children. “The only man in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that could appoint a priest to any location is Cardinal Bevilacqua,” Mr. Bergstrom said.
Mr. Bergstrom also said the cardinal had directed the shredding of a list of suspected or actual sex offenders Monsignor Lynn obtained from a “secret archive file.”
The trial is likely to feature the videotaped testimony of Cardinal Bevilacqua, who died of cancer and dementia at age 88.
The 2011 grand jury report stated that Monsignor Lynn “was carrying out the cardinal’s policies exactly as the cardinal directed,” but that because of gaps in evidence and Cardinal Bevilacqua’s ill health, “we have reluctantly decided not to recommend charges” against him.
Prosecutors have not ruled out further indictments of senior church officials.
Monsignor Lynn is being tried together with a priest, the Rev. James J. Brennan, 49, who is charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996, after Monsignor Lynn failed to act on complaints about Father Brennan. Father Brennan also pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer questioned the accuser’s credibility.
The trial originally was to include a third defendant, Edward V. Avery, 69, a defrocked priest who was charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999, years after Mr. Avery had been reported for sexual abuse and had been treated at a hospital for sex offenders, facts that Monsignor Lynn allegedly knew. Last week, Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to rape and conspiracy was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.
As the trial began, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina warned the jury of six men and six women to disregard Mr. Avery’s absence. It was not clear if his guilty plea would figure in the trial.
Prosecutors intend to present more than 20 other examples of abuse charges that they assert were mishandled by the archdiocese. The trial is expected to last for at least two months.
In October, the bishop of the Kansas City Diocese was indicted on a misdemeanor charge, accused of failing to report suspected child abuse. The bishop, Robert W. Finn, allegedly waited six months to tell the police that a priest had been taking lewd photographs of girls. A trial is scheduled for September, although on Tuesday a judge will consider the bishop’s motion to dismiss the charges.
The felony trial of Monsignor Lynn, alleging a systematic cover-up of abuses over many years, appears likely to have a far broader impact on the church, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy and support group known as SNAP.
“To see one of their peers facing jail time for what he has done over many years to endanger kids,” he said, “has the possibility of sending a much more alarming message to current and former Catholic officials across the country.”
Erik Eckholm reported from New York, and Jon Hurdle from Philadelphia.
Religion: Faith: Healthy v. Neurotic
Theologically speaking, faith is a gift of God. But in the cold-eyed view of the trained psychiatrist, religious belief may also be a cover-up for deep inner anxiety and a cause of neurosis. Dr. Leon Salzman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Georgetown University medical school, argues that it is often difficult “to determine where religion ends and disease begins.” At the annual meeting in Washington of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health, a number of psychiatrists and clergymen tried to define the tenuous borderline between healthy and neurotic faith.
Church-Induced Guilt. Both clergymen and doctors agreed that authoritarian religion can be a major source of neurosis. Salzman noted some symptoms of unhealthy faith that often show up among new adherents to dogmatic churches: “an irrational intensity of belief” in the new doctrine, greater concern for form and theology than for…
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March 20, 2012
BRUSSELS — A young man in the care of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands was surgically castrated decades ago after complaining about sexual abuse, according to new evidence that only adds to the scandal engulfing the church there.
The case, which dates from the 1950s, has increased pressure for a government-led inquiry into sexual abuse in the Dutch church, amid suspicions that as many as 10 young men may have suffered the same fate.
“This case is especially painful because it concerns a victim who was victimized for a second time,” said Peter Nissen, a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands. “He had the courage to go to the police and was castrated.”
It is unclear, however, whether the reported castration was performed as a punishment for whistle-blowing or what was seen as a treatment for homosexuality.
In 2010, about 2,000 people complained of abuse by priests, church institutions or religious orders in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church commissioned an inquiry. It finally concluded that the number of actual victims over several decades could be 10 times higher.
That committee, led by Wim Deetman, a former education minister, was presented with evidence of the castration case when it was contacted by a friend of the young man, who was castrated in 1956, two years before his death in a road accident.
Since the case emerged, the Deetman Commission has issued a detailed justification of its actions, contending that it was unable to reach any conclusions on the case from the evidence at its disposal.
The victim, Henk Heithuis, lived in Catholic institutions from infancy after being taken into care. When he complained about sexual abuse to the police, Mr. Heithuis, 20 at the time, was transferred to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel, where he was castrated.
Cornelius Rogge, a sculptor whose family became friends with Mr. Heithuis, informed the Deetman Commission about the case, contacting an investigative journalist and author, Joep Dohmen, when there was no clear sign of a follow-up.
On Dutch television, Mr. Rogge described how he knew that the castration had taken place and said he believed that there were other victims.
“We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were not present,” Mr. Rogge said. “He did that. He was totally maimed. That was a huge shock for us, of course.”
Mr. Heithuis had also described his ordeal verbally, Mr. Rogge said.
“He was strapped to a bed,” Mr. Rogge said, describing Mr. Heithuis’s statement. “In one stroke, his scrotum was cut out. Then he was taken to an infirmary to rest and recover. Then the other boys received the same treatment. He could hear them screaming.”
Mr. Dohmen, the investigative journalist who broke the news in the daily NRC Handelsblad, said that correspondence from the 1950s and Mr. Heithuis’s testimony to Mr. Rogge suggested that there could have been an additional nine cases. Mr. Dohmen said he uncovered another case. A gay man, who had not been abused, was also castrated, he said. That man has asked that his identity not be made public.
Mr. Dohmen said he could not provide further evidence of the other possible victims.
In an e-mailed comment, Mr. Rogge said he believed that the castration was a punishment.
Mr. Dohmen said that the man accused of abusing Mr. Heithuis was investigated but not prosecuted. He was transferred to Nova Scotia, where he started a home for boys.
Several hundred women’s rights activists have demonstrated outside Morocco’s parliament to demand the repeal of a law on sexual violence.
Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to marry his victim if she is a minor as a way of avoiding prosecution.
A 16-year-old girl, Amina Filali, killed herself a week ago after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist.
The protesters held signs saying, “The law has killed Amina”.
The parents of Amina Filali were at the protest, says the BBC’s Nora Fakim, in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
They say their daughter was pressured by a local court into marrying her rapist, who then abused her.
She died after swallowing rat poison on 10 March.
Her case has shocked many in Morocco. Women’s rights groups have started an online campaign to have the law – article 475 – repealed. A Facebook page called “We are all Amina Filali” has been set up.
The protest is an attempt to change attitudes concerning sex before marriage, especially in cases of rape, where the woman can sometimes be regarded as the criminal rather than the victim in order to preserve the family’s honour.
Fouzia Assouli, the president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, says the removal of article 475 would be a step forward in changing conservative attitudes.
However, the protesters feel let down by the lack of response from the government and are furious at the justice minister, who has not been willing to open an inquiry into Ms Filali’s suicide.
The demonstrators want women’s rights to be respected, not violated, and they want to help poor women such as Ms Filali to be able to stand up for themselves.
“What we have witnessed is scandalous. We have had enough. We must change this law, we must change the penal code,” said Fouzia Assouli, the president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights.
Ms Filali came from the small northern town of Larache, near Tangiers.
In poor, conservative rural areas such as this, it is unacceptable for a woman to lose her virginity before marriage – and the dishonour is hers and her family’s even if she is raped, our correspondent says.
The legal age of marriage in Morocco is 18, unless there are “special circumstances” – which is the reason why Ms Filali was married despite being under-age.
A judge can only recommend marriage if all parties involved agree – but activists say pressure is often applied to the victim’s family to avoid a scandal.
Ms Filali’s father said that when he reported the rape of his daughter, he was advised of the option to marry by court officials.
“The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry. He said, ‘Go and make the marriage contract’,” Lahcen Filali told an online newspaper, goud.ma.
Campaigners are also calling for the judge who allowed the marriage and the rapist to be jailed.
Simon Williams, 56, a pastor, had been discharged from an intensive care unit on Friday before attending the “Higher Life World Conference”, where televangelist Chris Oyakhilome was said to perform miracles and cure the sick.
It was believed another person may have died in hospital after also attending the conference.
About six other seriously ill people were rushed from the stadium to hospital on Friday evening.
Hundreds of sick and disabled people queued outside the stadium on Sunday, the last day of the conference.
According to the report, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled last year that the Christ Embassy church could not prove its pastors could perform healing miracles, and had to withdraw all such television adverts.
– Were you at the conference? Send us your story.