Clergy sex abuse roundup: Court blocks release of landmark report

Legal fees

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on June 25 struck a blow against clergy sexual abuse survivors by ordering a stay on a completed landmark report that is among the most expansive investigations into clergy abuse in the country, dating back decades.

The order prohibits Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro from publishing the grand jury’s findings, and postpones the report’s release indefinitely. 

Mark Rozzi, a Pennsylvania state representative and clergy abuse victim, was upset when he heard the report wouldn’t be released.

“It’s like the M.O. of the church,” Rozzi told the Daily Beast. “The only thing they’re concerned about is protecting themselves and their own image. They’re not concerned about protecting the victims. They’ve done what they’ve always done to us: put us out on the curb, and hope we go away, or we die.” 

According to one of the few court documents that has been made public, the case has drawn dozens of witnesses and nearly a half-million pages of internal church documents. It has focused on alleged crimes and misconduct by “individuals associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders” — and could implicate hundreds of people.

As a result, the 884-page report was the target of an intense legal battle. A group of unnamed individuals have won, at least for now, a fight to withhold its public release.

They claimed that “the reputation interest of the non-indicted named persons will be harmed by the release of the report.”

According to the Daily Beast, bishops from all six dioceses have denied filing the motion or doing anything to inhibit the report’s release.

The attorney general’s investigation has zeroed in on six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses: Allentown, Scranton, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Erie.

The grand jury report is not expected to include criminal charges, according to people familiar with the content. Yet it is bound to have sweeping legal and political implications, including reviving the emotional fight in the Legislature over whether victims of long-ago abuse should have the chance to sue their abusers and the people and institutions who covered it up.

“I’m not a politician, but if I was, I’d be pretty scared,” said James Faluszczak, a former priest in the Diocese of Erie who was among the victims to tell the grand jury about the abuse he experienced as a teenager.

A similar investigation in 2016 explored abuse allegations in Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown diocese, and the explosive resulting report found as many as 50 priests and religious leaders guilty of child sexual abuse—and many others guilty of participating in a nearly 50-year coverup.

“This failure was colossal. It was nothing less than organized crime,” Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Vereb told The New York Times. “There was no chance, if you were a victim, that you were going to get justice.”

Minn. archdiocese OKs $210 million payment

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reached a $210 million settlement agreement with 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse as part of a bankruptcy reorganization, officials announced June 1.

At $210,290,724, it is thought to be the second-largest payout by the Catholic church in the United States, according to the Associated Press. It comes after nearly four years of bankruptcy proceedings and negotiations. Individual awards have not been determined.

“I have been fighting in court with the church now for 13 years. … This has been a long day coming, “Jim Keenan said, battling tears, according to AP. “If anybody out there is wondering, ‘Do I have the legs to stand up under my voice?’ You absolutely do. Even when you’re kneeling. Even when you’re stumbling. You got the legs to stand up and hear your voice,” he said.

Insurance carriers will pay about $170 million of the settlement while the archdiocese and parishes will pay about $40 million, according to Abood.

The largest clergy abuse-related settlement was in 2007 by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which paid 508 victims $660 million.

90+ seek compensation from Buffalo Diocese

More than 90 people filed claims for sexual abuse compensation with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Diocese by its June 1 deadline.

Bishop Richard Malone didn’t reveal how many people applied, how many priests are being accused in the claims, or how much money the diocese is willing to pay out.

The diocese has been rocked in recent months by a continuing scandal over its cover-up of clergy sexual abuse dating back decades. A retired priest’s admission in February that he had molested dozens of boys during his stints at multiple parishes in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s led to revelations of other sex abuse cases and the uncovering of how those abuses were kept secret for so long.

In March, Malone launched the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), publicized the names of 42 diocesan priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and apologized to individual victims.

But some victims and their advocates continue to criticize Malone’s handling of the crisis, saying the bishop was more concerned with protecting the diocese’s reputation and assets than with getting to the bottom of the scandal, protecting children and helping victims heal.

The compensation program is being administered by two retired judges who were contracted by the diocese. The judges will determine which applicants get settlements and how much money they receive.

Eight Rochester priests accused of sexual abuse

A Boston attorney who has spent decades representing victims of sexual abuse called on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., to release records it may hold concerning allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy.

Mitchell Garabedian named eight priests from the Rochester diocese who are accused of sexually abusing minor children. A group of 15 men and two women, now grown, say they were abused by these priests when they were children.

Garabedian said the incidents took place between 1950 and 1978 when the alleged perpetrators were assigned to churches in the Rochester diocese.

He called on Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano to release any records he has about allegations of sexual abuse against priests, including so-called “secret files,” so the public can know who the accused priests are and what their supervisors did to respond to allegations.

Garabedian is a Boston attorney who rose to prominence representing survivors of sexual abuse by priests there in the 1990s and 2000s. He was portrayed by actor Stanley Tucci in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” which chronicled the case.

To date, his firm has represented more than 1,000 victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

Priest accused of sex
abuse in Guam missing

Father Adrian Cristobal, who was on sabbatical in Phoenix until recently and is accused of sexually abusing two boys more than 20 years ago in Guam, has not returned to the island as ordered by the church.

Two men filed separate civil suits in federal court in Guam in April and May accusing Cristobal of sexual abuse.

Cristobal had arrived in Phoenix in December 2017 for sabbatical with a letter of good standing, the Phoenix Diocese said in a written statement to The Arizona Republic. The Phoenix Diocese said it removed his faculties, or his ability to perform church sacraments, after the first suit was filed in April.

Diocese spokesman Rob DeFrancescso said Cristobal had called them in April, saying he was at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport “presumably heading to Guam.” The local diocese hasn’t heard from him since, DeFrancescso said.

The Guam church has been rocked by numerous allegations against priests, which came after the territory lifted the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in 2016. Three Arizona residents are among those claiming sexual abuse by Catholic church leaders on the Pacific island.

Pope ousts bishop in Chile’s abuse scandal

Pope Francis on June 11 accepted the resignations of the bishop at the center of Chile’s clerical sex abuse scandal and two other priests, beginning a purge of the Catholic Church in a country where it had been damaged by abuse and cover-up accusations.

A Vatican statement said the pope had accepted the resignations of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt.

Barros, 61, has been at the center of Chile’s growing scandal ever since Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno in 2015 over the objections of the local faithful, his own sex abuse prevention advisers and some of Chile’s other bishops. They questioned Barros’ suitability to lead, given he had been a top lieutenant of Chile’s most notorious predator priest.

In May, Francis summoned Chile’s church leaders to Rome after realizing he had made “grave errors in judgment” about Barros, whom he had defended strongly during a visit to Chile in January.

Also in Chile, police raided the offices of the Catholic Church in two cities June 13, seizing documents related to a sex abuse scandal that has led to the resignation of three bishops.

Police targeted the Santiago Ecclesiastical Court and the bishop’s office in Rancagua in the O’Higgins region in central Chile. Fourteen priests are accused of performing sexual acts on minors, the AP reported.