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First time alliance of Catholic pastors and victims of childhood sexual violence by clergy make historic public appeal

Click here to view the advertisement which appears today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Ad

SNAPwisconsin.com

Joint message to appear in a full page advertisement in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday December 27th, 2011

As Archdiocesan bankruptcy deadline looms, group wants survivors to come forward to court by Feb 1st bar date

Group also urging full accounting of child sex crimes in archdiocese, including release of all abuse related documents

Effort part of year-long dialogue between local survivors and priests, anticipated to grow in the coming year

WHAT

For the first time in the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis, a group of priests and clergy sexual assault survivors will jointly publish a statement calling on victim/survivors to come forward and urge public accountability and transparency from church officials. The group, which has been meeting for nearly a year, is specifically hoping that their appeal will bring forward survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the Milwaukee archdiocese to file claims for restitution in federal bankruptcy court before the February 1, 2012 deadline. The statement will appear in a full page Ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday, December 27th.

The group, which was brought together by the current vice chancellor of the Milwaukee archdiocese and the long time Midwest Director of the nation’s largest self-help organization of clergy sexual abuse survivors, or SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), will discuss the process of dialogue which led to the Ad, and the growing interest from priests and survivors in the archdiocese who wish to join together over the next year to develop a common agenda for healing and reform.

WHEN

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011.  1:00 p.m.

WHERE

Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire Street, Milwaukee, WI, Enter on side entrance facing Hampshire Street.

WHO

Several Catholic pastors of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and survivors of clergy sexual assault including Fr. Jim Connell, Vice-Chancellor of the Milwaukee archdiocese, and Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director.  SNAP Wisconsin leaders will also be present including the mother of a survivor.

CONTACT

Fr. Jim Connell, Vice-Chancellor of archdiocese, 414.940.8054

Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259

John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director, 414.336.8575 

Center for Constitutional Rights responds to Dutch Commission Report

Dutch Commission Report Highlights Need for International Response to Clergy Sex Abuse

http://www.ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/dutch-commission-report-highlights-need-international-response-clergy-sex-abuse

CCR Statement

press@ccrjustice.org

December 16, 2011, New York – In light of a report released today by an official commission investigating clergy sex abuse throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:

The extent of child rape and other sexual violence revealed in the commission’s report – as many as 20,000 Dutch children in Catholic institutions – is yet another example of the widespread and systematic nature of the problem of child sex crimes in the Catholic Church. If similar commissions were held in every country, we would undoubtedly be equally appalled by the rates of abuse. But, for every country in which such a commission is held, there are dozens of places in which there is no such investigation, no efforts at accountability, and no meaningful recourse for those who are abused. Moreover, the apologies offered by Dutch bishops are little help to past and future victims if those apologies do not materialize into concrete measures to stop the problem. Instead, as the Dutch commission noted, and as we have seen time and again, the goals of Church leaders including Pope Benedict XVI and other high-level Vatican officials are not to protect children and prevent abuse, but to cover up the sexual violence and avoid scandals. This is precisely why an international response to these crimes, such as CCR’s work with SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Vatican officials for crimes against humanity is critical. Piecemeal investigations and prosecutions simply cannot solve a systematic problem that is actively tolerated and enabled at the highest levels of Church leadership. As the New York Times noted today, CCR and SNAP’s ICC case is ‘the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable’ for rape and other sexual violence.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lengthy and detailed complaint with the International Criminal Court September 13, 2011, on behalf SNAP, a survivor-led support group for clergy sex abuse victims, urging the prosecutor to investigate the Vatican for crimes against humanity for tolerating and enabling the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and sexual violence throughout the world. Together with the complaint, they submitted more than 22,000 pages of supporting evidence consisting of testimonies, police reports, findings of commissions of inquiry and grand juries and other evidence of the crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults.

To learn more about the case, visit http://ccrjustice.org/ICCVaticanProsecution.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

 

Dutch bishops apologize for abuse of thousands of children

The New York Times published the following article:

Dutch bishops apologize for abuse of thousands

LONDON —Roman Catholic bishops in the Netherlands said Friday they offered “sincere apologies” to victims of sexual mistreatment, hours after a report by an official commission said church officials had “failed to adequately deal with” abuse, including rape, affecting as many as 20,000 Dutch children in Catholic institutions.

Continue reading at the NY Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/17/world/europe/thousands-abused-in-church-institutions-dutch-report-says.html?_r=1

The time is now: childhood sexual abuse and statutes of limitations

The following column was written by Sister Maureen Paul Turlish and published in the National Catholic Reporter on December 9, 2011.

Both Pennsylvania and New York will have an uphill battle to get any legislation dealing with the sexual abuse of children discussed, let alone signed into law, regardless of what has been happening lately at Penn State, Syracuse or any other educational, religious, public or private institution.

This is especially true if Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan have anything to do with it.

Both churchmen, along with their respective state Catholic conferences, have drawn lines in the sand in their continued attempts to avoid the accountability and transparency the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed to in 2002 to say nothing of the right everyone has to access justice through this country’s judicial process.

Especially significant are the remarks Dolan made to reporters during the November meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the widening sex abuse scandal at Penn State University to the decades-long crisis in the Roman Catholic Church as if the latter were a thing of the past.

Actually, the archbishop misspoke when he said the present Penn State sexual abuse scandal “over a former football coach accused of sexually abusing young boys reopens a wound for the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.”

The “wound” Dolan refers to never closed. It is a “wound” that has continued to fester since the Archdiocese of Boston imploded in 2002, revealing a massive cover-up by the hierarchy.

It is an open, festering wound in places like the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where the criminal trial of Msgr. William Lynn and four others begins in March 2012.

It festers, too, in Missouri, where Bishop Robert Finn has been criminally charged for not reporting the pornography found on a priest’s computer as required by law. It festers in New York, where individuals like State Assemblywoman Marge Markey continue to press for legislation that gives some recourse to the justice that has long been denied to all older victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Even though investigators said charges against Syracuse University Coach Bernie Fine were credible, he could not be charged because of arbitrary and discriminatory statutes of limitation.

Why does this “wound” remain open 10 years after the U.S. bishops mandated accountability and transparency?

Well, for one thing, the bishops of the United States have never really admitted, individually or collectively, to their part in covering up for clergymen known to have sexually exploited children, young people and vulnerable adults while failing miserably to protect the most precious of their charges — the children.

Yes, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has “a long way to go,” to use Dolan’s words, in making up for the egregious crimes and mortal sins that have been committed against children, but “failures” and “mistakes” are words that do not begin to describe the agony thousands of children were left to go through while the few adults who dared to confront pastors or bishops over the behavior of rogue priests were bullied, harassed and intimidated into silence, often with threats of eternal damnation and, of course, counter-suits.

These were crimes against the very humanity of children for whom there was no recourse to justice in the majority of cases because of the arbitrary, discriminatory and grossly inadequate statutes of limitation that exist in most states.

Dolan offered to work with “Penn State administrators on a national education campaign to stop abuse.”

Does Dolan actually believe that the Roman Catholic Church has set some kind of a gold standard, either in regard to confronting the incidence of sexual abuse by clerics or in taking responsibility for the orchestrated cover-up by church leadership that followed?

It has not.

In a recent conversation with Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today, Dolan offered to share the supposed wealth of experience the bishops have in successfully dealing with the church’s problems.

What chutzpah.

On Monday, Pennsylvania state Representative Dennis O’Brien convened an informational meeting of the House Children and Youth Committee, of which he is the majority chair. Along with Rep. Louise Bishop, who made public her own sexual abuse some weeks ago, O’Brien heard from eight individuals, including victims, a deceased victim’s parent, advocates, the former deputy district attorney from Philadelphia who is now a senior prosecutor in Lehigh County and a constitutional lawyer and author from New York.

O’Brien made known his intentions to introduce a package of five bills to protect children — House Bills 2046 through 2050 — some sections of which repeat portions of House Bills 832 and 878, which were introduced March 1, before revelations of sexual abuse at Penn State became public.

What the scandals at Penn State, Syracuse and elsewhere make clear is that while the cover-up of sexual abuse by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was widespread, systemic and endemic to a particular one religious denomination, the sexual abuse and exploitation is not particularly peculiar to this one institution.

That having been said, the question remains, How can the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church ethically or morally justify its opposition to legislation that would better protect all children while holding all sexual predators and their enablers accountable, regardless of religious affiliation?

Through its bishops and state Catholic conferences, the Roman Catholic Church is the most powerful institution opposing better child protection legislation in this country, bar none.

Dolan has been very vocal in his opposition to any proposed legislation in the state of New York that has sought to hold either sexual predators or enablers accountable.

In seeking to shield the Roman Catholic Church from the accountability and transparency it was forced to promise in 2002, such opposition now gives more protection to sexual predators — whether they are parents, ministers, priests, imams, rabbis, doctors, teachers or coaches at universities like Syracuse or Penn State — than to the victims themselves.

In opposing legislative reform in New York, Dolan is not unlike Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput in Pennsylvania, who has united with the Commonwealth’s bishops and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference in opposing any legislation that would enable victim/survivors of childhood sexual abuse to access justice, no matter when they were sexually exploited or by whom.

Archbishops Dolan and Chaput, along with most of their fellow bishops, haven’t a clue as to the suffering that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church’s has caused and continues to inflict on sexual abuse victims because they have never been truly accountable or transparent.

No one in the Catholic community has suffered more than the innocent children whose minds, hearts and souls were torn asunder by those who stood in the place of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Baltimore’s former archbishop, Cardinal William Keeler, correctly described such horrific sexual abuse by a trusted minister of God when he used the term “soul murder,” for it truly is that.

Dolan, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, should be at the head of the parade in advocating for the removal of all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children, but he is not heading up that parade, and neither is Chaput.

Such behavior can only signal an insidious moral and ethical bankruptcy that should be repugnant to all.

[Maureen Paul Turlish is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, an educator and an advocate for legislative reform. She is a founding member of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and a member of the Justice 4 PA Kids Coalition.]

La Crosse diocese modernizes child sex abuse policies

The following story aired on WKBT Channel 8 La Crosse on December 6, 2011

Reporter: Jenna Troum

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ct9eC3PU6o&feature=channel_video_title

Sex offending cleric working in Australia found living in the United States

The Age, a news source in Australia, reported this past week on the case of Brother Bernard Hartman.  Hartman is a member of the Marianist religious order.  The Marianists state that they look to the Blessed Mother as their model of discipleship. Brother Hartman admitted to church officials in Australia that he sexually assaulted a child.  The victim of his assault, Mairead Ashcroft, has been publicly speaking out about her efforts to hold Hartman accountable.

Ashcroft states that in 1999 she went to church officials to report that Hartman had sexually assaulted her when she was eight years old.  The church officials who received this report failed to contact the police.  Ashcroft stated “The church never wanted the police to know about it or suggested that the complaint be taken to the police”. “I assumed they had because it involved a child sexual assault but they never did”.

Brother Hartman admitted to the assault in a letter that he wrote to Ashcroft.  In the letter he wrote that he regretted “the hurt I caused you…I know I have been the cause of this hurt and I do acknowledge my part in that.  I am sorry”.

The Marianists not only failed to report Hartman’s crime to the police, they allowed him to remain in the United States where he was living at the time of Ashcroft’s report.  The Marianists in the United States pledged to their Australian counterparts that they would “keep a close watch on Brother Bernard”.

Since The Age first reported this story additional victims have come forward to report their own sexual violation at the hands of Bernard Hartman.  It is expected that with these new reports of criminal activity the Victoria Police in Australia may be able to extradite Hartman back to their country to face the justice that he has escaped for so many years.

The Age is also reporting that Mairead Ashcroft’s report in 1999 to church officials was not the first one they had received against Hartman.  Another woman has come forward to report that in 1993 she informed church officials that Hartman had sexually assaulted her.  Church officials assured her that the order would “monitor” Hartman.  She now states that “I’d like him returned to Australia and to be charged and jailed.  That is what the victims deserve from our justice system”.

A youth worker who was a colleague of Hartman in the 1970’s has also has come forward to report that Hartman showed students pictures of genitalia and masturbated in front of a young woman.

The case of Brother Hartman has come to light as a result of an employee at Catholic Care, a social welfare agency in Australia, who came forward to voice his frustration at how the church responded to reports of sexual assault by members of its clergy.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the Roman Catholic diocese of Cincinnati has confirmed that Brother Hartman is now living and working in Dayton Ohio.  The spokesman for the diocese stated that Hartman is on a “safety plan” which does not allow him to work with young people or vulnerable women.

The spokesperson for the Marianist Province commented that “he’s doing clerical work, he’s basically stuffing envelopes.  It’s an all adult environment and he’s very well supervised”.  The “safety plan” that Hartman is on was approved by Praesidium, a risk management company hired by the religious order.

If Hartman is indeed “stuffing envelopes” it is time for him to end his clerical career in the United States and immediately return to Australia, turn himself in to law enforcement officials, and face the criminal justice system.

The case of Brother Hartman begs the question, how many other sex offending clerics from overseas have taken up residence in the United States and are now posing a threat to our children?

Unfortunately the answer to that question is known only to church officials themselves.  It is time for the Marianists and every other religious order to publicly identify those clerics in their order who have sexually assaulted our children.  Parents and the community need this information to keep our youngsters protected and safe.

Questions still remain after Clauder verdict

December 5, 2011 

SNAPwisconsin.com 

Questions still remain after Clauder verdict

Statement by John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director

CONTACT 414.336.8575

Although the jury could not agree on whether Fr. Joseph Clauder had committed these particular acts he was charged with, the District Attorney is to be applauded for bringing this case, knowing it was going to be a difficult and complicated undertaking, especially given the delay in reporting and the vast number of people, including several church officials, who had talked to the victim long before the police did.

Because most victims, understandably, do not come forward immediately, and if they do there is typically a delay in reporting, it is essential that victims and witnesses to any sexual assault find professional support and then report the crime to police and law enforcement. When the alleged offender is a person of influence and power in the community, not just in one’s family, as was the case of the reported assault by Fr. Clauder, victims are easily intimidated and terrorized into not reporting.

We know why victims don’t report being sexually assaulted or delay reporting the crimes to police. Hopefully, the recent child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and the much longer and acute crisis of clergy sexual crimes in the Catholic church–whose vast dimensions are still being uncovered–is educating victims, witnesses, and the public that only a timely criminal justice intervention will stop most predators from committing further crimes.

Disturbing questions, besides the problems with reporting, remain with this case. Why has it taken the Madison diocese, after nearly 20 years of reports of sexual misconduct against Clauder—reports which include abusing both vulnerable adults and minors—so long to conclude he should not be a priest. Yet even with the unusual step of his own bishop wanting him out of the priesthood, Clauder today still retains the official occupational title of a Roman Catholic priest because the Vatican, located thousands of miles away and with little expertise in sexual abuse cases, has the final decision on Clauder.

That is why nearly two years ago, after it was learned that Bishop Morlino was forwarding more recent reports of sex crimes by Clauder and other priests to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and not to local law enforcement, SNAP urged Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Von Hollen to look into how the diocese was handling these cases. Shouldn’t the local police and district attorney investigate child sex crimes in Wisconsin and not some Italian monsignor in Rome?

Just last month a priest in Minnesota was criminally convicted of the very sexual misconduct Clauder admitted to in the diocese 20 years ago while he was a chaplain in a Madison area hospital. Regardless of what the outcome of this recent trial would have been, if Clauder had been in any other licensed or credentialed occupation in the state of Wisconsin—a teacher, a psychologist, a social worker—the sexual misconduct reported against him years ago, against adults alone, would likely have been sufficient under Wisconsin law to permanently remove him from practice and he would have been arrested under the state’s sexual exploitation by a therapist stature.

The entire Clauder saga is a cautionary tale: it must be the police, and only the police, who should be investigating sex crimes–not bishops, priests, church officials and corporate lawyers—all of whom have an obvious conflict of interest, no matter what their motives. Although diocesan officials did testify in this case, or likely face subpoena, by the time police had talked to the victim, witnesses, and gathered evidence, all kinds of priests and interested parties had been to the crime scene first.

And that, just like Penn State, has to change.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our national website is SNAPnetwork.org.