National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

A priest disappears

How attitudes around the world are changing towards clerical sexual abuse, and the struggles that remain, were both on display this week in the story of Salvatorian Fr. Joseph Henn and his disappearance from Rome ahead of an Italian extradition order.



In 2003, Henn was accused of sexually abusing three minor males while working in Phoenix between 1979 and 1981. When the charges surfaced, he was stationed at the order's Rome headquarters. Prosecutors in Maricopa County in Arizona sought extradition.

Henn denied the charges and resisted extradition, but decisions in two lower Italian courts went against him. During this time, Henn was under house arrest. The final blow came July 27, when Italy's high court again rejected his appeal and gave the Ministry of Justice 45 days to carry out the extradition.

In response, Henn fled. Salvatorian authorities issued a statement saying they are "surprised and saddened at the sudden disappearance."

The fact that three Italian courts ruled for extradition has been hailed as a sign that even in a country long deferential to the clergy, the legal system will no longer tolerate sexual abuse.

Take a look inside our August 29 edition. Watch now.
screen-shot_FB-video-promo-8-29.jpg

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests, told NCR July 28 that the Italian decision was a sign that "the ground is shifting."

On the other hand, Clohessy and others expressed dismay that the Salvatorians did not insist from the beginning that Henn return to the United States, and that now he has escaped their supervision.

As a footnote, while priests sought on charges of abuse have been extradited from other countries, a spokesperson for the U.S. bishops' conference told NCR July 28 that Henn's case would "apparently" have been the first time it happened in Italy. Observers see that as telling, given the strong influence of the church in Italian affairs.

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is jallen@ncronline.org

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

August 29-September 11, 2014

08-29-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.