National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

Activist's challenge to archdiocese began with Weakland

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Steeped in the writings of Camus, Kierkegaard, Simone Weil and Emerson, Peter Isely put his career as a therapist on the line in 1993 when he identified himself as a victim of clerical sex abuse and criticized Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who at the time was lionized by NCR, Commonweal and The New Yorker as a progressive leader of a post-Vatican II church. Weakland had a victim assistance program, Project Benjamin, of which Isely was deeply suspicious.

September trial date set for KC bishop, diocese

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The trial of Bishop Robert W. Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., the first bishop and diocese to face criminal charges in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis, has been set for September.

Finn and the diocese were charged in October by a grand jury in Jackson County, Mo., with separate counts of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was arrested last May for child pornography.

Lawyers for Finn and the diocese met with Jackson County Judge John Torrence on Thursday to set a Sept. 24 trial date in the case. Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Speaking to NCR after the meeting, which was held in the judge's chambers, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said Torrence also set the next pretrial hearing for March 27, when the court would deal with motions from the defense.

Court documents reveal motives for deposing SNAP

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Attorneys seeking the deposition of the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) argued the group had colluded with an attorney representing an abuse victim in violation of a court gag order, and also worried that the advocacy group could be “routinely advising” victims to evade statutes of limitations, according to court filings.

California Supreme Court to decide on statute of limitations in abuse cases

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A major case that could reopen the statute of limitations window for sex abuse victims to file third-party claims is now before the California Supreme Court.

Should the court rule in favor of six brothers who say they were sexually abused by a priest of the Oakland diocese decades ago but only recently linked the abuse to their psychological difficulties, the church in California could see a wave of new clergy abuse lawsuits.

SNAP subpoenas harm key ally for victims

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Bartek Obloj's story defies description.

Before reaching his 14th birthday, Obloj hanged himself in 2007, leaving a note that his parish priest had molested him. (See: Polish church faces demands to confront sex abuse.)

The accused priest, Fr. Stanislaw Kaszowski, was moved to a new parish -- but not before personally celebrating Obloj's funeral Mass. Kaszowski continues in ministry and refuses to testify in court.

Lawsuit claiming harassment filed against KC diocese

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A former employee of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was sexually harassed at work and then fired after making reports to superiors.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court by Larry Probst, alleges that Probst was subjected “to a sexually hostile work environment” because of unwanted sexual advances from another lay employee, “inappropriate and offensive” language in the office in which he worked, and inappropriate messages on diocesan computers. It seeks unspecified back pay and damages.

The diocesan spokesperson confirmed in an email that Probst had worked for the diocese “on an intermittent” basis from June 2005 until June 2011.

“Along with four other positions, Probst’s temporary position was eliminated at the end of the diocesan fiscal year, on June 30, 2011, solely for budgetary reasons,” said the statement. “At the same time, an existing full-time employee with six years of service to the diocese was assigned to offer support to four departments, including the Diocesan Archives.”

Bail reduced for California priest charged with molestation

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A Catholic priest jailed for more than a month on charges of molesting a teenage girl over a two-year period had his bail reduced from $5 million to $700,000 Thursday and is expected to be released within a day.

Fr. Uriel Ojeda, 32, of the Diocese of Sacramento was arrested Nov. 30 after diocesan officials notified police that a relative of the alleged victim had reported the abuse.

During the bail hearing, Deputy District Attorney Allison Dunham told Judge Marjorie Koller the priest had confessed to a diocesan official that he had sexually abused the girl while he was parochial vicar at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland, Calif., his first assignment after his ordination four years ago.

Kevin Eckery, diocesan spokesman, told the Sacramento Bee that Ojeda confessed Nov. 30 during a car ride to Sacramento with diocesan officials who had gone to Redding, where Ojeda had been serving since 2009, to confront him with the allegations and remove him from ministry.

SNAP, Catholic League leaders talk abuse scandal on radio show

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Dave Clohessy and Bill Donohue, leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Catholic League, were interviewed back-to-back Friday morning on a popular St. Louis news-radio show, giving opposite viewpoints on the U.S. clergy sex abuse scandal.

The interviews, part of The Charlie Brennan Show on St. Louis' KMOX station, came one day after it was revealed that SNAP had received a subpoena from lawyers representing the St. Louis archdiocese to submit for deposition in the case of a priest accused of sexual abuse there.

The subpoena is the second SNAP has received so far. Clohessy submitted himself for deposition Monday in a case involving a Kansas City, Mo., priest accused of abuse.

As part of both orders, SNAP has been requested to turn over internal records, correspondence and email dating back 23 years.

Saying his organization had spent more than 300 man-hours deciding how to respond to the legal moves since news of the Kansas City subpoena, Clohessy said the moves by lawyers defending priests accused of abuse will lead to people being "increasingly afraid" to expose priests who might be abusing children.

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