COLUMBUS, Ga. -- The 22nd annual SOA Watch gathering at the gates of Fort Benning drew its smallest crowd in more than a decade Saturday and Sunday. The lower turnout did not faze organizers but left some venders feeling the sting of lower profits.
If the Catholic community has anything to offer from its experience with the awful sex abuse scandal, it is that the problem is complex and involves human and institutional dynamics and reactions that often run contrary to everything we consider right and just.
How does it happen? The exploration of that question will likely go on for a very long time, heightened now and again by events such as the accusations against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The current news prompted Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author and culture editor for America magazine, to appear on a video about an aspect of the problem -- the "grandiose narcissist" -- that he learned about during a conference on the church's problems. It is an element of the problem that has been discussed at length by psychiatrists and psychologists at conferences and in papers, but it's not been included often enough in the wider, popular discussion.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The county prosecutor who brokered a deal with the local bishop to give his office immediate oversight of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese's sex abuse reporting procedures says the agreement could be a model for other jurisdictions.
He also dismissed criticism that he let Bishop Robert Finn off easy by not charging him with failure to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor.
Speaking to NCR by phone, Clay County, Mo., prosecutor Daniel White said he decided to pursue the diversion agreement partly because it "cuts to the chase" and makes sure future cases of sexual misconduct are reported to the police.
Moreover, even if he were able to gain a conviction against Finn for his handling of the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, White said it would be for a misdemeanor.
"In the range of punishment for a misdemeanor, the maximum is a year in the county jail," White said. "Given the facts and circumstances surrounding what happened, I thought that I got the biggest bang for my buck with this agreement."
VATICAN CITY -- A Catholic movement based in France has acknowledged with "humility and repentance" that acts of sexual abuse were committed by its founder and other important members of the organization.
The Community of the Beatitudes, in a statement posted on its French website Nov. 16, said that under the oversight of a commissioner appointed last year by the Vatican, it was undergoing a process of "purification, restructuring and re-founding."
The detailed statement came two weeks ahead of the scheduled start of a criminal trial of Brother Pierre-Etienne Albert, a top member of the community, who has been accused of dozens of acts of sexual abuse of minors over a period of 15 years.
The statement said it wanted to emphasize that the community's own process of self-examination had been going on for several years.
"The new information about the gravely culpable acts committed by several of its members, in particular its founder, has led the community to move further ahead in the process of repentance and purification of its memory," the statement said.
Bishop Robert W. Finn's five-month delay in reporting to police a priest in possession of child pornography directly led to the abuse of a ten-year old girl, and qualifies as conspiracy to commit fraud, a lawsuit filed today alleges.
The suit, brought on behalf of the girl by her parents, says that Finn's delay in reporting diocesan priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan directly placed the girl in harm's way when her parents invited the priest into their home on several occasions, not knowing of his predilection toward taking lewd photographs of children.
During those occasions, the lawsuit says, the mother and father noticed Ratigan using his cell phone "under the dinner table," which, the family later learned, he was using to take sexually explicit photos.
The family is now concerned, the lawsuit says, that those photos "may have been distributed...over the internet."
The home visits came after Ratigan had been removed from parish ministry, but neither the parish nor accompanying school had been notified that lewd photos had been found on the priest's computer.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bishop Robert W. Finn escaped a second criminal indictment for failing to report suspected child abuse by agreeing to give a county prosecutor near-total oversight of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese’s handling of sex abuse cases for the next five years.
It is rare, if not unprecedented, that the Catholic church could take a lesson from a secular university's football program. But the recent events surrounding Penn State's vaunted football culture is indeed instructive on several levels.
For one, it helps explain why the child sex abuse scandal in the church seems never-ending. It also illustrates anew that while legal and administrative responsibilities toward children are ignored at an institution's peril, our moral obligation toward children is paramount and self-evident even in an avowedly nonreligious setting.
Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University, has been charged with sexually abusing eight young boys over a 15-year period. Two university officials, former athletic director Tim Curley and former finance official Gary Schultz, have been charged with failing to report Sandusky to police after they were told of an incident in 2002.
The parallels between what happened at Penn State and what has happened for decades throughout the Catholic community in the United States and in other countries are striking.
MANCHESTER, England -- A British court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held legally liable for the crimes of abusive clergy.
The Nov. 8 ruling by the High Court in London for the first time defined in British law the relationship of a priest to his bishop as that of an employee to an employer, instead of seeing the priest as effectively self-employed.
This means that a bishop and a diocese can be punished for the crimes of a priest. Survivors' groups hope that it will also mean that many people who claim to have been abused by clergy will be able to claim compensation more easily.
The court granted the trustees of the Diocese of Portsmouth extra time to appeal the decision.
The case involves a 47-year-old mother of three, referred to only by the initials JGE, who claims she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Father Wilfred Baldwin as a 7-year-old girl in The Firs children's home in Waterlooville, in southern England, in the early 1970s.
She claims that she also was attacked in the dressing room of a church on the day she made her first Communion.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- "This diocese is in desperate need of healing, and I do not believe that can happen until Bishop [Robert] Finn is held accountable” for his mishandling of clergy sexual misconduct cases, a former victims' advocate for the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., said today.
Mercy Sr. Jeanne Christensen, who served as the diocesan victims' advocate from 2000-2004, spoke at a press conference hosted by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests this afternoon.
Christensen is thought to be the first former diocesan advocate to publicly criticize her diocese over its response to allegations of abuse, according to SNAP members.
Updated with video
MILWAUKEE -- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, revealed for the first time yesterday details about his removal as a parish pastor in 2007. NCR published a report of the talk Gumbleton delivered at pre-conference meeting of Call to Action in Milwaukee.
See Retired bishop asked to leave Detroit parish for testimony for that story. More video here.
Following are more of the background that led up to Gumbleton's dismissal.
Gumbleton had followed the sex abuse crisis in the press, especially the church's response. "I thought they were starting to move along."
The bishops had developed the Dallas Charter in 2002, outlining policies for dealing with sexual abuse cases.