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Accountability

Diocese warned of priest's aberrant behavior one year before arrest

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The principal of a Catholic elementary school warned the Kansas City-St. Joseph chancery office that a local priest “fit the profile of a child predator” six months before the diocese took any action to remove him from ministries dealing with children.

Fr. Shawn Ratigan, 45, was arrested May 19 on three counts of possessing child pornography, six months after the diocese took its first action to limit the priest’s involvement with children by moving him to a local home for religious sisters.

The letter, written by Julie Hess, the principal of Saint Patrick School, is dated May 19, 2010 -- nearly one year before the arrest. In her letter, Hess pleads with the diocesan vicar general, Msgr. Robert Murphy, to consider a list of incidents teachers observed at the school involving Ratigan that “raised significant red flags.”

Salesians suspend two after pedophilia remarks

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ROME -- The Salesians of St. John Bosco removed two European members from their duties after it was discovered one belonged to a pro-pedophilia organization and another made remarks defending pedophilia.

The Salesian headquarters in Rome said a Dutch priest identified only as Father "B" and the superior of the Salesians in the Netherlands, Father Herman Spronck, had both been suspended.

"The Belgium-Holland Province officially announced that Father B no longer has permission to carry out any pastoral activity and that Father Spronck has been relieved of his office as delegate," the congregation said in a May 23 press release.

The Salesian provincial of Belgium-Holland, Father Jos Claes, said that to the Salesians' "great surprise," Father "B" was a member of a Dutch-based association that advocates legalizing sexual relations between an adult and child.

Father Claes said the association is "not compatible with our Salesian identity" and "we therefore condemn the membership and the opinions of Father van B."

Critics point to John Jay study's limitations

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Release of the John Jay College study on the causes of sexual abuse by Catholic priests signals the end of the U.S. bishops’ five-year, $1.8 million inquiry into the institution they govern and the priests in their charge. But the new study hardly quiets the fundamental questions that have dogged the church and its leaders since the crisis was first publicized in the mid-1980s.

Bishop admits failure in priest's child pornography case

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One day after newspapers across the nation featured front page articles about a U.S. bishops' sponsored study on the causes of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which blamed much of the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, another clergy abuse news story was on the front page of The Kansas City Star: A local priest had been arrested for possession of child pornography.

Causes and context report released on clergy sexual abuse of minors

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WASHINGTON -- Because potential sexual abusers of minors cannot be pinpointed through "identifiable psychological characteristics," it is "very important" to prevent abuse by limiting the "situational factors" associated with it, according to a long-awaited report on the causes and context of sexual abuse by priests in the United States.

The report, released in Washington May 18, said there is "no single identifiable 'cause' of sexually abusive behavior toward minors." It encouraged steps to deny abusers "the opportunity to abuse."

Titled "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," it reports the findings of a study mandated in 2002 under the U.S. Catholic bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

The charter, adopted by the bishops during a historic meeting in Dallas, created a National Review Board and directed the lay consultative body to commission studies of the abuse problem's "nature and scope" and its "causes and context." The John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York conducted both studies.

Key events in US church response to clergy sex abuse crisis

WASHINGTON -- Here is a timeline for some key events in the clergy sex abuse crisis in the United States and the church response to it.

1980-1984

1983 -- First nationally publicized case: Father Gilbert Gauthe is suspended by Diocese of Lafayette, La., after he admits having sexually abused at least three dozen children.

1985-1989

1985 -- Father Gauthe sentenced to 20 years in prison.

1985 -- Several state Catholic conferences and individual dioceses begin developing policies governing abuse allegations.

1985 -- Bishops discuss problem in executive session at a June meeting.

1988 -- Bishops' general counsel acknowledges scope and extent of crisis in public statement.

1988 -- Victims' advocacy group Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests forms.

1990-1994

1990 -- Bishops' priestly life committee studies question of reassignment of abusive priests.

June 1992 -- Bishops affirm five principles for dioceses to deal with child sexual abuse; they include responding promptly and openly to all allegations.

November 1992 -- Cardinal Roger Mahony and other bishops meet with victims.

US bishops say new John Jay report on abuse key to understanding issue

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Catholic bishops called the newly released report on the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse an important tool to gain insight into the scope of the problem and prevent it from occurring in the future.

"It is important for us to understand, as completely and accurately as we are able, the causes and context of this problem in order to respond appropriately for the safety and protection of our children and young people," wrote St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson in an editorial for the St. Louis Review, archdiocesan newspaper.

The report: "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," was released May 18. It was conducted by a team of researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York and commissioned by the National Review Board, a lay consultative body created in 2002 under the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

An earlier study on the nature and scope of abuse appeared in February 2004. The causes and context study commenced in 2006.

Diocesan programs help build 'safety barriers' against child abusers

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WASHINGTON -- It is "critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm," said Teresa M. Kettelkamp, executive director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

The barriers she had in mind take the form of "protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs" aimed at preventing sexual abuse of minors.

In a discussion of safe environment programs, Kettelkamp posted 10 child-protection points on her office's website. A report released May 18 in Washington on a major study of the causes and context of the sexual abuse of minors in the church accented the value of safe environment programs.

"No one has the right to have access to children," Kettelkamp said. She insisted that "background checks work," keeping "predators away from children" in churches, schools and other organizations.

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July 18-31, 2014

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