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Accountability

Oregon diocese named in sex assault lawsuit

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Fact-finding and behind-the-scenes legal wrangling continue in the Baker, Ore., diocese, where a lawsuit filed early this year claims the diocese’s largest parish is “vicariously liable” for a situation in which a 12-year-old boy sexually assaulted twin 5-year-old girls in the parish school’s music room during a young adult weekend retreat nearly two years ago.

In a response dated April 1, the diocese counters that St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend, Ore., and the Baker diocese have no legal liability in the case. It asked the complaint “be dismissed with prejudice” and that costs incurred be awarded to the diocese and parish.

The case, in which the attacker confessed guilt, “is not related to the parish or the diocese in any way,” attorney for the diocese Gregory Lynch told NCR.

Do lawsuit allegations touch diocese's noncompliance issues?

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Allegations in a lawsuit recently filed against the Baker, Ore., diocese might sharpen focus on the core reason the diocese is only one of two in the United States currently not in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

According to the 2009 audit by the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, the Baker diocese did not meet the requirements of the charter’s Article 12, which deals with safe-environment training. The diocese declined to be audited in 2010.

In its 2009 report, the secretariat said that Bishop Robert F. Vasa “feels it’s inappropriate to provide any type of sex education to any prepubescent child.”

Prelates defend John Paul II on abuse crisis

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ROME -- While victims of clerical abuse in the United States are blasting the beatification of Pope John Paul II for “rubbing more salt into the wounds” caused by the abuse crisis, two prelates who worked with the late pope, one a Slovakian and another an American, insisted that the crisis does not disqualify John Paul from sainthood.

A statement released today by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the main victims’ advocacy group in the United States, asserted that “in more than 25 years as the most powerful religious figure on the planet, John Paul II did almost nothing to safeguard kids across the world.”

In Rome, however, prelates who knew the pope argued that a tight focus on the sexual abuse crisis misses the big picture of what John Paul II was all about.

“If you take his personality as a whole, you’ll have the measure of the man,” said Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who worked in the Vatican under John Paul II in various capacities throughout his entire papacy.

“He was so clear, so transparent, and so honest,” Tomko said.

Clerics' critique brings something new to talk of abuse crisis

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ESSAY

MILWAUKEE -- It would be reasonable to wonder why, at this stage of the priest sex abuse crisis, a major Catholic law school would bother spending two days on the subject. It is reasonable to ask if the topic, by this point, had not been wrung dry of any new news, of any insights or rationales that have not already been chewed to insignificance in the endless conferences, books, documentaries and analyses produced over the past quarter century.

Disparity in definitions dogs 'credible accusation' standard

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Editor’s note: We recently received a phone call from a reader who asked, regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis, "When I see ‘credible accusation’ in newspapers, what does that mean?" We took a closer look at the term.

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The phrase “credible accusation” appears regularly in media accounts of clergy sexual abuse of minors. It generally indicates that those making an initial judgment believe the accusation against a cleric has some merit.

While experts interviewed for this story pointed out repeatedly that a credible accusation does not mean the accused is guilty, it does mean the accused is removed from ministry immediately and not allowed back unless the accusation cannot be substantiated, which can take years. Meanwhile, a clergyman’s reputation is damaged and, some would say, can never be fully restored.

Yet no precise definition or standard exists for what it means to be “credibly accused,” leaving each diocese to decide on its own what credible means.

Money, not justice, still guiding abuse policies

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A quarter-century-plus into the clergy sex abuse scandal, and as a direct result of the crisis, an annual rite plays out each spring in state capitols across the nation.

Here’s how it works: A state lawmaker introduces legislation to extend the statute of limitations on child sex abuse. The idea is simple enough: to allow sex abuse victims to bring civil suits (that means potential monetary damages) against sex abusers and those who enabled them. Given the nature of sexual assault on children -- kids being more likely to conceal rather than reveal the horrors committed against them -- the abuse frequently occurred five, 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, hence the desire to open a “window” for civil penalties and prosecution.

State capitols are chummy places, clubhouses of political horse-trading and old-fashioned backslapping that make their federal counterpart in Washington appear angelic. Backrooms fill with old comrades and contestants from prior battles as lawmakers-turned-lobbyists and other hired guns argue, at considerable expense, their cases.

Philadelphia: Where is the outrage?

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COMMENTARY

Many, probably most, Catholics in the five counties that make up the Philadelphia archdiocese believed Cardinal Justin Rigali in 2005 when he promised that things would change, that there would be no more cover-ups and that those who were raped, sodomized or sexually exploited by predatory priests and church workers would be treated humanely instead of being intimidated, harassed and bullied.

I was not one of them.

Since 2002 I have tried to do everything I could possibly think of doing to bring attention to what I perceive to be an entrenched pattern of deceit and dishonesty orchestrated by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church to protect its image, hold onto its power and authority, and keep known sexual predators in ministry while failing to even consider the welfare of untold numbers of children.

February’s release of a second grand jury report on the Philadelphia archdiocese shows just how futile it is to put one’s faith in church leadership.

Philadelphia’s hierarchy has failed the People of God. Cardinals Krol, Bevilacqua and Rigali have failed us and they have betrayed us.

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October 10-23, 2014

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