Legal strategy focusing on need to warn public about child abusers gaining ground in Minnesota

St. Cloud Diocese to undergo unprecedented abuse investigation

The St. Cloud Diocese faces the prospect of making unprecedented disclosures about priests accused of sexual misconduct, under a ruling filed Monday (June 29) in Stearns County court that builds on a series of legal victories for Minnesotans claiming clergy abuse.

“Judge Kris Davick-Halfen ruled that lawyers can proceed with a ‘public nuisance’ claim against the diocese by an alleged victim of priest sex abuse — a move that allows attorneys to investigate the diocese’s records and documents on all priests who have been accused of misconduct over decades.

“Four of Minnesota’s six dioceses now face similar court-ordered scrutiny. Judges have made similar rulings on the public nuisance claim in the dioceses of Winona and New Ulm as well as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The motion is under advisement in a case against a priest from the Diocese of Duluth …

“’This is a novel strategy that is particularly valuable because it focuses on the need of the public to be warned about potential child predators, said (Marci) Hamilton a law professor at Yeshiva University in New York and a national expert on clergy abuse litigation).”

By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Voice of the Faithful gratified by Connecticut Supreme Court ruling

Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic Church reform movement, is gratified the Connecticut Supreme Court has upheld a superior court ruling finding the Archdiocese of Hartford “acted negligently and recklessly” in assigning a known pedophile priest as director of an elementary school where he abused Jacob Doe, the plaintiff in the case.

In the same ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected the Hartford archdiocese’s argument that the 2002 extension of the state’s statute of limitations for victims to file lawsuits against their abusers was unconstitutional.

In 2012, A Waterbury Superior Court jury had found the archdiocese negligent and reckless in allowing Rev. Ivan Ferguson to work with children in 1981 as director of St. Mary’s Elementary School in Derby after Ferguson had admitted child abuse in 1979.

Dioceses have repeatedly attempted to avoid their responsibilities for protecting children from abusive priests and have covered up their wrongdoing, but this ruling is an example that at least civil courts, if not yet ecclesial courts, will no longer tolerate such actions.

Voice of the Faithful: Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Disclose the names of clergy abusers / America

A survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by a Catholic priest hesitates to report his abuse, thinking that he will not be believed. Another survivor knows that she was not the cleric’s only victim but worries that she will be the only person to report his behavior. And many Catholics complain that their church has allowed the media and survivors’ organizations to control, and even manipulate, information in order to make all clergy seem suspect and all bishops seem insensitive.

“Would full disclosure of the names of clergy offenders help these survivors and the countless other men and women who have still not reported their abuse to come forward? Would such disclosures provide comfort to those survivors who were not believed by church officials when they reported these incidents years ago?

“For the past decade, arguments have been made for and against mandated disclosures, and there have been disclosures made and disclosures withheld. Nonetheless, the debate continues.”

By Kathleen McChesney, America — Click here to read the rest of this commentary. McChesney is a former executive director of the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former F.B.I. executive.

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New family synod document a mixture of welcome, criticism of modern life / National Catholic Reporter

The Vatican document outlining the initial working positions for October’s highly anticipated global meeting of bishops on family life issues offers little to no clear indication of how world prelates have responded to Pope Francis’ call to openly discuss difficult issues facing families, such as divorce and remarriage.

“The document, which many anticipate as a possible barometer for how the bishops’ discussions at the fall event might evolve, instead mainly focuses on restating many positions adopted at the meeting held last year with an occasional emphasis on showing mercy to those facing burdensome situations.

“The document also appears to reiterate some of the culture-war language that has sometimes marked the church’s language in recent decades and reaffirms the church’s moral teaching in several areas, including the prohibition on the use of birth control.

“It also does not seem to offer substantially new options for divorced and remarried people seeking the ability to take Communion in the church.”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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We need a new way of choosing bishops / National Catholic Reporter

Certain Catholics love to repeat ad nauseam that the church is not a democracy, especially when it comes to decision-making and the selection of leadership.

“And thank God it is not.

“Nor should it aspire to be if the democratic model is the dysfunctional political and electoral system at work in places like the United States.

“But that doesn’t mean all is well with the way the Roman church makes its pastoral-administrative decisions, discerns the call of the Spirit, or chooses its bishops.

“Quite the contrary.

“The inadequate leadership displayed by too many bishops in the United States and other parts of the world the past couple of decades has made that point painfully clear. One wonders how some of these men were ever put in a position of such weighty responsibility.”

By Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

Since 2012, U.S. Catholics in a vacant See or a diocese where a bishop has retired have had the opportunity to provide input into the selection of a local bishop through Voice of the Faithful’s web portal, votf.org/bishop. The input is submitted via a form to the U.S. apostolic nuncio by email. The form records concerns and recommendations in three areas: 1.) needs and opportunities in the diocese; 2.) candidates’ ideal qualities and qualifications; and 3.) priests who would be excellent candidates for bishop. Canon Law encourages all Catholics to express their views on Church matters that concern them.

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An isolated Nienstedt tried to limit investigation into himself / Minnesota Public Radio

On April 10, 2014 — seven months into the clergy sex abuse scandal — Archbishop John Nienstedt’s top advisers gathered for a private meeting. They had just received several affidavits from an internal investigation of Nienstedt that had been authorized by the archbishop himself to address damaging rumors.

“The sworn statements accused Nienstedt of inappropriate behavior, according to people who read them, including sexual advances toward at least two priests …

“Nienstedt had authorized the investigation with the expectation that it would clear his name. Instead, it threatened to ruin it. At the meeting last spring, the advisers went around the room. Each said Nienstedt should resign.”

By Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Vatican abuse tribunal has much work to do / The Boston Globe

Even for an institution that measures its history in centuries, not decades, the Vatican’s move toward sanctions against bishops who cover up for pedophile priests seems glacial.

“So when news arrived last week (June 15) that Pope Francis has approved the creation of a church tribunal to do just that, embracing the recommendations of a papal commission led by Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, you could imagine a Greek chorus of abuse victims responding: ‘It’s about time.’

“Had the tribunal been in place back in 2002, when the clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded in Boston and quickly spread around the globe, there is little doubt who would have been the first bishop hauled before the panel.

“That would be Bernard Francis Law, one of O’Malley’s predecessors who resigned in disgrace in late 2002 and continues to live in gilded retirement in Rome where he is regarded — if not quite a pariah — as an embarrassment, an archbishop whose silence, even after he knew kids were being assaulted, was beyond indefensible.”

By Thomas Farragher, Columnist, The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this column.

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