Priest on leave after alleged porn download.

Priest on leave after alleged porn download

A Bucks County priest removed from ministry last month was placed on leave because it was discovered that a trove of pornographic images he had downloaded in 2005 included up to a dozen photos of minors, the archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday.

The Rev. Louis J. Kolenkiewicz, 47, most recently of St. Bede the Venerable Parish in Holland, had been disciplined in 2005 and 2011 for downloading pornography, Archdiocese of Philadelphia spokesman Ken Gavin said.

But recently, Gavin said, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office – which had investigated the previous cases but declined to press charges – told the archdiocese that among the 12,000 images Kolenkiewicz downloaded in 2005, up to 12 may have depicted juveniles.

The archdiocese had announced in February that Kolenkiewicz had been placed on leave but did not specify why. The details were explained to St. Bede parishioners at a meeting Monday night, Gavin said.

Kolenkiewicz will remain on leave “pending the outcome of this matter,” Gavin said.Kolenkiewicz could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since being ordained in 1993, Kolenkiewicz has served in six parishes, according to the archdiocese: St. Gabriel in Norwood, in 1993 and 1994; St. John Bosco in Hatboro, from 1994 to 2002; St. Ignatius in Yardley, from 2002 to 2004; St. Bede’s, from 2004 to 2008; Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park, from 2008 to 2011; and St. Bede’s again over the last year.

In 2005, according to Gavin, Kolenkiewicz admitted using a parish computer to view pornography, and in 2011, he was caught again possessing illicit images.

After the second incident, Gavin said, Kolenkiewicz spent three years on administrative leave while participating in treatment for his “issues with pornography,” Gavin said.

Kolenkiewicz returned to active ministry at St. Bede’s in June, Gavin said. There is “no evidence to suggest that Father Kolenkiewicz has viewed any pornographic material since his return to ministry,” Gavin said.

Still, Gavin said, there is no time frame for when a decision might be made about Kolenkiewicz’s ability to return after his most recent stint on leave.
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Former Knox head admits he impeded child abuse investigation on purpose

Former Knox head admits he impeded child abuse investigation on purpose

The former headmaster of Knox Grammar school has admitted deliberately impeding a police investigation into paedophile teachers working at the school.
Ian Paterson was approached by Inspector Elizabeth Cullen from the child protection enforcement agency about complaints of child sex abuse at the school in 1996. Paterson told Cullen he was not aware of any complaints, which he has admitted was a lie.

He made the admission in his second day of evidence at the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse.

He also directed Cullen to files he knew would contain no information. It was not until 2009 that teachers from Knox were charged with child sex abuse offences which dated back to the 1980s.

In reply to counsel advising the royal commission, David Lloyd, Paterson agreed he knew this would impede the investigation.

Paterson told the inquiry on Tuesday he did not believe a student who complained a teacher touched him inappropriately in the 1980s because the student was a “drama boy”.

He also admitted to not contacting police after another student had his genitals groped by a man in a balaclava – suspected to be a teacher – while the boy was in his bed in one of the boarding houses.

Paterson said he did not report either incident to police because it did not occur to him and he was not aware groping was a crime.

He began his evidence with a statement apologising to the victims of child sex abuse at the school, which he was the headmaster of from 1969 to 1998. During that time there are multiple allegations of child sex abuse by multiple teachers with charges laid against some teachers in 2009.


The royal commission has heard teachers and Paterson were aware of sex abuse allegations but did not act on them and were primarily concerned with the repution of the school.

At the beginning of his evidence Paterson apologised for what he was “not aware of” at the time.

“As headmaster I am responsible for all that occurs during my headmastership, there were matters that I knew about and other matters that I did not however, without doubt I should have known and I should have stopped the events which led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for those boys in my care and their families,” he said.

He commended the courage of the victims who have come forward and acknowledged there would be victims who had not spoken out.

“An apology seems totally inadequate but I do so with an awful feeling of uselessness in my heart,” Paterson read from a statement. “… I accept decisions I made were wrong and I failed to recognise, and hence respond sufficiently to, events we now know were indicators of a sinister and much bigger picture, a picture of serious sexual abuse which would damage the lives of so many,” he said.

“This is a source of intense pain for me and my family. I am deeply and profoundly sorry.”

Judge could rule on critical archdiocesan sex abuse claims

Judge could rule on critical archdiocesan sex abuse claims

The judge in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy could decide as early as Wednesday whether to throw out 10 claims of men and women who allege they were sexually assaulted by priests or others representing the church.

The archdiocese has not disputed that the 10 were abused. However, it argues it is not required by law to compensate them for a number of legal reasons, including the lapse in the statute of limitations.

Attorneys for the survivors reject those arguments.

“This is just the latest attempt by the archdiocese to hide behind the passage of time instead of treating survivors fairly,” said Michael Finnegan, whose firm represents six of the victims whose claims will be heard Wednesday, and most of the bankruptcy’s 570-plus sex-abuse claimants.

Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said the church has been clear from the beginning that it would not pay claims ineligible under the law.

“It’s not fair to the people who should be compensated to include those who shouldn’t,” he said.

Wednesday’s hearing is the latest battle in the costly and contentious bankruptcy filed by the archdiocese in 2011 to address its sexual abuse liabilities. Victims allege the archdiocese defrauded them by moving problem priests from post to post without telling families they were a danger to children.

The church has filed a reorganization plan that would set aside what is now about $5.1 million to compensate 128 victims of diocesan priests whose names appear on the its website,

But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley ruled last June that she did not have jurisdiction to approve the plan while key questions in a related lawsuit, over $60 million the archdiocese holds in trust for its cemeteries, are pending before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kelley has moved ahead on other issues. The judge said she would withhold her decisions on some questions until after the 7th Circuit rules, to cut down on costly appeals.

But she has suggested she would rule Wednesday on at least some of the 10 claims outlined in a request for summary judgment filed by the archdiocese.

Those claims involve:

■ Two victims the archdiocese says aren’t eligible for compensation because their prior lawsuits against the church were dismissed by a state court.

■ Two others abused by individuals the church does not consider its direct employees. One case involved a former therapist with the nonprofit organization that would become Catholic Charities; the other involved two members of a religious order, a Capuchin brother and priest, who worked at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary.

■ Six victims the archdiocese says cannot prove fraud because they were the first to report abuse allegations against their respective molesters.

Lawyers for the survivors say the archdiocese knew or should have known that the priests in question — including some of its more notorious pedophiles — were a problem.

They argue, among other things, that:

■ The archdiocese does have a supervisory role over religious orders that operate locally.

■ The statute of limitations on fraud, which begins ticking when the victim has reason to believe he or she was defrauded, has not yet expired for those survivors.

■ Many of the issues are questions of fact, not law, that must be decided at trial.

Monica Barrett, who alleges she was raped by the late Rev. William Effinger at the age of 8, is one of the two whose prior lawsuits were dismissed in state courts.

Barrett said her case was never heard on its merits — it was dismissed by a state court under the statute of limitations for negligent supervision — and she would like her day in court.

“I think every survivor has the right to hold the archdiocese accountable for their experience,” she said.

House passes bills to help protect children from sexual abuse

House passes bills to help protect children from sexual abuse

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives has moved a pair of bills forward in an effort to better protect children from sexual abuse.

House Bill 277, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.

HB345, sponsored by Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, would ban anyone convicted of a felony involving child abuse from receiving or renewing a license to teach children in school.

Both bills passed unanimously Monday and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Emotions ran high as legislators addressed the bills, while victims of abuse looked on from the gallery and representatives shared how abuse has affected them personally.

“In Utah we’re among the worst in protecting and affording protections for victims of child sexual abuse,” Ivory said. “One in four girls and one in six boys will suffer the impacts and damages of sexual abuse on children in their lifetime.”

Ivory also emphasized the importance of removing the statute of limitations, because on average it takes a victim until age 40 to come forward about sexual abuse. Current law only allows a civil action to be filed until age 22.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, revealed he is a survivor of child sexual abuse, and was abused by another student in school.

“Child sexual abuse casts a long shadow. It takes a long time to come to grips with,” Briscoe said.

He added he knows teachers who are in jail for child sexual abuse, and advocated for better teacher training to help avoid potential abuse situations.

Sexual abuse by Utah teachers has been brought to the forefront again this year by the case of Brianne Altice, a Davis County high school teacher who is accused of having sex with three of her students.

“This is where it all started,” Briscoe said, holding up his cell phone. “Boundary violations … we don’t prepare teachers very well for that first interesting tweet or email message they get from a student.”

Busy Day at Philly Archdiocese – New Abuse Accusations and More Child Porn

Busy Day at Philly Archdiocese – New Abuse Accusations and More Child Porn

The Federal authorities have announced new evidence of more crimes committed by Father Mark Haynes. The new evidence includes destroying a laptop (which was evidence) and, far worse, the sexual abuse of at least three children. The abuse accusations fall outside the statute of limitations (SOL). Therefore, charges can not be pressed. This is another example of why PA needs to catch up with all the other states who have abolished the SOL for child sex abuse and have enacted a retroactive window for past victims to come forward. Reform legislation is pending but being blocked by Judiciary chairman, Rep. Ron Marsico. Visit theProtect PA Kids Facebook page to find out more and how you can contact him.

Click here to read: “New Accusations Surface Against Chester County Priest Charged With Explicit Exchanges With Minors,” Tony Hanson, CBS Philly, March 3, 2015

It turns out the Archdiocese had a very good reason to remove Father Kolenkiewicz – child porn. Perhaps he accidentally downloaded a dozen of those images while in a feeding frenzy of adult porn (over 12,000 images in 2005 alone and more in 2011). Who knows? What we do know is that maybe the priesthood isn’t for him.

Click here to read: “Priest on leave after allegedly downloading porn images of minors,” by Chris Palmer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 2015

Guess Who’s Back? The Dog In the D.A.’s Dog And Pony Show.

Guess Who’s Back? The Dog In the D.A.’s Dog And Pony Show

It’s a real dog of a case but the district attorney seems intent on retrying it.

On June 22, 2012, in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Father James J. Brennan, a jury deadlocked 11-1 on whether to convict Father Brennan of attempted rape.

The same jury convicted Msgr. William J. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The historic conviction of the monsignor became the show pony for D.A. Seth Williams, as Lynn became the first Catholic administrator in the country to go to jail for the sexual sins of the clergy. Meanwhile, the dog in the D.A.’s dog and pony show — the Father Brennan case — had to disappear for a few years.

Yesterday in Courtroom 1102 of Common Pleas Court, Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright set a retrial date for the Father Brennan case of Jan. 4, 2016. None of the lawyers involved in the case are talking publicly in the event that the judge may elect to restore a former gag order. But with all the delays and credibility problems with the D.A.’s star witness in the Father Brennan case, you have to wonder whether the retrial will ever really happen.

The irony is that of the defendants in the archdiocese sex abuse cases who actually went to trial, Father Brennan is the only one who admitted to misconduct. And he’s the only guy who’s gotten to enjoy his freedom for the past three years.

Msgr. Lynn had his conviction overturned on Dec. 26, 2013 by the state Superior Court, which ordered him to be “discharged forthwith.” But more than a year later, he remains on house arrest.

In the second archdiocese sex abuse trial on Jan. 30, 2013, Father Charles Engelhardt and Catholic teacher Bernard Shero, both of whom pleaded innocent to any wrongdoing, were convicted of sex abuse. Engelhardt died in jail last November; Shero remains in prison pending an appeal.

In the Brennan case, the priest admitted to getting into bed with 14-year-old Mark Bukowski after letting the boy view several porn sites on the priest’s laptop. Two female jurors, however, told Fox 29 that they didn’t view Bukowski as a credible witness, saying it seemed like he was making up his testimony on the witness stand.

The jury foreman said that Bukowski’s mother further muddied the waters by telling the jury, “I will never really know what happened” the night Father Brennan got in bed with her son.

It’s hard to convict somebody when even the alleged victim’s mother publicly doubts her son’s story.

“I’m really tired, I’m really grateful, I’m really blessed,” Father Brennan told reporters before disappearing from the public stage. The former priest reportedly went back to work in construction.

The Brennan case has been bungled since Day 1. In the 2011 grand jury report, the district attorney stated 12 times that Father Brennan had anally raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski, and that the alleged victim peed his pants and cried himself to sleep that night while still under attack.

“Mark fell asleep that night with Father Brennan’s penis still in his buttocks,” the grand jury report stated on page 12.

The D.A. apparently had forgotten the grand jury testimony of the alleged victim, where he stated that he still had his boxer shorts on during the alleged attack. At trial, the rape charge against Father Brennan was reduced to attempted rape with no official explanation while a gag order was up.

At trial, Bukowksi went one step further, saying both he and the priest wore t-shirts and boxer shorts the night of the alleged attack. Defense attorney William J. Brennan dismissed the attempted rape as a “pelvic bump” or a “savage spooning.”

The grand jury on page 40 also stated that three years after the rape, “Father Brennan exposed himself to Mark at a time when Mark’s life was already spiraling out of control.”

But when Brennan was tried, Msgr. Kevin Quirk showed up to testify that during a church inquiry into Bukowski’s charges, “The accused has withdrawn that part of the allegation.”

Mark Bukowski, the D.A.’s star witness in the Father Brennan case, has a history of criminal arrests and drug problems. As a Marine he was discharged after he went AWOL. His own mother accused him of stealing from her and her husband. She also told authorities that she was suspicious of Mark’s claim to police that he had been the victim of a violent home invasion.

Bukowski pleaded guilty in 2006 to filing a false report, furnishing authorities with false information, forgery, identity theft, and driving without a license. He was sentenced to up to 18 months in jail. In 2011, Bukowski pleaded guilty to charges of forgery, theft, and identity fraud. He was sentenced to three years in jail.

In the absence of official comment, there’s a rumor making the rounds that the reason for the far-flung future trial date is that the D.A.’s star witness needs some time to recover from injuries incurred during his latest misadventure.

You have to wonder by the time next January rolls around whether the D.A.’s dog of a case will still be barking.


Abuse inquiry funding judgment reserved

Abuse inquiry funding judgment reserved

Judgment was reserved on Tuesday in an historical abuse inquiry chairman’s bid to overturn a ruling that he unfairly denied legal representation to an alleged victim.

Sir Anthony Hart is appealing a High Court verdict that a bar had effectively been erected against the woman who claims she was molested by a “very high-profile figure”.

Senior judges hearing the challenge have been told alleged victims are now increasingly refusing to sign witness statements unless they secure legal funding.

The woman at the centre of the case is due to give evidence at the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) hearings in Banbridge, Co Down which are investigating child abuse in Northern Ireland residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

The woman claims she suffered years of physical, sexual and mental abuse while in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth.

She also separately alleges that an unidentified high-profile figure targeted her outside of the home.

Michael Stitt QC, for the woman, stressed on Tuesday how his client faces the prospect of coming face-to-face with the alleged perpetrator without any legal help.

He rejected the suggestion that it was premature for her to be given access to lawyers and contended that the allegations were more serious than many others being examined.

Garda denies saying colleague would be ‘looked after’

Garda denies saying colleague would be ‘looked after’

The supervisor of a garda accused of forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions has denied telling the garda that if she “admitted wrongdoing” she would be “looked after”.

Wicklow Detective Garda Catherine McGowan, aged 48, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009, at Bray Garda Station and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda Station and at Harcourt Street Garda Station between June 21 and June 22, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), dated January 14, 2009.

The investigation of Gda McGowan’s handling of the case — which involved a priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl — was prompted by the publication of the Murphy Report which investigated clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin area. The priest in Gda McGowan’s case was mentioned in the report.

Detective Inspector Frank Keenaghan said that he first became aware that Det Gda McGowan had been conducting an investigation into the priest in July 2011.

The jury previously heard that the victim first made a complaint in 2006 to a different garda. She later withdrew the complaint.

In 2007, she returned to the station to make a statement and made a formal complaint to Det Gda McGowan, as the other garda had been transferred to a different station.

Det Insp Keenaghan refused to accept a suggestion from Patrick Marrinan, defending, that he told Det Gda McGowan, on discovering the letter was potentially forged, that if she admitted wrongdoing she would be “looked after”.

He accepted a suggestion from counsel that it was “a politically sensitive case”.

He agreed this was the first time such an incident had occurred at Bray Garda Station but claimed he had not initially accused Det Gda McGowan of forgery.

When Mr Marrinan put it to Det Insp Keenaghan that his client felt “judged, condemned, and isolated”, the witness replied “not by me”.

Det Insp Keenaghan agreed with Alex Owen, prosecuting, in re-examination that he never said to the accused “shit rolls downwards and you will be the fall guy” as had been suggested by the defence team.

He said he does not use that phrase so he could not imagine saying it to her.

The trial continues.

Father Kunz murder still unsolved after 17 years

Father Kunz murder still unsolved after 17 years

Those who lived in the area at the time will remember it well. Father Alfred Kunz was a well-known priest and his death shocked many. Now all these years later, investigators are still not giving up.

Seventeen years ago Tuesday, Father Alfred Kunz recorded his final radio broadcast. The next morning, March 4, 1998, Father Kunz was found dead, brutally murdered, inside St. Michael Catholic Church. The murder remains unsolved.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney tells us, “It’s still a priority for this organization to resolve that homicide.”

Mahoney says a number of detectives keep up to speed on the case and follow new leads that still occasionally come in. Matt Abbott, a Chicago-based writer specializing in Catholic issues, has written extensively on the case for more than 14 years. He spoke to us over the phone.

Abbott explains, “There have been various conspiracy theories that have been put forth.”

Ranging from the involvement of a satanic cult, to the involvement of fellow clergy. Abbott believes the most plausible theory: “Souring, I guess, of a relationship between Father Kunz and one of his teachers.”

The Dane County Sheriff’s office has interviewed hundreds over the years, and although nearly two decades have passed, they aren’t classifying the case as cold.

“It’s not cold from the stand-point that it’s put in a box and forgotten about. The case has an active, investigative team assigned to it,” says Mahoney.

Both Mahoney and Abbott believe someone out there knows what happened to Father Kunz. Whether that person will ever come forth is another mystery.

Abbott adds, “You know, there are a lot of unanswered questions and I frankly, I don’t know that they ever will be answered.”

Mahoney says, “I’m confident that in the end we’ll solve this case.”

Again, Mahoney tells us tips do still come in on this case. If you have any information, you’re encouraged to call it in to the Sheriff’s Office tip-line at 284-6900.

Religious teacher at Knoz Grammar caught out over boys underwear

Religious teacher at Knoz Grammar caught out over boys underwear

Former teacher Michael Probert yesterday said seeing house master Christopher Themistocles Fotis in the laundry had freaked him out.

‘I expected to be sacked’ admits Knox paedophile teacher

‘I thought my career was over’ … Ex Knox Grammar teacher Craig Treloar

The commission has heard that Mr Fotis, now 53, had been suspected as the man in a Knox tracksuit and a balaclava who hid under a student’s bed and sexually assaulted him. The man fled and the school never called in the police.

Mr Fotis later resigned from Knox after he was caught masturbating in his car outside the school but the headmaster, Dr Ian Paterson, still gave him a glowing reference, the commission was told.

The commission is investigating whether the elite Wahroonga school covered up 33 years of sex abuse of students by five teachers who were criminally charged and another three who were not, including Mr Fotis.

Cover-up....The prestigious Knox Grammar.

Cover-up … The prestigious Knox Grammar.

Mr Fotis was expected to give evidence yesterday but it was inexplicably postponed.

Mr Probert, a Knox old boy who returned to the school as a resident house master in 1987, said he had gone to the laundry one night in probably 1989 about 11pm to collect his laundry. The teacher’s clothing and sheets were kept on the opposite side to those of the students.

He said Mr Fotis was standing at the boys’ side near their “undies and socks” and “acted shocked and surprised” when he was spotted.

“The lights were off. I found it strange. It startled me,” Mr Probert said.

He said there was a bin in which the boys put in their bags of dirty laundry and pigeonholes into which their clean laundry was put and it appeared that Mr Fotis had “taken some of the socks and underwear out of the bags”.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure … to me it was very suspicious,” Mr Probert said.

He said Mr Fotis gave no explanation for being there.

No Faith Is Free From Child Abuse Scandals or Cover-Ups

No Faith Is Free From Child Abuse Scandals or Cover-Ups

What has been happening in Sydney and Melbourne is doubly shocking. First, there have been revelations over a rabbi who abused children at a yeshivah, Jewish learning seminary over many years, which was then followed by a cover-up when allegations surfaced.

Second, it is a wake-up call to Jewish communities in the UK to be vigilant about a problem from which, until now, we thought we were immune. It was all too easy to think that paedophile ministers were rife in the Church of England and the Catholics, but not really an issue for us.

Almost as disturbing as the crimes are the cover-up by others in the hierarchy, across all faiths, who certainly regard the offender with disapproval but are motivated by fear that if one person is exposed, then that will tarnish the rest of the group – be it the church, synagogue or mosque. In fact, the opposite is true: colluding with a perpetrator is what really tarnishes the group at large, while it also denies justice to the victim, which should have been the prime concern.

What causes such warped responses? Is it the naivety of hoping they could handle the problem and so there was no need to bring in outside authorities; or is it the nervousness of thinking that if one crack was exposed in the faith-group, then the entire edifice would collapse; or is it the hubris of reckoning that on balance the faith-group do more good than evil and so should be excused any failings; or is it that they felt under attack already, battling so many secular enemies, that they could not afford to show any weak spots, especially clerical failings?

There is another big question: but how to keep going despite the child abuses scandals – because actually there are plenty of vicars, priests and rabbis that do not abuse children, but are being stymied because of the suspicion that surrounds every inter-personal action.

It is good practice for classrooms or offices in religious buildings to have windows put into the doors, so that anyone passing by can check that nothing untoward is going on inside. Personally, I always leave my study door open whenever doing one to one interviews, so that there can be no suggestion of any impropriety. But I dislike the implication that being alone with someone is now potentially dangerous for them.

It is certainly been a long time, since I patted a child on the back at the Religion School, lest a gesture of encouragement or warmth be seen as ‘touching up’. But I resent having to stop, as it is giving in to a culture of fear, and letting the evil committed by child abusers poison the minds of the overwhelming majority that abhor it.

Yes, we have to be aware of abuse and guard against it, but we also have to protect values such as trust and friendship – be vigilant but also maintain a generosity of spirit – and getting that balance right is difficult for civil society, but is especially problematic for faith groups as a religious approach tries to assume the best in people.

But there is no doubt that religious whistleblowers are to be admired rather than ostracised, as so often happens. The Book of Leviticus does not use that word, but certainly backs the cause: ‘You shall not stand idly by wrong-doing…you shall speak out against those who commit evil, otherwise you share in their guilt’ (19. 16-17)

The problem is not that we lack religious guidance, but that individuals do not always follow it, and religious institutions sometimes put self-interest above their own principles. What has happened to the Jewish community in Australia is an important warning that none of us can ignore.

Royal commission hears of sex abuse at elite Knox Grammar school

Royal commission hears of sex abuse at elite Knox Grammar school

KNOX Grammar School did not inform police of a single incident of child sexual abuse perpetrated by five teachers over period of 33 years, a royal commission has heard.

Council assisting the commission, David Lloyd, said in the opening of the inquiry into Knox, an elite Sydney private boy’s school associated with the Uniting Church, that the five convicted teachers had collectively abused a number of boys, and among the penalties issued was a jail term.

“There will be particular emphasis during this public hearing on the question of what information was known by the employees of Knox and members of the Knox Council about the abuse by the teachers, and when that information was known,” Mr Lloyd told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney.

He outlined a litany of episodes of sexual abuse by the teachers, in graphic terms.

The abuse included teachers touching and fondling students’ genitals, discussion of oral sex, and taking photos of boys during sexual acts.

Mr Lloyd said on some occasions. teachers showed students pornographic videos, including one showing men having sex with animals.

He said there was widespread knowledge of the abuse among the boys, and some reports of them to school superiors which were kept in a black folder by a previous headmaster.

But many critical documents had gone missing, Mr Lloyd said, “without explanation”, and the inquiry would examine whether they had been destroyed deliberately, and if so, by whom.

Mr Lloyd said the inquiry would allege that one teacher convicted of sexual assault, Adrian Nisbett, was known by the then headmaster to have engaged in abuse, but kept on at the school in different roles.

Mr Lloyd told of “the Balaclava man”, as he was known by the students, who was found one morning under a boy’s bed dressed in a Knox tracksuit and balaclava, sexually abusing a student.

When a student raised the alarm, the balaclava man put a doona over his head and ran out of the boarding house, and was chased by a number of boys but not captured.

“The evidence will show that at least one of the resident masters had criminal convictions for more than one offence at the time he was employed,” Mr Lloyd said.

Counsel for Knox, Geoffrey Watson SC, apologised on behalf of the school.

“The school also acknowledges that an apology, however heartfelt, can only go so far,” Mr Watson told the Commission.

“The next two weeks will be a dark time for many people.”

Mr Watson said steps had been taken by Knox on the advice of professional advisers to protect the safety of students from such abuse.

One former Knox student described a long period of abuse he suffered at the hands of one of the convicted former teachers, Barrie Stewart, as a teenager in the 1970s.

This included many nights in which he was asked to go to Stewart’s office, when he knew he would be sexually assaulted.

“If a teacher told you to do something, you did it,” the former student identified only as ARY, said.

ARY told the Commission that while Stewart and some other teachers were known as “touchers”, those who complained were chastised.

“They were seen as weak, and were everybody’s bitch.”

A former assistant headmaster at Knox, John Rentoul, told the commission his son David, who attended the school, had been abused by Stewart, and kept it from his parents for 30 years.

After Stewart’s trial, Mr Rentoul said, David’s mental health deteriorated significantly, and he died in his 40s from an illness.

Five teachers at top school abused boys

Five teachers at top school abused boys

The royal commission into child sexual abuse will hear from Craig Treloar, who was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, with two years non-parole, in 2009 for indecent assault.

It will also hear from Damien Vance, who was convicted of one act of indecency on a boy under 16 and released on a good behaviour bond.

In his opening statement on Monday, counsel for the commission David Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore were convicted of sex offences against students.

There would be evidence of abuse by a further three teachers who were never charged, he said.

Mr Lloyd said the school, which was established in 1924 by the Presbyterian Church, had five boarding houses supervised by resident masters in the 1980s.

During that time there didn’t appear to be any formal process for employing someone who wanted to be a resident master.

‘The evidence will disclose that at least one of the resident masters employed in around 1986, a Mr Chris Fotis, had criminal convictions for more than one offence at the time he was employed,’ he said.

Mr Fotis will give evidence later in the hearing.

Mr Lloyd said one witness, Guy Lamond, who started at Knox as a six-year-old in 1980, was abused by two teachers.

One of the teachers, Barrie Stewart, was charged with indecent assault against seven students and received a suspended sentence.

The other teacher, Craig Treloar, showed Mr Lamond and other boys pornographic videos of boys performing oral sex on younger boys and older men having sex with young boys.

At one point he asked Mr Lamond to perform oral sex on him.

– See more at:

Child sex abuse inquiry: Abuse by Knox Grammar paedophile teacher led to student’s death, father says

Child sex abuse inquiry: Abuse by Knox Grammar paedophile teacher led to student’s death, father says

The elderly father of a former Knox Grammar student has told an inquiry into alleged sexual abuse at the school that his adult son died as a result of trauma inflicted by paedophile teacher Barrie Stewart.

Dr John Rentoul, 80, a former assistant principal at the elite boys’ school in Sydney’s north, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he worked with three of the five former Knox teachers who were later convicted of abusing students over a 33-year period.

Dr Rentoul said his son, David, found his abuser’s criminal trial difficult and that he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Stewart received a suspended sentence on charges including indecent and sexual assault.

The inquiry has been told that of the five Knox teachers convicted of offences against boys as young as six at the school only one, Craig Treloar, received a jail sentence – four and a half years.

“The news that Stewart received a suspended two-year sentence, rather than a custodial sentence, was devastating to David, to us, and as I understand to other victims and their families,” Dr Rentoul said.

“I absolutely believe that the extreme guilt, stress and shame David suffered as a result of the abuse directly led to his health issues.

“It is very clear to me that the sexual abuse suffered by David at Knox impacted him for the rest of his life and resulted in his premature death.”

I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students.

Dr John Rentoul, father of abuse victim

David Rentoul died in 2012, at age 44, after a serious lung infection.

“As a former headmaster myself, it seems extraordinary and reprehensible that these men continued to teach at Knox and abuse students,” Dr Rentoul told the inquiry.

“I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students.”

In his opening statement to the commission, counsel assisting David Lloyd said the inquiry would hear evidence that several former students approached police in 2009 and said they were sexually abused at the school, located at Wahroonga on Sydney’s upper north shore.

“The abuse was perpetrated by these teachers between approximately 1970 and the year 2003 – a 33-year period,” Mr Lloyd said.

“It is anticipated that the evidence will show that during that period the school did not notify the police of any incident of child sexual abuse.”

Boys forced to perform oral sex, watch porn

Earlier, the commission heard from a former student of the Uniting Church-run school who said he was repeatedly assaulted by a teacher in the late 1970s.

The man known as A-R-Y said he was too scared to come forward at the time because the independent boys’ school had a culture of “blaming the victim”.

A-R-Y told the Sydney hearing a teacher openly groped students – and that must have been obvious to other teachers and then-principal Ian Paterson, who was the school’s headmaster from 1969 to 1998.

“I can not believe that Paterson and other long-term staff had no idea that sexual abuse was happening at Knox,” he said.

“But the culture of the school meant that any teacher who suspected inappropriate conduct would never speak up.

“Everyone was expected to keep up the reputation of Knox.”

The inquiry has heard abuse by former teachers and boarding house masters included boys as young as six being fondled, masturbated, forced to perform oral sex and watch pornographic videos.

One child was also photographed and filmed in an explicit video inside a teacher’s office, the inquiry heard.

Headmaster retained teacher targeting young boys

Mr Lloyd said Dr Paterson was given a report around 1986 by teacher and former police officer Stuart Pearson revealing serious allegations about Adrian Nisbett, who was later convicted of sexual assault.

The hearing will focus on their response to that knowledge and whether there was or is a culture at Knox which does not treat the issue of child abuse seriously.

Counsel assisting David Lloyd

The report found that Mr Nisbett was targeting young boys who were good at sport and recommended that he be removed from the boarding house.

“That report has gone missing, without explanation,” Mr Lloyd said.

“This hearing will examine how and why these and other critical documents have gone missing, whether they were deliberately destroyed in order to eliminate evidence which might adversely affect the school, and who from the school might have been involved.”

Nisbett was removed from the boarding house, but stayed on as an assistant to the headmaster until 1999.

“What information was known by employees of Knox and members of the Knox council about the abuse by the teachers?” Mr Lloyd asked.

“The hearing will focus on their response to that knowledge and whether there was or is a culture at Knox which does not treat the issue of child abuse seriously.”

The files of a number of students and parents who complained about abuse also disappeared, the commission heard.

Knox apologises for failing to protect students

Counsel for Knox Grammar Geoffrey Watson SC earlier delivered an apology on behalf of the school for failing to protect its students from sexual abuse by teachers, members of what one student described as a paedophile ring.

“The school humbly and sincerely apologises for its failure,” Mr Watson told the inquiry.

The school owed a primary responsibility to those students and to those parents to keep them safe from this sort of thing.

Geoffrey Watson SC, acting for Knox Grammar

“It apologises to all of those students who are damaged by these events.

“It apologises to the parents of those students and to the other members of their families.”

Mr Watson said the school welcomed the royal commission and that “it’s important the truth emerges”.

“There’s no excuse,” he said.

“The school owed a primary responsibility to those students and to those parents to keep them safe from this sort of thing.”

Several witnesses were expected to tell the commission that when they were still in primary school, the teachers would grope them in the playground.

Some of the teachers in question would socialise with each other in the boarding house, but also invite boys to their rooms, and even to homes they had away from the school.

Evidence would be presented about three other former teachers of the school who have not faced criminal proceedings.

Students made complaints, the commission heard, but senior administrators at the school who knew of the abuse did nothing.

Former prime ministers and prominent actors, including Hugh Jackman, attended the school, as did veteran broadcaster John Laws, former editor of the satirical Oz magazine Richard Neville, ethicist Simon Longstaff and former Macquarie Bank chairman David Clarke.

New bishop arrives at a difficult time

New bishop arrives at a difficult time


GIPPSLAND’S new Catholic bishop will assume his role at what is a tough time for the church in the region.

More than 1200 Catholics will flock to celebrate the ordination of Bishop-elect Pat O’Regan on Thursday, who looks forward to getting back to basics with his Christian message.

“I’d like to make the Christian message believable and credible, because we’ve taken a few body blows recently,” Fr O’Regan said.

“Because some bad things have happened, I’d like to get back to the basics of Christianity and that’s the love of God, love of neighbour.

“It’s not just about being in a holy huddle in a church; it’s being a part of the world.”

Fr O’Regan has arrived in the region at a time when allegations of sexual abuse against students at St Patrick’s Catholic College in the 1970s and 1980s now Catholic College Sale are being investigated by police.

Fr O’Regan said the church was praying for those affected and would co-operate with all inquiries.

“It’s a terrible thing when this happens because it’s people involved and they get hurt and it shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Fr O’Regan said.

“It really redoubles our efforts to make sure these things never happen again.”

Addressing the issue of ongoing discussions with the Independent Education Union about Catholic school teachers’ rights to be homosexual, live with partners out of wedlock and have children out of wedlock, Fr O’Regan said while it was not a requirement for teachers to be Catholic, they must abide by the ethos of schools and their Catholic morals.

“I’ve been around long enough to realise we all make mistakes and it’s not always easy, but when people sign up for a job in a Catholic organisation it’s no secret that they need to live by the ethos,” Fr O’Regan said.

“I think that all of us try to have what they call a seamless garment, what that means is there’s consistency in our life, we just don’t have compartments people hate hypocrites.

“What I see this as is a call to consistency, and if you can’t abide by that and have that consistency, then maybe the job’s not for you.”

More than 1000 people have booked to attend the ordination of Fr Pat O’Regan as the ninth Catholic Bishop of Sale.

Fr O’Regan’s ordination and his installation will take place at Bishop Phelan Stadium at Catholic College Sale, and those attending the two-hour ceremony are being asked to be seated no later than 10.30pm.

Catholic media spokesman Colin Coomber said while the ordination Mass would not start until 11am, the official welcome and procession of more than 100 priests and clergy would begin at least 20 minutes earlier than that.

Bishop-elect O’Regan will process in with 30 bishops and archbishops from around Australia at the start of the Mass.

Principal consecrator will be Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference president Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, assisted by the eighth Bishop of Sale, now Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse, and former Sale priest, now Bishop of Bathurst Michael McKenna.

Those attending will be invited to Sale Memorial Hall for lunch and refreshments afterwards.

Knox Grammar had ‘cover-up’ culture

Knox Grammar had ‘cover-up’ culture

The autocratic style of a headmaster nicknamed “Snake” by boarders at Knox Grammar School made it possible for teachers to take advantage of and prey on students, an inquiry has heard.

A man using the pseudonym ARY said the governance style of Ian Paterson, headmaster at Knox for 30 years, made students fearful of reporting sex abuse by teachers.

ARY boarded at the school from Year 7 in 1974 and was there for four years. He was indecently assaulted by science teacher Roger James when he was 14.

James was convicted and given a suspended sentence.

ARY and other former students told the sex abuse royal commission on Monday there was a culture of cover-up at the prestigious Wahroonga school.

Witnesses also accused the school of engendering a culture of homophobia with one saying he felt the school tried to force him out because he was gay.

ARY said James was a popular teacher, who was considered eccentric, smoked cigars in his office and the playground and was known to have alcohol in his office.

He befriended ARY and stayed with his family, assaulting him during one stay.

ARY said he could not tell his parents who were paying for his expensive education.

He also feared a backlash at school.

“In the boarding school if you were accused of a homosexual act you would never live it down,” he said.

ARY said because of the Knox experience he was severely and incurably homophobic, even though he knew it was illogical.

He said Dr Paterson’s “autocratic style of governance” contributed to the “Knox culture which conditioned students to be fearful of reporting conduct of reporting inappropriate conduct, and to be accepting of such behaviour by teachers.”

It also allowed “teachers to take advantage of, and prey upon, students,” he said.

It was widely known by students that James, music teacher Barrie Stewart and Adrian Nesbitt – three of five teachers who pleaded guilty to indecent acts – were “overly hands-on with boys,” he said.

“I cannot believe that Paterson and other long term staff had no idea that sexual abuse was happening at Knox.”

But the culture stopped teachers from speaking up.

“Everyone was expected to keep up the reputation of Knox,” he said.

Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul became upset as he told how his son David revealed he was molested by Stewart in the late 1970s.

“I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students,” said Dr Rentoul.

A former student using the pseudonym ATQ said when he told another teacher that Knox was a “paedophile ring” he was told, “you can’t say that”.

ATQ was 16 when he was groomed and abused by a housemaster.

The commission heard that despite several internal inquiries there was no evidence Dr Paterson contacted the police.

Dr Paterson, headmaster at Knox from 1969 to 1998 will give evidence, probably next week.

Geoffrey Watson SC, representing Knox Grammar School, said the school humbly and sincerely apologised for its failings.

“It apologises to all of those students who were damaged by these events. It apologises to the parents of those students and the other members of their families,” he said.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

Why do religious clerics get away with sexual abuse?

Why do religious clerics get away with sexual abuse?

For years we’ve made fun of the Catholic priests fondling with young ones. Their ghastly and heinous acts of insensitivity disgust our spirits and we all abhor such practices. I once stopped by and spoke to John Wojnowski, himself a victim, on Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC, who has been protesting for years, trying to bring the world’s attention to the abusive ways of the clergy.

He told me his appalling story of how a priest abused him during his childhood and how difficult it was for him to get over the traumatic event, something that scarred him psychologically for his entire life.

Fast forward to now, the year 2015, we have a 75-year-old Muslim cleric, Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, running the Institute of Islamic Education (IIE) in the small mid-Western town of Elgin, just outside of Chicago. He was arrested on February 17 on charges of felony and criminal sexual abuse but was let go on a $250,000 bail. Saleem obviously denies the charges.

Saleem, Indian by origin, belongs to a generation of immigrants who came to the US back in the 70s and 80s and settled here based on their religious skills. He established the IIE in 1989 and that was actually the time he started to hobnob with young females at the institute, students as well as employees. What one learns from those who are aware of such incidents is that the cleric got away scot-free because the community came to his rescue and mediated a settlement whenever he behaved erratically.

Saleem is a habitual offender. So far, along with the 23-year-old girl who came out of the shadows and reported her abuse by the mullah, there are at least three more women who claim to have been sexually molested by him. It is expected that more people will come forward.

I’ve been trying to reach out to the Muslims of Elgin, those who knew Saleem, to get a comment. However, it appears that the community has decided to stay tight-lipped about the issue. I did, however, get one individual to talk about the nefarious activities of the mullah. I was informed that Saleem believed in the concept of concubines and would often ‘light up’ at the sight of young women. It seemed that he had a monstrous, never-ending appetite, ready to pounce on the prey, at a moment’s notice. His body language said it all. My informant attended a few of the mullah’s sermons and often found him acting ‘awkwardly’.

Saleem, because of his repeated wrongdoing, has found it rather difficult to maintain a dignified stature within the community. Yet, until the night he was arrested, he continued to remain not only the head of IIE but also a revered personality enjoying the trust of tons of followers. According to some, Saleem is like the “Billy Graham of the South Asian community”.

At a time when Islam and Muslims stand in a dire need of some good news and pleasantness, the Mullah Saleem episode has not only come as a shock to the believers of the faith but also as an embarrassing PR exercise, a total image disaster that potentially pales the recently reported raunchy exploits of Bill Cosby with all the beautiful women in the world.

The advances in medical science have enabled folks to express their inner desires and self in a more effective manner and ‘sex up’ their lives even in their twilight years. Saleem, it seems, is no exception to the rule. Maybe he should have moved to a culture that allows polygamy? But then, given his lust for checking out different women, would multiple wives have satisfied his thirst for carnal needs or would he still be loafing around in pursuit of other women?

Granted we all have feelings and emotions and at times find it hard to control our expression of self. Yet, one must never let go of that unique ‘microchip’ that God Almighty has blessed us with and that distinguishes us humans from animals. That distinctive personality trait is called self-control that the mullah in question, being a religious luminary, should have exercised whenever he found himself giving in to the devilish desires. I guess those who propagate, sermonise and take upon themselves the task of reforming and refining humanity are more prone to trip into the ditch of immorality and corrupt ways. In Saleem’s case, it turned out to be fiddling and fondling with young women. Undoubtedly, his institute, his office and his constituents, the community that trusted him, deserved better.

I’m not sure about other parts of the world, but a good number of Muslim parents in North America send their kids on Sundays to Islamic schools like the IIE. This helps them become and stay aware of their religious value and realities. After Saleem’s arrest, one is sure that parents everywhere, if not withdraw their kids, will keep a critical eye and scrutinise the school environment before venturing to start an academic relationship.

There have been many times that I have extended offered to shake hands with South Asian women only to find myself feeling embarrassed a second later that they’ve been instructed by their religious leaders – the mullahs – that shaking hands with a man is against the precepts of religion. The mullahs, in many parts of the world, force woman to don hijabs. In the meantime, this cleric, Saleem, in our backyard, is forcing young women to undress and sit on his lap. What kind of example is he setting for future faithfuls? What type of signal is he sending out to those who are already sceptical about Islam?

Muslims should wake up and smell the coffee. Very often I feel that they give way too much respect to mosque imams or the heads of madrassahs or, to use a dandy term, the ‘rectors’ of Islamic institutes. They tend to turn Islam into a cult and hence these mullahs become the cult leaders. Whatever the ‘maulvi sahib’ teaches the kids or the women of the household is the word of law. No one questions the rationale of the logic presented and no one ever dares question the integrity of the instruction process followed in the religious schools.

While the mullahs mess around with young women, accept donations, live in palatial dwellings, they contaminate the minds of the youth who end up in the darks confines of the ISISs and al Qaedas of the world. The Islamic world needs to revisit the goal behind the role of the mullahs in their spiritual lives.

Perhaps don’t use these guys as a medium to reach God?

Perhaps just try to connect to the Supreme Being without the crutches of the maulvi sahib?

How about getting rid of the Skype mullah?

Let’s try to swim out of the shallowness and question what one is told instead of trusting blindly. It’s just like breaking the code and giving ourselves a chance to survive the dreadful onslaught.

After his arrest and subsequent bail, Saleem has been asked to stay away from anyone under the age of 18. I suggest he should stay away from humanity entirely. It is highly shameful that even at the ripe old age of 75, this cleric couldn’t exercise control over his mind and body. But he is not the first Muslim cleric to fool around or behave abruptly and would certainly not be the last one to do so.

In my years as an active journalist in Asia, I got to know an incredible number of religious clerics maintaining extramarital links and ties and yet preaching piety and spirituality to their followers. Naturally one’s initial reaction is that of shock and awe but then it should never be forgotten – such people are master manipulators who play with the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of their followers without ever revealing, reflecting on or being critical of their own vices.

We are all God’s creation. We are ‘Ashraf-ul-Makhluqat’ (The best of creations). Why not cut the mullahs out of our mainstream lives? Why not think with our hearts and souls and not depend on people like Mohammad Saleem for our spiritual needs? Be the masters of our own destinies and reach out to God and indulge in a conversion with the Higher Power on our own without anyone’s help. Trust me, it is all very doable.

In the meantime, while the Pope keeps seeking forgiveness for the acts of these imbeciles in a Church, I don’t expect anyone will apologise on behalf of Saleem. He would, however, do a huge favour to humanity if he lets his head control the matters of his heart, and not the other way around.

Whether it is a mosque, a church, a temple, a synagogue or a religious school, people view these places as sacred. To take advantage of their trust in this abhorrent manner is disgusting. There was a time when these religious institutions were sanctuaries for the faithful and the faithless – a place for prayer, safety and self-reflection. It would be very sad to see them reduced to another dark alley in which people would have to exercise utmost vigilance.

Teachers at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools ‘forced students to watch sickening paedophile porn films’.

Teachers at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools ‘forced students to watch sickening paedophile porn films’.

Claims that a teacher at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools forced students to watch paedophile pornography, have surfaced at a royal commission into child sex abuse.

Two teachers, who were convicted of sexually assaulting boys at the prestigious Knox Grammar School in Sydney, have been called to give evidence at the national hearing.

And there would be evidence of abuse by a further three teachers who were never charged, it was revealed.

There are claims that a teacher at one of Australia's most prestigious schools showed students paedophile pornography. The allegations have surfaced at a royal commission into child sex abuse

There are claims that a teacher at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools showed students paedophile pornography. The allegations have surfaced at a royal commission into child sex abuse

The royal commission into child sexual abuse will hear from Craig Treloar, who was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, with two years non-parole, in 2009 for indecent assault.

It will also hear from Damien Vance, who was convicted of one act of indecency on a boy under 16 and released on a good behaviour bond.

In his opening statement on Monday, counsel for the commission David Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore were convicted of sex offences against students.

Mr Lloyd said the school, which was established in 1924 by the Presbyterian Church, had five boarding houses supervised by resident masters in the 1980s.

During that time there didn’t appear to be any formal process for employing someone who wanted to be a resident master.

In his opening statement on Monday, counsel for the commission David Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney's north shore were convicted of sex offences against students

In his opening statement on Monday, counsel for the commission David Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore were convicted of sex offences against students

‘The evidence will disclose that at least one of the resident masters employed in around 1986, a Mr Chris Fotis, had criminal convictions for more than one offence at the time he was employed,’ he said.

Mr Fotis will give evidence later in the hearing.

Mr Lloyd said one witness, Guy Lamond, who started at Knox as a six-year-old in 1980, was abused by two teachers.

One of the teachers, Barrie Stewart, was charged with indecent assault against seven students and received a suspended sentence.

The other teacher, Craig Treloar, showed Mr Lamond and other boys pornographic videos of boys performing oral sex on younger boys and older men having sex with young boys.

At one point he asked Mr Lamond to perform oral sex on him.

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Knox Grammar had a culture of covering up sexual abuse, royal commission told

Knox Grammar had a culture of covering up sexual abuse, royal commission told

Widespread child sexual abuse at the prestigious private boys school Knox Grammar was covered up for decades because the school was more concerned about its reputation than the welfare of students, a royal commission has been told.

On the first day of the public hearing into how the school dealt with sexual abuse allegations,fresh claims were made against three former staff members. A further five former staff members have already been convicted of multiple sexual offences against students.

Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul wept as he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about the discovery his son, David, was molested by Knox music teacher Barrie Stewart in the late 1970s.

Mr Stewart, along with other teachers, continued to work at the school despite numerous claims about inappropriate behaviour with students.


“As a former headmaster myself, it seems extraordinary and reprehensible that these men continued to teach at Knox and abuse students,” said Dr Rentoul, whose son died at the age of 44.

“I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students.”

A former student, given the pseudonym ARY, told the commission Mr Stewart was notorious for groping students at the Wahroonga school.

“Often in passing in the hallways he would grab a boy’s genitals,” ARY said. “This happened so casually it was like a handshake.”

Mr Stewart later received a suspended sentence for the offences.

ARY was 14 when he was first molested by teacher Roger James, who was later convicted.

He did not complain about the abuse at the time because of the culture of cover-up at the school, he told the commission.

Boys who did speak up were “victimised and ostracised,” he said. “They were seen as weak and they became everybody’s bitch.”

A former student given the pseudonym ATQ told the commission he was groomed and abused by a housemaster when he was 16. When he told another housemaster that Knox was a “paedophile ring”, he was told, “you can’t say that”.

Former student Adrian Steer told the commission he gave a statement about the abuse he endured to the school’s internal investigator in 2004 but no action was taken.

Another former student, Guy Lamond, was only 12 in 1986 when teacher Craig Treloar abused him and showed him pornographic videos featuring underage sex. His complaint to the police in 2009 precipitated the convictions of five teachers.

The commission heard that Ian Paterson✓, headmaster of the school between 1969 and 1998, was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse but there is no evidence he contacted the police. Dr Paterson is a witness at the commission.

The royal commission is examining how the Uniting Church school responded to sex abuse claims between 1970 and 2012.

In his opening address, counsel assisting the commission David Lloyd said the school did not report allegations to the police for decades.

The school issued an apology for its failings in a statement read by its lawyer, Geoffrey Watson SC.

“The school owed a primary responsibility to those students and those parents to keep them safe from this sort of thing and the school failed to discharge that responsibility,” he said.

The hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate continues.

The best kept secret of the Catholic Church—its social teachings

The best kept secret of the Catholic Church—its social teachings

Susan Rakoczy is presently on sabbatical at Union Theological Seminary in New York where she is writing a book on feminist interpretations of discernment.  She is professor of spirituality at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute and the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Sexual abuse, the refusal to ordain women and some high-profile popes: most people would probably cite these things about the Catholic Church—often seen by secular society as a bulwark of conservative religion, especially because of its teachings on sexuality.

But Catholic teachings on social and economic issues are a very important dimension of the Church’s life and have their own long history. Beginning in 1891 with the first social encyclical—Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things”)—and continuing to Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical on ecology, the Catholic Church has developed a significant body of teachings on peace and social justice. These insights have often been in advance of what secular society has been willing to listen to and act on. 

However, it’s also true that these insights are sometimes called the Church’s ‘best kept secret’ because there’s such a gap between teaching and practice—between what people hear in the pew in Sunday homilies and the application of these principles to the daily lives of Catholics. Why does this gap exist, and what can be done to close it? 

There are four core principles in the Catholic Church’s social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the pursuit of the common good, the value of solidarity, and subsidiarity—the idea that higher decision-making bodies should not restrict lower-level action. Each of these principles have been woven through successive papal encyclicals—official statements of Catholic teachings proclaimed by the pope—and other documents such as those of the Second Vatican Council.  

Back in 1891, Rerum Novarum affirmed support for “workers’ associations” like labor unions at a time when this was highly controversial. Forty years later,Pius XI addressed the social issues of the Great Depression in Quadragesimo Anno. He spoke of the need for a “living wage,” sufficient for every family to live in dignity.

During World War II Pius XII spoke out strongly against the war, and his successor John XXIII continued that position in two powerful documents calledPacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”) and Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”). The latter laid out principles for world peace (including a cessation of the arms race and the banning of nuclear weapons), and analyzed the conditions that had produced so much economic injustice in the ‘developing’ world.

Pacem in Terris emphasized that relationships between nations must be based on the same values that guide those of communities and individuals: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom. Catholic social teaching stresses that peace is not simply the absence of war, but is based on the dignity of the person, thus requiring a political order based on justice and charity. The right of conscientious objection is affirmed when civil authorities mandate actions which are contrary to the fundamental rights of the person and the teachings of the Gospel.

In the early 1960s, Vatican II placed the Catholic Church even more squarely in the public sphere: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” The task of the Church is to engage in “reading the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

Populorum Progressio (“On the Progress of Peoples”), Paul VI’s contribution in 1967, did this by asserting that economic development was insufficient unless accompanied by the development of the whole person: the ultimate objective of life is not the pursuit of more material goods. Catholic social teaching rejects the ‘idolatry of the market’ since each person is much more than a producer or a consumer. The birth of liberation theology in the 1960s and its “preferential option for the poor” gave added emphasis to this shift.

Four years later in 1971, a world-wide meeting of Catholic bishops asserted that the promotion of justice lay at the heart of the Church’s life and mission—a theme carried further by John Paul II in his encyclicals on work in 1981 (Laborem Excercens) and the role of the state ten years later (Centisimus Annus), which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.

Altogether then, the Catholic Church has over 100 years of progressive social teaching to call on, which raises an obvious question: why hasn’t it put those teachings into practice on a more regular basis?

To answer that question one has to recognise that the Church is a diverse, global body in which congregations and their leaders take up different positions in their own shifting political contexts. For example, some American Catholicswere especially angry when Pope John Paul II condemned the US-led war on Iraq in 2003, despite the Church’s teachings on non-violence. Yet in El Salvador in the 1980s and 1990s, the Church—at least in the person of Archbishop Oscar Romero—didn’t hesitate to affirm the primacy of peaceful resistance, and he paid for his courage with his life.

Two issues in particular demonstrate the ways in which Catholic social teachings evolve and are constantly negotiated in this way: gender and the environment.

When it was written in 1963, Pacem in Terris noted that “women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity.” Vatican II went further to assert that all forms of discrimination—whether based on gender, race, colour, social condition, language or religion—are “to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”  But not until 1988 did the Catholic Church affirm the equal dignity and humanity of women.

In Mulieres Dignitatem issued that year (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”), Pope John Paul II wrote that “both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree, both are created in God’s image.” “But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church” added Pope Francis in his own commentary, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) in 2013. This clearly hasn’t yet happened.

The principles are clear, but the praxis lags behind, so the Catholic Church is very far from eradicating sexism and discrimination against women. John Paul II’s preference for a “theology of complementarity” is part of this problem. He emphasized that women and men have ‘complementary’ natures, and thus have different roles in the church and in the family. This is one of the foundations of the Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain women: “complementarity” is often understood to mean that a woman is ‘completed’ by a man.

Sexism and patriarchy permeate every level of Catholic life, and while women now work as theologians and may serve in some diocesan positions, its all-male heads are unable to imagine a Church of shared male-female leadership. Even though the Gospels call people to be servants, not rulers, the fear of losing power is very strong. But sexism distorts the teachings of Jesus by asserting that the male is ‘like unto God.’

A similar evolution is taking place in relation to the environment. The modern ecological movement began in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring.  Catholic leaders were slow to recognize the need to protect the earth, but Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate(issued in 2009) included an important section on ecological issues. He called for “responsible stewardship” over nature and the need for a simpler life-style in rich countries: the Church has a responsibility towards creation which must be asserted in the public sphere.

The direction of Pope Francis’s thinking on these issues is clear. In hisinaugural homily on March 19, 2013 he called on all people to be protectors of creation which:

“is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the book of Genesis and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”

Environmental issues are now important “signs of the time” as anticipated by Vatican II, and Catholics are increasingly involved in eco-justice activities. But there are also climate change denialists in both the pews and among the clergy. Here, lay leadership is crucial: the average Catholic might not know about Pope Francis’s ecological teachings, but she or he does know that the earth is in peril, and that now is the time to act.

The response from Catholics to these developments has been mixed. Surveys of young Catholics indicate that “many young adults are inspired by Catholic social teaching, affirming that this is the dimension of church doctrine with which they must clearly identify.” The adult education program “JustFaith” has helped Catholics to become familiar with new thinking, but conservatives often take exception to any criticism of capitalism and growing inequality. For them, the Church’s teachings on economic justice are not ‘good news.’ So how can new thinking become part of the mainstream of Catholic life?

A few years ago while teaching a course on mysticism and social justice, I discovered that the required course on Catholic social teachings the previous year had addressed only two topics: homosexuality and climate change. It brought home to me the paucity of education on justice issues among clergy and Catholic students. Many priests often don’t get any comprehensive instruction in these teachings during their theological studies.

As a hierarchical institution, stronger leadership in this respect from Catholic Bishops is vital. They need to reassess what themes permeate their teaching: is it mostly sexual ethics with little mention of broader social justice issues?

But Vatican II also emphasized the crucial role of the laity in the Church, and these past fifty years have seen a growth and flourishing of lay leadership all around the world. Many Catholics are eager to learn more about their faith, but not all parishes offer opportunities to do so. Therefore, lay Catholics need to evangelize their priests and parishes in social justice terms as well as the other way around.

Catholics don’t need to wait for the go-ahead from their pastors to engage in works of peace and social justice. That way, the Church’s social teachings won’t be a secret anymore.

Explosion at Mexican bishops’ conference headquarters

A homemade device exploded outside the headquarters of the Mexican bishops’ conference during the nighttime hours on July 25, shattering glass and blowing open a door.

As authorities investigate possible suspects and motives, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference called for “serenity, prudence, and respect,” according to an Associated Press report.

“The events of today should invite us to reflect upon the necessity of rebuilding our social fabric,” the spokesman added.

Christians mark Martyrdom Day in India

A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe July 22 as Martyrdom Day to pay tribute to Christians killed for the sake of their faith.

Shibu Thomas, who initiated the day through his ecumenical forum Persecution Relief said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country.

The observance is “part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life,” Thomas told July 24.

He said July 22 was set as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a schoolgirl in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after her family refused to abandon their Christian faith despite several threats.

“This was an act of revenge and intimidation, to get her family to renounce their faith, but they are still firm in their faith despite continuing threats,” Thomas said. “The day is a moral boost for such persons who suffer for the sake of Christ,” he said.

Christian leaders like him say attacks against Christians have increased since 2014 when the pro-the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in a landslide victory. Fundamentalist Hindu groups, who consider BJP as their political wing, took the election victory as a mandate to step up their action to make India a Hindu-only nation.

“The country is going through a very difficult phase where practicing and propagating the Christian faith is a serious challenge now,” Thomas said.

Data collected by Persecution Relief shows that in 2016 alone, Hindu extremists destroyed 106 Christian places of worship, most of them belonging to Protestant and neo-Pentecostal groups.

Iraqi Christian leader: The shepherd cannot leave his sheep

Iraqi Christian leader: The shepherd cannot leave his sheep

Iraq, June 08, 2015: Only four miles (six km) from the frontlines of Islamic State (IS) fighters, three monks and six students have determined to remain in St Matthew’s ancient monastery in Iraq’s Nineveh province until there are no Christians left in the country. “We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us,” says Yousif Ibrahim, one of three remaining monks living in the monastery. “The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us.”

With only the Kurdish Peshmerga military left to protect a monastery that has withstood the conquests of the Ottoman and Persian empires, the nine Christians who have chosen to stay are only too aware that IS could reach St Matthew’s at any moment. “We are not scared, because our teachers give us a feeling of peace here,” says student Sahar Karaikos, “but we know we are on the frontlines… I don’t even want to think or speak about the destruction the Islamic State would cause if they took our monastery.”

Most of the Christians in the town and the other monks fled in August last year when IS militants advanced across territory close to Mt. Al-Faf, where St Matthew’s monastery has sat since 363 AD. Even though these monks and students remain, many of the irreplaceable books and relics have been taken to safer areas. “If a people don’t have the history of their past,” says Sahar Karaikos, “then they will not have a future because they won’t know what their origins are, where they came from.”

Set at the very heart of Iraq’s ancient Christian heartland, the Nineveh plains, St Matthew’s monastery is emblematic of Iraq’s historical Christian presence which dates back almost 2,000 years: prayer worship at St Matthew’s is conducted in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But now the country’s Christian presence is under serious threat. Those who remain, a distinct light in the darkness, are likely to be forced out of Iraq eventually, says Yousif Ibrahim. Until then, however, he has decided to stay, explaining, “the shepherd cannot leave his sheep”.

When IS took over Mosul in June last year, they drove the Christians out of the city and looted their homes. Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul, fled with only five minutes to spare when the IS fighters were just 300 metres from his house. “They take everything from us,” he said, “but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.”

More than 200 missing orphans taken by Hindu holy men after the earthquake

More than 200 missing orphans taken by Hindu holy men after the earthquake

Kathmandu, June 18, 2015: Nepali authorities have banned the transfer of children to shelters and centres run by Hindu holy men after 237 children went missing when they found refuge in such sites in the wake of the massive 25 April earthquake. The Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre run by guru Ramdev is one of them.

The order was issued after the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), the government body responsible for monitoring children’s movements in the country, reported the disappearance of 215 children from Gorkha District and 22 from Okhaldhunga District. Most of the children lost their parents in the powerful earthquake that killed 8,700 and injured 17,000 more.

“Hundreds of children who lost their parents or guardians have been welcomed by many organisations working on behalf of shelters run by gurus in India. However, many of them are currently unaccounted for,” CCWB Director Dilli Ram Giri told AsiaNews.

The situation came to light on 9 June when police in Kathmandu and Dhading District rescued 195 children from the Lho monastery, in Lho village (Gorkha District).

Minors were travelling without the authorisation of their home district, which was made compulsory to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children after thousands of complaints were filed in recent weeks.

The authorities have charged Chiranjibi Bhandari, from the Nepal Children’s Organisation, of criminal association aimed at the sale of children from government-run schools.

Officials rescued 337 children from several districts, including Dhading, Dolakha, Kavre, Okhadhunga, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Lamjung and Rukum.

According to Superintendent Krishna Gautam, head of the Women and Children Department in the Nepalese police, child trafficking has increased significantly following the earthquake.

On Tuesday, with a mandate from the Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kavre District Administration Office raided the Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre and rescued 22 children who were about to be moved to the organisation’s headquarters in Haridwar (in the Indian state of Uttarakhand), and returned them to their parents.

Led by Baba Ramdev, a well-known guru, the Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre is setting up a branch in Nepal.

Right after the earthquake, Baba Ramdev announced that he would take in 500 children affected by the earthquake, and provide them with care and education up to the fifth grade in Haridwar. However, minors found in the yoga centre in Kavre were not authorised to move.

“Those found to be taking minors with them without permission will face human trafficking charges,” warned Laxmi Dhakal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“Many children taken to India will not be allowed in shelters run by Indian Hindu gurus, even if they have the right papers, because of reports about serious cases of exploitation,” said Kavre District Chief Sudarshan Dhakal.

Henry VIII’s evidence to support break with Rome turns up in Cornish library

Henry VIII’s evidence to support break with Rome turns up in Cornish library

UK, February 25, 2015: A book which helped changed the course of English history, part of the evidence Henry VIII and his lawyers gathered in the 1530s to help win an annulment from Catherine of Aragon and ultimately to break with Rome, has turned up on the shelves of the magnificent library at Lanhydrock, a National Trust mansion in Cornwall.

The book, a summary of the theories of the medieval philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, has been newly identified by a US scholar and expert on the history of Henry’s library. The book was damaged but escaped destruction in a disastrous fire at the house in 1881, and crucially the fly-leaf survived. It still carries the number 282, written in black ink in the top right-hand corner, which Prof James Carley identified as corresponding with an inventory taken in 1542 of the most important of Henry’s books, five years before the king’s death.

Paul Holden, the house and collections manager at Lanhydrock, said: “It was an amazing moment. The old long gallery here is about the length of a football pitch, and the professor lapped it about six times when we found the book.”

There is nothing of Henry’s handwriting in the book, but Carley is certain it was consulted during the years when the king was desperately seeking a way, with the aid of Thomas Cromwell, of getting rid of his first wife Catherine, and marrying and conceiving a male heir with Anne Boleyn – the drama chronicled in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

Henry’s agents were gathering evidence that could support the move, which may be how the collection of the views of the 14th century priest and philosopher, published in 1495, came to the royal library. Ockham wrote in Latin of the limits of the power of the pope, and the independence of the authority of monarchs. Several pages in the book have key passages marked by secretaries for Henry’s attention, including one crucial section with a heading which translates as: “When it is permitted to withdraw from obedience to the pope”.

In 1532 Henry would begin exactly that process of withdrawal from Rome. In 1533, despite its refusal to annul his first marriage, he married the almost certainly pregnant Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII declared that Catherine was still the rightful queen of England, and Henry responded with the Act of Supremacy, establishing himself as the head of the Church of England. The breach with Rome was complete.

Carley described the discovery as thrilling.

“The book is important not only for its provenance but for the notes entered in it by Henry VIII’s advisers and no doubt intended for him to see. They draw attention to precisely the sort of issues that were so relevant to the king’s policies in the years leading up to the break with Rome.”

In the 17th century, when many books were disposed of from the royal collection, it was acquired by a Cornish scholar and chaplain, the wonderfully named Hannibal Gamon, who left his signature on the title page. He in turn left the best of his books to his friend and patron John Robartes, first Earl of Radnor, at Lanhydrock. The book has sat on the shelves, rarely opened and its importance unrecognised, shelves ever since.

The library collection at Lanhydrock is famous, the finest among the National Trust’s properties, and far older than the present imposing granite house, which is almost entirely a Victorian replacement for the Jacobean building gutted by fire, when almost all the books were saved. Although the leather covers are original, the book’s spine was replaced after the fire which helped further disguise it.

Early this year Carley was among many scholars who come to use the collection, and Holden asked him to look at two volumes with the arms of Henry and Catherine of Aragon. Carley concluded they showed royal loyalty but not royal origins, but suggested it might be worth checking the collection for books from Henry’s library.

The two men started taking down every book marked in the Lanhydrock catalogue as older than 1542, and checking them against a copy of Henry’s inventory, and within an hour, when they reached Section C of the shelves, opened the book and saw the neat small number 282.

The book will now be displayed for the first time as a star object, rather than one more brown leather book among thousands, in an exhibition, Monarchy and the Book, when the house reopens to the public on 1 March.

Last letter of Aftab, an innocent Pak Catholic hanged yesterday

Last letter of Aftab, an innocent Pak Catholic hanged yesterday

Lahore, June 10, 2015: At 4:30 am (local time), the authorities in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore hanged Aftab Bahadur Masih, a Catholic man who was unjustly convicted in a triple murder case when he was 15. Recent pleas by the Catholic Church and human rights activists proved hopeless.

Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Karachi and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, wrote a letter to President Himari Hussain, asking for a stay of execution to start fresh investigations.

Aftab was sentenced to death on 5 September 1992 for the murder of Sabiha Bari and her two sons. The following day, Ghulam Mustafa, a plumber for whom he worked as an apprentice, was arrested for complicity and tortured by police to implicate Aftab in the murder.

Only recently, the plumber admitted that Aftab Bahadur had nothing to do with the crime, and that he was only an eyewitness. He also signed an affidavit before a religious leader, stating that he had lied.

Aftab has always claimed his innocence. Over the years, he said that when he was arrested, police asked for 50,000 rupees (US$ 5,000) to let him go. As a young apprentice, he could not pay.

Last year, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, lifted the country’s moratorium on the death penalty, a day after the Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar killing 134 students and 19 adults.

Shortly before his execution, Aftab Bahadur Masih wrote a last letter in which he expressed his feelings. Here it is.

“I just received my black warrant. It says I will be hanged by the neck until dead on Wednesday, June 10. I am innocent, but I do not know whether that will make any difference.

During the last 22 years of my imprisonment, I have received death warrants many times. It is strange, but I cannot even tell you how many times I have been told that I am about to die.

Obviously, it feels bad whenever the warrants are issued. I start to count down the days, which is in itself painful, and I find that my nerves are shackled in the same way as my body.

In truth, I die many times before my death. I suppose my life experience is different from that of most people, but I doubt there is anything more dreadful than being told that you are going to die, and then sitting in a prison cell just waiting for that moment.

For many years – since I was just 15 years old – I have been stranded between life and death. It has been a complete limbo, total uncertainty about the future.

I am a Christian, and sometimes that is difficult here. Unfortunately, there is one prisoner in particular who has tried to make our lives more difficult. I don’t know why he does it.

I got very upset over the Christian bombings that took place in Peshawar. This hurt me deeply, and I wish that Pakistani people could possess a sense of nationality that overrode their sectarianism. There is a small group of us here who are Christians, just four or five, and we are now all in one cell, which has improved my life.

I do everything I can to escape my misery. I am an art lover. I was an artist – just an ordinary one – from my early days, when I was first conscious of anything.

Even back then, I was inclined towards painting, as well as writing verses. Although I had no training, it was just a gift of God. But after I was brought to jail I had no other way to express my feelings, as I was then in a state of complete alienation and loneliness.

I began some time ago to paint all the signs for the Kot Lakhpat jail, where I am held. Then I was asked to do signs for other jails. Nothing in this world can give me more happiness than the feeling when I paint some idea, or feeling on the canvas. It is my life, so I am happy to do it. My workload is great, and I am exhausted at the end of each day, but I am glad of that, as it keeps my mind off other things.

I have no family to visit me, so when someone does come, it is a wonderful experience. It allows me to reap ideas from the outside world that I can then lay down on my canvas. Being asked about how I was tortured by the police brought back terrible memories that I turned into pictures, though it would perhaps have been better not to have to think of what the police did to try to get me to confess falsely to this crime.

When we heard the news about lifting the death penalty moratorium in December 2014, fear prevailed throughout the cells of the prison here. There was an overriding sense of horror. The atmosphere hung, gloomy, over us all. But then the executions actually started at Kot Lakhpat Jail, and everyone started to go through mental torture. Those who were being hanged had been our companions for many years on this road to death, and it is only natural that their deaths left us in a state of despair.

While the death penalty moratorium was ended on the pretext of killing terrorists, most of the people here in Kot Lakhpat are charged with regular crimes. Quite how killing them is going to stop the sectarian violence in this country, I cannot say.

I hope I do not die on Wednesday, but I have no source of money, so I can only rely on God and on my volunteer lawyers. I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark.

Bishops’ council regrets statement on Love Jihad

Bishops’ council regrets statement on Love Jihad

Thiruvananthapuram, June 15, 2015: The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) on Sunday expressed regrets over the statement of Bishop Anikushikattil on love jihad if it had hurt the sentiments of any community.

Bishop Anikuzhikkattil had accused a Hindu outfit Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam of abducting Christian girls by “love jihad.”

“Inter-caste marriages would destroy Christian essence and style. Our girls are being abducted by love jihad… secret aims of the SNDP Yogam. We should be vigilant against this,” he said at while addressing a meeting of pastoral council.

The KCBC statement maintained that the bishop’s statement was not meant to hurt the sentiments of any community.

“If his statement hurt the sentiments of any community, it is deeply regretted,” the KCBC said in its statement.

“The Bishop was only trying to explain the possible discords that might arise in inter-religious marriages,” the Council pointed out.

“The Bishop was expressing his anxiety over the conflicts and issues caused by the prevalence of neo-liberal thinking in a society like Kerala that treasures traditional family values.

“Spiritual and community leaders cannot ignore disintegration of family. What the Bishop emphasised on was that the Church should focus on providing moral training to the youth.

Bishop Anikuzhikattil kicked up a controversy and faced criticism from various quarters on Saturday when he made the allegation that the SNDP Yogam and the ‘Love Jihad’ campaign were trapping Catholic girls.

He also stated that marriages outside the religion would destroy people’s faith in the Church.

Bishop Anikuzhikattil reportedly said: “Our girls are not hesitant to renounce Christian beliefs and leave their parents to go with a Muslim or an SNDP member. This is due to lack of strong belief in Christianity. We should address this issue with utmost seriousness.”

Substantiating his remarks, Anikuzhikattil said that six out of every 100 marriages in the Kerala dioceses were “inter-caste.”

Modi failed to protect Christians: Cardinal Toppo

Modi failed to protect Christians: Cardinal Toppo

Ranchi, June 16, 2015: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has failed to keep his promise on action to protect Christians under increasing threat from extremist violence, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo has said.

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Toppo, also the Archbishop of Ranchi, highlighted the need for government action to protect Christians and vulnerable religious minorities in India amid a rise in attacks by Hindu radicals.

“They have not come out to protect and defend. The Prime Minister has only once spoken in defense of the constitution and he promised to protect the Christians and other minorities. But that was only a promise,” he said.

However, he said that Modi’s speech gave some “assurance” of the government’s commitment to tackling violence and other extremism against Christians.

Reports, including the latest US Commission on International Religious Freedom released in late April, have described a marked rise in anti-Christian violence, and last month there were up to five incidents in one week.

Cardinal Toppo stressed that violence by radical Hindu organisations and the emerging ‘homecoming’ movement remained a major threat to Christians.

Responding to reports of increased violence and localized attacks by Hindu extremists, the cardinal stressed that the unification of the Church was key to the survival of Christianity in India.

Calling for solidarity amongst Christians worldwide, he said, “I believe that the Church has played an important role, directly or indirectly in keeping India united. Yes, because, although we are of different culture, different language and different parts of India, still we belong to one Catholic Church.”

He added “We want solidarity in every respect. Our Church is one. In the same way that there is only one world, it is the same that the Catholic Church is one everywhere.”

Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse

Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse

Vatican, June 10, 2015: Pope Francis has approved the outline of a new system of accountability for Catholic bishops who do not appropriately handle accusations of clergy sexual abuse, in what could be a breakthrough moment on an issue that has plagued the church globally.

Proposed by Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley at the behest of the pope’s commission on clergy sexual abuse, the system gives power to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.”

It would also see the establishment of a new office at the congregation to undertake work as a tribunal to judge such bishops.

Such a system will be a first at the Vatican, where bishops have long held near impunity with regard to their actions or inactions on clergy sexual abuse. In the Catholic church, only the pope can fire prelates — a process that, if it ever occurs, normally takes years or even decades.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said that while that firing power ultimately remains with Francis, the pope accepts the decisions of those he puts in such tribunal offices.

“If the pope says that [this is] the judgment and the competence of the tribunal, then normally the pope accepts the judgment of the tribunal,” said Lombardi, responding to a question from NCR at a press conference Wednesday announcing the new system.

Lombardi said the pontiff had approved the system following unanimous consent on the matter during discussions Monday among the nine-member Council of Cardinals, the group of prelates advising Francis on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.

O’Malley is the only American member of that group and is also the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The new accountability system, which the Vatican said was developed by the pontifical commission, contains a set of five points agreed upon by the pope. The pope, the Vatican said, mandated that the points are to be established for a five-year period and “authorized that sufficient resources will be provided for this purpose.”

The points are clearly not in the usual form for Vatican mandates — which normally are promulgated in a sometimes lengthy and legalistic note known as a motu proprio — suggesting that Francis wanted to move forward quickly on the accountability process without waiting for different departments to draft language.

The first of the five points states that there is a “duty” to report “allegations of the abuse of office by a bishop connected to the abuse of minors” to the Vatican, specifically the three congregations which oversee bishops: the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The second point of the agreement then gives power to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops, and the third calls for the creation of a new judicial section in that congregation along with the appointment of “stable personnel to undertake service in the Tribunal.”

The fourth point obliges the pope to appoint a new secretary, or second-in-command, for the doctrinal congregation to head the tribunal and to work with the congregation’s prefect, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller.

The fifth point of the outline establishes the five-year period “for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness.”

The points do not specifically clarify who has the duty to report abuses of office by bishops and how those reports might be transferred by the Vatican congregations that oversee bishops to the doctrinal congregation for judgment.

The points also do not indicate how a bishop who comes under judgment will be able to defend himself, although presumably final recourse would rest with the pope.

The question of accountability for bishops who mishandle abuse cases has long been seen as the most unresolved issue in the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse.

In one example of the Vatican’s slow action on the issue, U.S. Bishop Robert Finn was allowed to remain in office for two and a half years after becoming the first prelate criminally convicted of mishandling an abusive priest.

Francis accepted Finn’s resignation in April with a terse Vatican note that gave no reason for the move.

The leader of a website that tracks clergy sexual abuse said that while the new system was a “promising step” it would require “a courage and an aggressive commitment that have so far been sadly lacking, despite the innovations of Pope Francis.”

“This system will be coping with the complex interactions of enabling and offending that we see in cases involving bishops,” said Terence McKiernan, president of

“Priests abuse children and so do bishops — bishops who offend are inevitably enablers, and the Commission’s plan must confront that sad fact,” he said.

The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation is already tasked with investigating cases of priests accused of sexual abuse. Last November, Francis also created a new review board inside the congregation to speed up review of appeals by priests found guilty of abuse.

The Council of Cardinals, which was meeting at the Vatican for its tenth in-person encounter Monday-Wednesday, has been known to be discussing the issue of bishops’ accountability for months. Lombardi said in April that the group had put the issue “on the table” at O’Malley’s insistence.

Other members of the cardinals’ group include Australian Cardinal George Pell, who has come under scrutiny for his own actions handling sexually abusive priests during the proceedings of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Vandalization of Prayer House in Coimbatore. Police Swing into Action Only After CSF Complaint

Vandalization of Prayer House in Coimbatore. Police Swing into Action Only After CSF Complaint

8th June 2015 – Its been a week that the Coimbatore Police was informed that several statues of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and St. Joseph were vandalised by unknown miscreants at a prayer house in Tamil Nadu. Garfield Jansen, who set up the prayer house on 1497 Trichy Road, stores and distributes freely religious articles has been running from pillar to post to recover the lost valuables and also punish the guilty. This in spite of the issue making the news and the police being well in the know of it.

It has been of no avail and so, a visibly disturbed Garfield Jansen came to Mumbai to meet with us at the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), where I lost no time to get in touch with the Coimbatore Police Commissioner’s office, who directed the complaint to the Race Course Police station and within minutes, the senior inspector got in touch and assured action will promptly be taken.

The CSF has called for immediate registration of an FIR and told the police that we would follow-up unless action was taken. If nothing is done in a week, we will request you to send emails to the commissioner and other officials.

Garfield Jansen has traveled to various Catholic pilgrim center around the world and collected sacred relics, medals, statues, souveniers, mementoes, etc. which have been blessed by even Pope Francis and now laments that all had been reduced to rubble.

His 94 year-old mother who lives in the place, has had to shift residence out of fear. Theft does not seem to be the motive as the heinous manner in which the statues were desecrated – especially all heads of St. Joseph’s statue, which is why Garfield thought of coming to me – clearly indicates that stealing was not the only motive. Further, according to him, the sacred books and writings were dumped into the near-by gutter and covered with mud. Why would a robber do such a thing is what the CSF asked the police?

The prayer house is within a kilometer of the police commissioner / B4 police station and in the Coimbatore Latin diocese, with the Syro Malabar rite also operating under the diocese of Ramanathapuram, whose bishop has expressed distress.