NSW child sexual abuse inquiry finds evidence to charge senior Catholic Church official

NSW child sexual abuse inquiry finds evidence to charge senior Catholic Church official

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: An inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Hunter region of NSW has found there is enough evidence to charge a senior Catholic Church official with concealing the activities of a notorious paedophile priest.

The Special Commission into abuse allegations and their alleged cover-up in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese has delivered its final report calling the failure of clergy to report decades of abuse to police as inexcusable.

But it has also slammed the credibility of the detective chief inspector who sparked the inquiry finding him to be an unsatisfactory and at times untruthful witness.

Inspector Peter Fox had accused senior police of hindering sex abuse investigations but the commission says NSW police acted appropriately.

Jason Om reports.

JASON OM, REPORTER: For the many victims of abuse in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, there is a sense of vindication.

PETER GOGARTY, ABUSE VICTIM: This was not just the wrongdoing of individual priests that those priests were assisted in their crimes, if you like, by virtue of the fact that other people knew about it and did nothing.

JASON OM: About 50 people provided disturbing evidence about their suffering at the hands of paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher. Both are now dead.

The inquiry headed by Margaret Cunneen SC investigated allegations of a cover-up by the church and by New South Wales police.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox blew the whistle accusing senior officers of forcing him to drop his inquiries into abuse.


PETER FOX, DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR: I am sure that some hierarchy in the police force won’t be wanting to put me on their Christmas card list after the letter today and after speaking here tonight. I don’t care.

JASON OM: The commission has found failures and inaction in the diocese and elsewhere to report child sexual abuse to police. And a failure to protect children.

However, the diocese did cooperate when requested by police.

On the alleged police cover-up, the commission found Strike Force Lantle set up to investigate claims of abuse cover-up by the church was not a sham that was set up to fail, as claimed by Peter Fox.

Peter Fox was initially carrying out his own clandestine and later competing inquiries despite being told to drop them.

He also rejected claims of a “Catholic Mafia” within the police force. The commission says police acted lawfully and appropriately.

PETER GOGARTY: The detective that was in charge of Strike Force Lantle has done an outstanding job, I think.

JASON OM: Officials in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese knew about Denis McAlinden’s abuse of children from 1954. His victims were in New South Wales, Western Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.



VOICEOVER: It took more than 40 years for the diocese to report to police any aspect of McAlinden’s offending history. The evidence reveals a disturbing story of repeated inaction and failure on the part of church officials.

JASON OM: Among the officials criticised, the late head of the diocese, Bishop Leo Clarke, whose inaction, the report says, was inexcusable. The inaction of the late Monsignor Patrick Cotter also inexcusable. Current priest Monsignor Allan Hart, who knew about the abuse, and should have reported it to police. His credibility as a witness was found to be unsatisfactory. 

Father Brian Lucas, who at the time was responsible for persuading accused sex abusers to quit the priesthood, his inaction the report says;


VOICEOVER: Failed to have proper regard to what should have been the overriding consideration – the protection of children.

JASON OM: Brian Lucas is now the general secretary of the Catholic Church’s peak body, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

PETER GOGARTY: I think his position really is untenable.

JASON OM: And the head of the diocese from 1995-2011, Bishop Michael Malone, who, despite knowing Denis McAlinden’s file was “So big you can’t jump over it” did not report him to police until 1999.

The report found Bishop Malone was in consistent in his evidence about how he dealt with another paedophile priest, James Fletcher. His response to abuse claims were inadequate and underestimated their seriousness. He was also found to have acted inappropriately by alerting James Fletcher to a police investigation.

PATRICIA FEENAN, MOTHER OF ABUSE VICTIM: I always reflected on how would it have gone if that priest didn’t have all that time to character assassinate us and certainly my son.

JASON OM: The findings have been made public in three volumes but a fourth volume on Fletcher remains confidential. The inquiry says;


VOICEOVER: There is sufficient evidence warranting the prosecution of a senior church official in connection with the concealment of child sexual abuse relating to Fletcher.

PETER GOGARTY: I think we are going to have to be very patient in waiting to see what the NSW police and the Department of Public Prosecutions do with that information but I honestly believe that it will be worth the wait.

JASON OM: The commission has effectively cleared NSW police of cover-up allegations by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox. Saying he was obsessed about the Catholic Church and alleged conspiracies involving senior police. At times the report says he was untruthful, prone to exaggerate and in consistent in his evidence.

PETER FOX, DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR: I am not backing away from any of the things I said either on the Lateline program or in my letter to the Premier. They are the two things that triggered everything and I don’t think anywhere through the special commission anything that I said in those documents has been cast into any sort of doubt.

JASON OM: The commission found Peter Fox had been carrying out inquiries in secret and had acted inappropriately by disclosing police information to Newcastle journalist Joanne McCarthy.

Despite the findings, Peter Fox is defiant.

PETER FOX: I still stand by everything I said in the letter to the premier Barry O’Farrell and in the interview with Tony Jones and none of that has been disproven.

JASON OM: Some of Peter Fox’s evidence has been referred to the Royal Commission into abuse for assessment. The Catholic Church and the NSW police have declined to be interviewed saying they will review the report in due course.

The confidential section will be referred to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions who will decide whether charges should be laid against the church official whose name has been suppressed.

Jason Om, Lateline.



St. Thomas faculty member to retire amid investigation of abuse allegations against priest

St. Thomas faculty member to retire amid investigation of abuse allegations against priest

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — A long-time faculty member at the University of St. Thomas questioned about his knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against a professor plans to retire.

Center for Catholic Studies founder Don Briel plans to leave the university at the end of August. His retirement comes amid an internal investigation into whether Briel or others at the university knew that an archdiocesan board recommended that Rev. Michael Keating not mentor young adults.

Keating is being sued by a woman who alleges he sexually abused her between 1997 and 2000, beginning when she was 13. Authorities investigated, but have declined to file criminal charges. Keating has denied the allegations through his attorney.

The 67-year-old Briel tells Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1oCSpWe ) that it was time to “explore new options for the future.”


Phoenix priest quits as pastor amid inquiry

Phoenix priest quits as pastor amid inquiry

This story has been updated to clarify information about the complaints and the number of parents who spoke to The Arizona Republic and include additional statements from the Diocese of Phoenix.

In addition, this story removes a reference to Mark Hebert, a former assistant pastor at St. Thomas. The original online version of this story did not state, and did not mean to imply, that he was ever involved in any allegation of sexual abuse. Hebert said he left St. Thomas for another parish and eventually left the priesthood to be married.


A Phoenix priest has resigned as a pastor as the diocese investigates several complaints against him.

On May 2, the Diocese of Phoenix said it was aware of “several complaints” associated with St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and School. Parishioners at St. Thomas, at 24th Street and Campbell Avenue, were informed that the Rev. John Ehrich would take voluntary leave while the investigation was underway.

Two weeks later, the diocese, which retained an outside law firm to conduct the investigation, announced that Ehrich had resigned as pastor of the church “for his own well-being and for the good of the parish.”

A note to parishioners on May 17 said that Ehrich “remains a priest in good standing” and that Ehrich had not been accused of physical or sexual abuse of a minor or been accused of a crime. In a statement issued Wednesday, the diocese said its investigator retained a licensed professional “with broad experience in child protection matters” to review remarks made by Ehrich to students during a classroom discussion. It said Ehrich remains a “priest with full faculties” in the Diocese of Phoenix. The statement further said, “the Diocese of Phoenix is committed to providing a safe environment where it values and honors every individual as created in the image and likeness of God.”

In a follow-up statement Thursday, the diocese said, “we are not able to elaborate further on the details of an ongoing investigation regarding internal personnel matters.”

Ehrich could not be reached for comment.

A Republic reporter spoke to one parent, who did not want to be identified in this story, who said some parents had presented a list of demands to the diocese, foremost among them that Ehrich be removed from the parish. However, the parent would not provide the number of parents who complained and said those parents would not talk to a reporter.

Ehrich, who was ordained in 2000, had been a pastor at St. Thomas since 2007, when he returned from Rome after receiving a degree in theology.

Ehrich serves as Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s chief adviser on medical ethics and became publicly known during a dispute over the Catholic character of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

In interviews at the time, Ehrich explained that the diocese could no longer consider the hospital Catholic because it had done a pregnancy-ending procedure to save a woman’s life that did not fit church guidelines.


Priest sent to prison for 15-years in sodomy case

Priest sent to prison for 15-years in sodomy case

The Rev. James Schook, a convicted child molester, had lost his final bid to stay out of prison.

Circuit Judge Mitch Perry ordered the dying priest, diagnosed years ago with end-stage melanoma, to be taken immediately into custody to begin his 15-year sentence, ending another sordid chapter in the Louisville Archdiocese’s priest-abuse crisis.

Schook was convicted last month of three counts of sodomy and one count of indecent or immoral practice for molesting a teenage altar boy in the 1970s. The jury recommended he serve 15 years in prison.

Schook asked the judge to consider his age and his illness, and allow him to serve his time on probation, rather than in prison. His attorney, David Lambertus, tried to convince the judge a dying priest posed no threat to the community, and would cost taxpayers untold fortunes in medical care in prison.

Prosecutor John Balliet countered that Schook is the most dangerous sort of criminal: he’s shown no remorse; he has never apologized.

“I don’t think anybody is more dangerous than a person who does terrible acts like this and refused to take any responsibility for what they’ve done,” Balliet told the judge. “He doesn’t think they’re wrong.”

The case has been delayed for years, Balliet said, as Schook’s lawyer insisted his client was on his deathbed and far too sick to proceed. In the meantime, Schook served no jail time.

Perry dismissed Schook’s request for leniency — he denied him probation and declined to set bond pending appeal. He said he called the Department of Corrections before Friday’s hearing, to ensure they’d be prepared to manage his health conditions.

“This court believes you’ve been spared the consequences of your acts going back almost 40 years,” Perry told him. “It cannot go unnoticed, in all the reports to the court, you simply have refused to take responsibility for these matters.”

Lambertus declined to comment Friday.

Schook was tried for molesting Stansbury and a second boy, Richard Whitfield. The jury convicted him of abusing only Whitfield. Schook never denied that he had a sexual relationship with both boys, but his attorney argued that Stansbury was of legal age when the relationship began.

Stansbury says he still wakes up nearly every night in a cold sweat. He has nightmares. He struggles to look at people, struggles to talk to them. He can’t walk into a Catholic church.

Five years ago, he became so enraged at the thought of Schook on the street, he said thought he was going mad. He checked himself into a mental hospital, where he said he screamed and thrashed so violently they had to strap him down.

“You don’t understand why other people walk through shadows until you have to,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t want to face things, so you run.”


Aussie- Report delivers hope for justice at last amid attack on whistleblower

Aussie- Report delivers hope for justice at last amid attack on whistleblower

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests welcomes the finding of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, released yesterday, which revealed that there were grounds for charges to be laid against one senior Australian Catholic church official.

According to Nicky Davis, of SNAP Australia, “We urge the NSW Government and the Department of Public Prosecutions to end the decades of inaction on this issue and finally bring a first Australian prosecution of a Catholic official for the cover-up of child sex crimes.”

“We hope this will be the first of many prosecutions, as both Australian and international experience indicate the cover-up is not a unique situation.” 

“Indeed a new Australian book, Potiphar’s Wife, by Kieran Tapsell, launched this week, explains in detail the Vatican policy requiring Catholic bishops to cover-up child sex crimes by priests and other religious.”

“This new evidence supports claims by survivors that cover-up of the crimes against us is so common it should be considered a feature of these crimes and investigated in every case.”

“The queue of Australian survivors wanting the cover-up of the crimes against them investigated is lengthy. Many possess documents proving a cover-up, which have never been followed up by police.”

“Hopefully this Commission, prompted by the bravery of Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox’s revelations, will open the floodgates for justice to finally be available to all victims of these despicable crimes.” 

Nicky Davis said, “The first conviction and prison sentence for a senior church official for the cover-up of child rape will be a major step forward in child protection in Australia, and indeed the world. We have long asserted that sending Bishops to prison is what it will take for Catholic officials to stop endangering children in their efforts to protect the church’s reputation. Unfortunately as time goes on, that prediction is proving all too true.” 

Ms. Davis expressed disappointment that in other respects the report did not break with the tradition of strenuous efforts to discredit and punish a whistleblower. “I was present at many of the public hearing days, as were many survivors, and it certainly felt like the inquiry had been instructed to find ways to undermine Peter Fox, rather than understand any basis for his claims.” 

“Some survivors were in tears at the obvious difference in how the Inquiry treated Peter Fox, compared to other witnesses.” 

SNAP expresses full support for Peter Fox, who exposed himself and his family to retaliation and intimidation because of his call for a national Royal Commission. “The fact that we are right now in the middle of a broad and powerful inquiry into our nation’s disgraceful abandonment of vulnerable children in their time of need is largely due to the bravery of Peter Fox in speaking truth to power.” 


Leader of Marianists apologizes to abuse victims from North Catholic

Leader of Marianists apologizes to abuse victims from North Catholic

The leader of a Roman Catholic religious order has written a letter of apology to victims of sexual abuse and to Catholics in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the wake of allegations that eight of its brothers sexually abused minors while assigned to North Catholic High School since the 1940s.

“These reports have caused us much shame and deep remorse,” said the May 27 letter written by the Rev. Martin A. Solma, the provincial, or supervisor, of the Marianist Province of the USA based in St. Louis.


The accusations began with news in March that a criminal trial was set in Australia involving allegations against a Marianist brother, Bernard Hartman, for alleged sexual abuse that occurred while he was assigned in that country.

The diocese sent a letter to alumni of North Catholic, where Brother Hartman also worked, alerting them to the charges and urging any victims to come forward. That and a second letter led to an allegation of sexual abuse against Brother Hartman during his time at North Catholic and allegations against seven other brothers, most of them now deceased, who worked at the school in Troy Hill since the 1940s.

“First, I apologize to the victims who have suffered, some of you for many years,” Father Solma wrote in the letter, addressed to Bishop David Zubik and other Catholics in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is being published in the latest edition of the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper.

“Thank you for coming forward and telling these stories, as painful as they are, and shedding light on these very sad events. … I am deeply sorry and I ask you forgiveness,” Father Solma wrote.

He also apologized to Catholics and others in Pittsburgh “for the betrayal of the religious witness we profess and which you had a right to expect.”

Father Solma also asked forgiveness from Bishop Zubik and past diocesan leaders “which had entrusted the Society of Mary with the important responsibility for the Catholic education of students in the diocese. In these abusive instances, that trust was betrayed and our service to the diocese tarnished.”

He said the order has policies in place today that would “prevent any tolerance for abusive behavior.”

The letter was prompted by a steadily growing set of allegations after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in March that an Australian court had set a criminal trial for Brother Hartman on charges he had sexually abused minors in that country. Brother Hartman had also taught for several years at North Catholic from 1986 until his abrupt but unexplained removal in 1997, when the Marianists received allegations of sexual abuse while he was teaching in Australia. He had also spent brief assignments at North Catholic in 1961 and 1979.

In all, the diocese has received allegations of 23 cases of abuse involving 19 victims, with some individuals allegedly abused by more than one brother. One case involved the late brother Ralph Mravintz who was convicted in 1986 of disorderly conduct after originally being charged with sexually abusing a minor.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has said the Marianists had not informed it of the reason for Brother Hartman’s removal when it occurred in 1997.

Bishop Zubik said Friday that Father Solma’s letter was an important step in showing that the Marianist “community is taking responsibility for it and apologizing for it” and recognizing the victims’ pain.

“It’s an act of sensitivity for any people who were victims,” Bishop Zubik said, and it’s “an act of sensitivity for the diocese.”

Father Solma said in response to an email query that the order “will be in touch with those who have come forward to offer a personal apology and assistance for healing for those who request.”

A statement by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged Bishop Zubik and Father Solma to “use their vast resources to reach out to other victims” of the brothers and to make known “the locations of these accused brothers during the times when they were not in Pittsburgh.”

It also called on Bishop Zubik to send a letter to graduates of all Catholic schools, urging anyone abused to come forward, and encouraged anyone who was abused to “find the courage to speak up and contact law enforcement.”

Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith. First Published May 30, 2014 12:10 PM


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/05/30/Leader-of-Marianists-apologizes-to-abuse-victims-from-North-Catholic/stories/201405300173#ixzz33H5owaFH

Ex-priest sentenced, immediately taken into custody

Ex-priest sentenced, immediately taken into custody

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The former Roman Catholic priest convicted of sexual abuse has begun serving a 15 year sentence. 

James Schook, 66, was taken into custody after his sentencing on May 30. He was convicted April 16 on three counts of sodomy and one count of immoral behavior. The jury also found Schook not guilty on three additional counts of sodomy. 

Judge Mitch Perry followed the sentence recommendation of the jury. He denied a request from Schook’s attorney David Lambertus to serve the sentence on probation and also denied a request for Schook to remain free while the case is appealed. 

Lambertus has previously said Schook has terminal skin cancer, coronary artery disease and COPD.


Marianists’ leader apologizes to Pittsburgh diocese for sexual abuse allegations

Marianists’ leader apologizes to Pittsburgh diocese for sexual abuse allegations

The head of the religious order that runs Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School wrote a letter of apology to the Diocese of Pittsburgh because of allegations that eight members of the order abused students from 1945 to 1990.

The Rev. Martin A. Solma, provincial of the Marianist Province of the USA based in St. Louis, wrote that the allegations have “caused us much shame and deep remorse for the behavior.”

Nineteen victims came forward in recent months in what has become one of the largest sex abuse scandals in the history of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The letter, dated May 27, was published on the front page of the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper, which was available Friday. The newspaper also is distributed at weekend Masses.

Solma apologized to the victims, the Catholic community of Pittsburgh and to Bishop David Zubik “which had entrusted the Society of Mary with the important responsibility for the Catholic education of students in the diocese. In these abusive instances, that trust was betrayed and our service to the diocese tarnished.”

Solma said today’s policies and procedures will prevent problems.

“In asking for forgiveness, I only hope that the misdeeds of these Brothers do not entirely nullify the service and witness of others who have served the mission of the Diocese of Pittsburgh more faithfully,” Solma wrote.

Zubik said the Marianists sent the letter on their own and wanted it published in the newspaper. Zubik said it was good the apology extended not only to victims but to the entire Diocese.

“I think it was important to apologize. I thought it was also sensitive to apologize to the faithful of the Church of Pittsburgh,” Zubik said. “The Church wants to continue a safe environment.”

The oldest allegation dates to the 1940s, the Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese, has said.

The Marianists, who run 19 high schools across the country, have said they had no knowledge of any alleged abuse until reading media reports.

The North Catholic scandal erupted March 20 when the diocese learned that Marianist Brother Bernard Hartman, 74, a former science teacher at North Catholic, is awaiting trial in Australia on charges that he molested four students at a Catholic school there in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Lengwin said the diocese reacted promptly, sending two letters to North Catholic graduates, which generated reports of abuse.

Carmen DiGiacomo, a 1959 graduate of North Catholic who sends out a monthly class newsletter, said the apology letter is the right thing to do. When he was in school, he said, he heard rumors but never anything concrete.

“I have to applaud the Diocese for being proactive and getting to the bottom of this issue. It obviously had some effect,” said DiGiacomo, 72, of Mt. Lebanon. “I think that’s the right way to go. Hopefully those victimized will have some closure and everyone can move on.”

Judy Jones, Midwest Associate Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wants the diocese to send letters to all Catholic school alumni in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Lengwin has said there’s no plan for that.

“Father Martin A. Solma and Bishop Zubik need to use their vast resources to reach out to other victims of the eight Marianist brothers who are accused of sexually abusing children,” Jones said. “Previously we asked Bishop Zubik to write letters to all Pittsburgh Catholic school alumni urging victims to come forward about any abuse that may have occurred in this diocese.”

North Catholic was renamed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in 2013. The Troy Hill building will close at the end of the school year and the school will move to a new campus in Cranberry in the fall.

Lengwin confirmed the apology letter at a media breakfast Friday at St. Mary of Mercy Church, Downtown, where Zubik addressed expanding the priesthood, the collapse of steel towns and ongoing school consolidation.

“We’re striving to be more open and more engaged in the wider world,” Zubik said. “Pope Francis says that in a world that suffers from poverty, exclusion and conflicts of all kinds, the media can really help us feel closer and create a community.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/6161237-74/diocese-catholic-north#ixzz33H4mCUnu 
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Funeral held for former priest convicted in sex scandal

Funeral held for former priest convicted in sex scandal


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A former priest was laid to rest this week in Charleston. The funeral was held Wednesday at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Rev. Eugene Condon was 85.

According to a release from the Diocese of Charleston, Condon was ordained in 1956 and retired 40 years later.

Condon was charged in 1996 with sexual molestation, and allegations surfaced again in 2006. In 1999, Condon was convicted of sex crimes, but another alleged victim came forward accusing Condon of inappropriate acts in the 1970s when the child was 13 years old.

‘The Diocese of Charleston asks everyone to continue praying for all victims of child sexual abuse,” the release states.


Sexual abuse victims and families pay tribute to whistleblower cop

Sexual abuse victims and families pay tribute to whistleblower cop

A woman whose son was abused by a paedophile priest, has described a police whistleblower as a man of great integrity.

A Special Commission Of Inquiry was launched after Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox spoke out about paedophilia within the Catholic Church in the Hunter Valley and cover-ups by the church and police.

The inquiry’s report, tabled yesterday, was damning of Detective Chief Inspector Fox, saying he was not a credible witness and that there was no evidence to show senior police ever tried to stop child abuse offences from being properly investigated.

But Pat Feenan, whose son was abused by Father James Fletcher, says they will always be thankful to Peter Fox.

“Personally I have found Peter Fox to be very credible,” she said.

“On our journey we have found Peter Fox to be a man of great integrity and that stays with our family.”

Ms Feenan says she was concerned by the limited terms of reference of the Special Commission and hopes the Royal Commission delves far deeper.

“It’s been a long time coming and it was a thorough investigation and a good look at the issues.

“I am concerned that the terms of reference were very limited and specific and I hope that some of the broader issues can be looked at in the Royal Commission that weren’t looked at in the Special Commission of Inquiry.”

One of the Hunter Valley victims of paedophile priest James Fletcher says he doesn’t believe the Catholic Church can ever recover from the damning findings from the Special Commission Of Inquiry.

The report is damning of the Catholic church’s handling of two now-dead paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

It described the actions of Bishop Leo Clarke, the head of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese for 20 years, as inexcusable.

Abuse victim Peter Gogarty says many people will never again trust the church to protect their children in Catholic schools or churches.

“That whole notion that these people are closer to God and by virtue of that they are to be trusted unconditionally, I think will never ever recover from this,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone that sends their children to a Catholic school or sends their kids off to church to be an altar boy or whatever, I don’t think any of those people will ever take the church’s word that their children are safe.”

Mr Gogarty says the report is confirmation that the Catholic hierarchy cannot be trusted to protect children.

“The Catholic Church trotting out the line that it knew nothing about paedophile priests in its ranks just doesn’t ring true.