Sunday, August 07, 2005


Weekly church-related crime update, July 31- August 6, 2005

  • The week started with a bang on Sunday, when the Toledo Blade published an exhaustive investigative article detailing how law enforcement authorities abetted the Toledo diocese of the Catholic church in hiding sexual-abuse cases. Said the Blade:

    Over the past 50 years, those sworn to enforce the law and protect children repeatedly have aided and abetted the diocese in covering up sexual abuse by priests, a three-month investigation by The Blade shows.

    Beyond past revelations that the diocese quietly moved pedophile priests from parish to parish, The Blade investigation shows that at least once a decade - and often more - priests suspected of rape and molestation have been allowed by local authorities to escape the law...

    In understanding what has become the biggest scandal to engulf the American Catholic church in generations, victims' advocates say one issue left unexposed is the role of civil authorities in helping to minimize or hide the criminal actions of pedophiles who wore priestly collars.

    While the sexual abuse crisis continues to unfold across the country, the deeper issue of police protection is now emerging, particularly in places with deeply rooted Catholic populations and where church members reached some of the most powerful positions in those communities.

  • On the same day, the Spokane Spokesman-Review published an investigative report suggesting that similar cover-ups occurred among Washington law enforcement agencies:

    Young boys – some from troubled backgrounds and others from prominent families – were being sexually abused by a group of men who were supposed to be role models and authority figures. Growing evidence suggests that people who knew about the abuse did nothing to stop it or report it...

    [Activists] blame a culture of secrecy, denial and ignorance for allowing revered, male-dominated institutions like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to ignore abusers in their midst.

  • Yet another investigative report in the Philadelphia Inquirer wondered whether changes in policy in policy at the Catholic Church were in effect dumping child molesters into the general population:

    At a time of heightened national concern about the need to track sex offenders, the Catholic Church in America has begun cutting loose dozens - perhaps hundreds - of priests who have molested children. The church had already suspended the clerics after finding the child-abuse allegations against them to be credible. Now, as it defrocks them, expelling them from the priesthood, the men are quietly reentering civilian life with only the barest notice to the public, and no ongoing oversight by the church. Nor is law enforcement certain to be watching them.

  • And the Reno Gazette Journal also published an investigative report examining Phillip Straling, the former bishop of the Reno Catholic archdiocese. Straling, said the article,

    is a key witness in more than 150 lawsuits in Southern California filed against priests accused of molesting children. In some cases, he is accused of negligence for failing to stop the abuse... The lawsuits and lawyers say Straling, while a priest in San Diego and bishop of San Bernardino, might have known that the accused priests were having sex with children but did nothing to stop them. Many believe he played a part in shuffling abusive priests to new parishes where they had access to and sometimes continued to molest children.

  • The Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal examined Abounding Grace School for Boys, which was affiliated with Believer Baptist Church and which had recently been shut down, after the County Department of Social Services charged owners Stan and Lee Mitchell with child abuse. Among other allegations, "parents called social services with allegations that the boys had been beaten with boat paddles and subjected to long periods of solitary confinement. They also said that boys were sometimes forced to eat their own vomit after becoming sick at the school."

  • Donald J. Buzanowski, a former Green Bay, Wisc. priest, was convicted of two felony child sex assault charges for indecently touching a 10-year-old boy at Green Bay's Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic school.

  • On Tuesday, Stuart Murphy, the choir director at Annunciation Catholic Church in Houston, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for molesting three brothers, the oldest of which was 12 years old.

  • Dennis Sewar, a Catholic priest in Rochester, New York, was formally charged with sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, for about 50 incidents with a boy over a two year period, beginning when the boy was 14.

  • On Wendesday, Dawn Reiser, a seventh-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine, Texas, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child, charged related to a sexual relationship she had with a 13-year-old student.

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that although a grand jury report "documents decades of assaults on children by more than 50 priests" and "harshly criticizes church leaders for shielding abusers," it called for no new criminal charges.

  • On Thursday, the leader of a victims' advocacy group demanded "Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo Catholic Diocese to ask for the resignations of Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly and the Rev. Michael Billian, episcopal vicar, for allegedly concealing crimes of child sexual abuse by priests," reported the Toledo Blade.

  • Robert B. Conner Jr., an assistant pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Saginaw, Michigan, was fined $1,000 for possessing marijuana.

  • On Friday, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland agreed to pay $56.3 million to settle 56 cases of sexual abuse of children by priests from 1962 to 1985.

  • Joseph Ruben Dickey, a former child care worker at the First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was arrested on child pornography charges after the F.B.I. claimed "that he had graphic pictures of children between the ages of 2 and 4 and that he transported other pictures of children engaged in sexual acts over state lines. The Tuscaloosa News reported Friday that, according to court documents, the FBI also alleges that he raped a child that he baby-sat for about a decade ago."

  • On Saturday, the Denver Post reported that 12 men had told the newspaper that they had been molested as children by Harold Robert White, a Catholic priest who had served in 11 parishes across Colorado during three decades as a priest. "[White] apparently has never faced criminal or civil charges," said the Post.

  • See the entire never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.
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