Monday, October 24, 2005


Weekly church-related crime update, October 17 - 23

  • Nicholas V. Cudemo, a Philadelphia-area priest who had been defrocked because he had molested dozens of girls, peformed a baptism at Christ The King Church in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Explained the Philadelphia Daily News:

    From the 1960s to the 1980s, Cudemo maintained sexual relationships with girls from the Catholic schools where he taught, molested a fifth grader in the confessional, invoked God to seduce and shame his victims, and once took an 11-year-old he raped for an abortion, according to the grand-jury report released last month by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

  • The Fitzgerald Center, a treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M. operated by the Servants of the Paraclete, which served thousands of priests, brothers and other religious people battling addiction, depression and sexual problems, including some priests who have become infamous locally and nationally for molesting young boys and girls, had destroyed background information on its charges before it closed in 1995. The information might have been used by litigants in the chuch abuse scandals.

  • Dana Brashear, youth group leader at Crossroads Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Florida who had been convicted on two counts of lewd/lascivious battery for having sex with a 12-year-old boy, has been sued by the victim's family. Also named in the suit was the church itself and the Lee County School Board, which allegedly did not report the victim's repeated absences from school while in Brashear's company. Brasher, said the suit, molested his victim under "the pretext of Bible study."

  • Damion Armond Rutues, youth pastor at Learning of the Lord Revival Ministry in Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for molesting three girls between the ages of 8 and 11 in his apartment and his church office. Rutues' mother is the pastor of the church.

  • "An allegation of sexual misconduct against Monsignor Peter Cheplic that Archdiocese investigators deemed 'credible' was referred to county prosecutors, an Archdiocese spokesman said yesterday," reported the New Jersey Journal. "The investigation, concluded by the Archdiocese Response Team in April 2003, was of a March 2002 allegation by Martin Kansky that Cheplic had sexually molested him at a house at the Shore in 1978, when Kansky was 18 and Cheplic was pastor of St. Matthew's Church in Ridgefield."

  • Richard L. McCaffrey, a priest in Fairbanks, Alaska who has been removed from his duties while church officials investigate abuse allegations, has been accused by a second women of sexual misconduct. "The lawsuit alleges McCaffrey molested the first plaintiff in Tununak, a Western Alaska village, between 1978 and 1979, and the second plaintiff in Hooper Bay in 1980 and 1981," reported the Associated Press. "Both Yupik Eskimo villages are more than 600 miles southwest of the diocese, which serves 47 parishes throughout the Interior, the North Slope and the west coast of Alaska."

  • Lloyd D. Jones, youth pastor at Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois, pleaded guilty to two aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges, admitting he made a male sophomore high school student perform a sex act on him while they were at Jones' apartment last year, and that he inappropriately touched a second 17-year-old he brought to his Naperville apartment in 2000.

  • Keith Vazquez and his wife, Rene Christou-Vazquez, the founders Dyvine Faith Breakthrough Church in Rosedale, Maryland and of Dynamic Women Weight Loss and Exercise Center in Dundalk, Maryland, were sentenced on tax charges. "Between 1996 and 1999, the Vazquezes left income unreported, submitted false information or failed to file tax returns altogether for some years, according to a February press release from the U.S. Department of Justice," reported the Dundalk (Md.) Eagle. The tax charges were related to operation of the weight loss center. "Calling the centers 'a safe haven for women,' Keith Vazquez said they provide support groups and crisis counseling in addition to Bible study groups. He and his wife still own the Dynamic Women centers in Dundalk, Golden Ring, Towson and Fallston. They called their tax troubles a transforming time, one that led them to a life of service to others."

  • Alberto Bondy, pastor at St. Anne Catholic Church in Warren, Michigan, has been accused of choking and slapping a fellow priest two years ago after a wedding at his previous church in Center Line, and of hitting a 16-year-old boy with a duffel bag in August after accusing the teen of "joyriding" on a lawnmower in front of St. Anne's.

  • Larry Davis, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Cold Spring (Kentucky) who had earlier pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank and the federal government after $700,000 went missing from the church, resigned his post.

  • James Laudwein, a semi-retired priest now working in Portland, Oregon, was accused of molesting a 14-year-old Yupik Eskimo girl when he worked at St. Mary's Boarding School in Western Alaska, in 1980.

  • Michael Stephen Baker, a Los Angeles priest who had reportedly admitted to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in 1986 that he had molested children from 1978 to 1985, was once again the target of a criminal investigation. "Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems," reported the Associated Press:

    Afterward, he was assigned to a series of nine other parishes but barred from having one-on-one contact with minors - restrictions he violated three times, according to church personnel file summaries that the archdiocese released. Baker has been accused of molesting more than 20 children between 1974 and 1999, according to the archdiocese.

  • Paul Lebrun, associate pastor at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind., is on trial for child molestation charges in Mesa, Arizona.

  • Donald Durand, a retired priest who had served in parishes in Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Silverton, Oregon, and who is accused of molesting six boys, asserted his Fifth Amendment rights over 80 times during a court proceeding, reported the Associated Press. "Hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse have been made in the last few years against more than three dozen Oregon priests."

  • Anthony Ocloo, a Ghana priest and MBA student at Saint John's University in New York, was charged with sexual abuse and child endangerment charges for allegedly fondling a 16-year-old girl in the rectory of Saint Ephrem's in Dyker Heights.

  • Kenneth “Tripp” Atkinson, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, remains on paid leave from his post while awaiting a grand jury appearance on charges that he raped a 13-year-old girl while working at his previous job, at Pawleys Island Community Church. "Atkinson has worshipped at First Baptist since the allegation surfaced, said attorney and church spokesman Bryan Barnes," reported the South Carolina State. "'I understand he was very warmly greeted,' he said. 'Everybody I talked to at church has been very supportive of him.'"

  • See the entire never-ending chronicle of church-related crime (dating back to June 5) here.

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