Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Weekly church-related crime update, October 24 - 30

Our first three items consist of fall-out from the Philadelphia grand jury report:

  • Vincent M. Walsh, who the Philadelphia grand jury report accused of covering up sexual abuse by priests in his position as Cardinal John Krol's assistant chancellor, resigned as pastor of Presentation Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. According to the grand jury report, "Walsh 'sat silently' while parents praised a priest for befriending their sons without alerting them to the priest's known sadomasochistic behavior, and later heard complaints about the priest and failed to alert the parish pastor," reported the Associated Press.

  • Samuel E. Shoemaker, another priest named in the grand jury report, was confronted by 400 parishoners at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Shoemaker served as chancellor under former Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and John Krol, and was responsible for keeping 63 known abusers in the ministry, according to the grand jury report. One parishoner held a sign reading "Justice = Prison," reported the Morning Call. "You must go," a man told Shoemaker, with applause lasting 30 seconds following his remarks. "If you can't stand up against these actions as a leader, then I can't have you as our leader," said a woman.

  • James M. Iannarella, one of 63 priests named in the grand jury report, nonetheless continued to work as assistant vice president in Drexel University's Office of Government and Community Relations until the Philadelphia Daily News disclosed his employment status:

    Iannarella allegedly molested a 17-year-old female parishioner in 1999 at St. Joseph Church in Aston, Delaware County, where he was parochial vicar, according to the report... In his Drexel post, Iannarella served as liaison to the Miss Philadelphia Organization's beauty pageant last year, where he mingled with dozens of teenage stunners.


  • The trial of William Crotts and Thomas Grabinski, who are accused of taking more than $550 million from more than 11,000 investors in the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, will likely continue for five more months and cost millions of dollars as prosecutors and defendants battle with competing tax experts, accountants and outside attorneys, reported the Arizona Republic:

    William Crotts and Thomas Grabinski each face three counts of fraud, 27 counts of theft and two counts of illegally conducting an enterprise in the wake of the foundation's 1999 bankruptcy... Five other BFA employees or associates already have pleaded guilty to related felony charges in exchange for their testimony against Crotts and Grabinski. A sixth is too ill to go to trial.

  • John Powell, a priest and retired Loyola University professor, was the subject of two lawsuits settled by the Society of Jesus in Chicago. The suits alleged that Powell had sexually abused seven women in the 1960s and early 1970s. A third suit was also settled. That suit alleged that Wilton Skeffington, a priest and teacher at Loyola Academy who has since died, had sexually abused a male student at the school. Terms of the settlements were not published.

  • Jason R. Dolan, pastor at SS. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Portage and St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in South Fork, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

  • Clarence Heis, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Mechanicsburg, Ohio and Immaculate Conception in North Lewisburg, Ohio, was placed on on indefinite administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after he was arrested for public indecency and resisting arrest at the Huffman Dam Five Rivers MetroPark in Bath Township. "According to a report from park rangers," reported the Dayton Daily News, "Heis was arrested Wednesday with two other men when a ranger, acting as a decoy, observed the men engaged in lewd acts."

  • Jason Anthony Russell, a Lexington, Kentucky man, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murdering Joseph Pilger, a priest who in 1995 had pleaded guilty to sexually molesting four boys at St. Francis Borgia Roman Catholic Church in Sturgis, Kentucky. Pilger's guily plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that gave Pilger no jail time. Russell, who claims to have been abused as a youngster, "has said he decided to kill [Pilger] after the retired priest offered $5,000 to have sex with Russell's then-6-year-old son," reported the Associated Press. "Russell also claims that he had twice walked in on the retired priest masturbating with photos of Russell's son and catalog clippings of other children." Russell had pleaded guilty to the murder with the understanding that he would be sentenced to life in prison instead of facing the death penalty, but Fayette Circuit Judge Gary Payne imposed the lesser sentence after receiving a letter from one of Pilger's victims, who wrote that Russell had "done a society a favor" by killing a "pedophile monster that preyed upon innocent little boys while in a position of authority and calling him self a man of God."

  • Roman Kramek, a priest from Poland visiting Sacred Heart Church in New Britain, Conn., was deported back to Poland after completing a nin-month prison term for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl during a counseling session. Kramek told the victim the attack was a "counseling technique" to show her that "sex with a man can be pleasurable."

  • Judith Lynn Anderson, the business manager at First United Methodist Church of Waukesha, Wisconsin, was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing $253,000 in church funds.

  • Alan Webster, minister and headmaster at Huntsville [Alabama] Christian Academy, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to possession and manufacture of child pornography. Webster had hundreds of pornographic images on his computer, and had taken nude photos of one of his students.

  • Mohammad Bolton, youth minister with the Church of Harvest International in Jonesboro, Georgia, was arrested for trying to arrange a sexual encounter with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl, but who in reality an undercover police officer. Police claimed Bolton had sent the "girl" an obscene photo of himselve over the internet, and asked to sneak into her house. "I do it all the time. It is easy," he reported said.

  • Ron Durham, pastor of Abundant Life Church in Bangor, Maine, was arrested in Georgia on charges of embezzling more than $100,000 from the church.

  • Narciso Mendoza, pastor at Word Of Faith Church in San Antonio, Texas, spent four days in jail after disrupting a city council meeting. Mendoza supports Proposition 2, reported KSAT-TV, and wanted to know where the council stood on the issue. He spoke his alloted time, but refused to leave the podium. He then refused to sit down and instead "threw himself on the floor," according to a San Antonio Police Department report.

  • Ranson Parris, a "bishop" of the New Hope Metropolitan Community Church and Christian Center in Jefferson, West Virginia, was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. "[West Virginia State] Trooper [Brian] Morris says Parris was convicted of a sex crime with a minor in California," reported the State Journal. "Parris did register as a sex offender in Florida but gave a Roanoke, Virginia address.The 63 year old man has a long rap sheet that spans several states and includes sixteen aliases, said Morris."

  • John Schwartz, a priest who is the target of a lawsuit by a man who says Schwartz sexually abused him when he was a student at the Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Orgon, was the subject of a publicity campaign by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) outside St. Anselm's Catholic Church in Ross, California, where Schwartz had been re-assigned. St. Anselm's School is around the corner from the church.

  • Joseph Herp, a priest who had been accused of sexual abuse in four lawsuits in 2002 and 2003, was dismissed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, reported the Associated Press:

    The Vatican also ordered Robert Dollinger, J. Irvin Mouser and Edwin Scherzer to live in prayer and penance. They are not allowed to perform any public ministry, present themselves as priests or have unsupervised contact with minors. The Vatican uses that option in cases of "health problems or advanced age," according to the archdiocese's report.

  • Robert Ascolese, priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Washington Borough, New Jersey, took a temporary leave of absence while a financial audit of the parish is conducted in response to parishoners' concerns about church finances.

  • William M. Naughton, pastor of Resurrection Church in Randolph, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to stealing $360,000 from the church, reported the Daily Record:

    Naughton, who was ordered by the Diocese of Paterson to step down as the church pastor in 2001, told the judge today that he set up a charity account in the church's name and used its proceeds for his own benefit, withdrawing $360,000 over more than five years. Naughton did not disclose to the judge how he spent the money but, outside court, his attorney said a major portion was spent to help a man named Harold Reid, with whom Naughton decades ago had a brief sexual relationship. The pair remained friends over the years, and Naughton repeatedly assisted Reid when he asked for help, Gilbreth said.

  • Joan Marie Sladky, a Spanish teacher at a private Baptist school in Redwood City, California, was sentenced to six months in jail for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

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

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