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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pope Francis you have company: other faiths and groups that abuse children

There’s a saying, “birds of a feather flock together” and in this case the birds are different religious groups and what they all do is sexually abuse children.  Although Pope Francis and the catholic church are notorious for abusing the most children for the longest time these perpetrators are not alone.

It’s good that the catholic church has had so much press and revelation of what goes on behind closed church doors.  Now, the truth about other religious organizations (and Boy Scouts and athletic organizations) is seeing the light:


Mennonites

SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests has a new chapter: SNAP-Menno an Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter formed by twelve survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates. One of the founders, longtime victim-advocate Ruth E. Krall, an emerita professor at Goshen (Ind.) College who dedicated decades of her life to understanding and penetrating the deeply hidden plague of sexual abuse among Mennonite clans.  Krall wrote a book, The Elephant in God’s Living Room, about Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse of women.

Barbara Graber, a former professor at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., is an associate editor of ourstoriesuntold.com, a website devoted to preventing sexualized violence among Mennonites. As a survivor of sexual abuse, Graber was drawn to the “wealth of knowledge and hope” in the SNAP organization.  “I was overwhelmed with emotion walking into a room of several hundred survivors who had, like me, been sexually violated by the same persons who taught us about God and were members of our faith community,” Graber says about the 2014 SNAP annual conference.*  There are other SNAP chapters for Presbyterians, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, children of missionaries, Orthodox Christians and Boy Scouts, among others.

2015 Conference Information (July 31-Aug 2 in Alexandria, VA)

Mormons and the Boy Scouts Link

Child molester + Mormons = easy prey

The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church by Lisa Davis is an account of one of the most prolific serial child molesters in the U.S., Frank Curtis. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Curtis was a Sunday School teacher and Boy Scout leader, so he had double access to children. He molested boys in several Portland, Oregon from 1976 to 1991. At a lawsuit trial against the LDS Church is was discovered that bishop had told the victim’s mother that they “knew” Curtis was a pedophile and hadn’t warned the family—that it was discovered that the church had known for years that Curtis was a danger to children. (Sound familiar Pope Francis?) Curtis was excommunicated (for homosexuality rather than pedophilia) then re-baptized and returned to the positions from which he preyed upon children.

So what do the Mormons have to do with Boy Scouts (other than molesting them)?   According to Davis while the Boy Scouts of America is a separate entity from the LDS Church, but the Mormon church is the largest single sponsor of the BSA. So almost all Mormon boys are Boy Scouts and many have been molested in both places.  So the LDS Church decided that leaders of church Boy Scout troops had to be checked out by the BSA – that’s like asking the fox to watch the chickens.  

The LDS must have used the catholic church for a role model: it took so many years before their crimes saw the light of day, there were so many victims, and the church fought a battle to keep it secret and the perpetrator “repented” and was given another chance to have access to children. Like the catholic church, the LDS had the deep pockets and the lawyers to wear the victim’s lawyers down. [The LDS Church’s lawyers] were fighting a war of attrition, in which one side wins just because the other side can’t keep up.
It turns out that Curtis had a criminal record from way back – stealing, armed robbery in the same area where Al Capone did his dirty work. Curtis’ criminal record said that he had inappropriate sexual behavior with boys. There was a clue that was missed. If, in 1929, they say that he’s having sex with young boys, and his last victim was molested in 1991, that’s more than 60 years.

Jehovah’s witnesses


Again, like their counterparts in the catholic church Elders in the Jehovah’s Witness leadership have been covering up child sex abuse.  Recently, a group of ex-Jehovah’s Witness members put up a billboard calling out leadership in the church for failing to adequately address sexual abuse — and even for actively covering it up. The billboard points viewers to a website (www.JWAWAKE.com) that offers evidence for the claims. The group hopes for the message to make an impact during upcoming conventions, which thousands will attend.


They want to hold Elders accountable for failing to report sexual abuse. Now, Elders are instructed to only turn over to authorities cases in which there are two witnesses — which means that in addition to the victim, either the perpetrator must confess, or the abuse must have been performed where another church member could witness it — something most sexual predators know how to avoid. They’re asking every Jehovah’s Witness to contact the governing body of the church and call for change -- to call for Elders to be ordered to report every incident, with or without a witness. The billboard will be present through two Jehovah’s Witness conventions on July 31, and August 7.  Having the Elders be accountable is a good step to take but direct reporting to the police would be better for the children.

Revelations on Rabbis


It not only Christian denominations sexually abusing children, the Jewish institutions in Israel and in the U.S. do their share of abuse.

In Israel the past week, two men heading religious institutions in Israel were added to the list of sex predators in the religious Jewish world. Rabbi Ezra Scheinberg was caught by police two weeks ago at Ben Gurion airport trying to avoid arrest on charges of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault. Ten women have come forward – with more expected because the court lifted the ban on releasing his name. Scheinberg, 47, married with eight children raped women who came to him for spiritual counseling, and told the women it was part of their healing treatment. (We’ve heard that story before).

One of his victims said, “After all these years of your intimidations, we are no longer scared. Your scare-tactics no longer work on us….If you had one drop of integrity of justice, of truth you would ask for our forgiveness. But your heart was always made of stone.”  Scheinberg’s students,  originally shocked, threw his books in a big trash can, and staff are calling him “an abomination.

Just like Pope Francis and his bishops, the Chief Rabbi Eliyahu, was the cover for abusive rabbis. Dr. Hannah Kehat, one of the founders of a group established by Orthodox activists to investigate complaints of sexual abuse within the religious sector, said Eliyahu “waged terror against any woman who dared to complain.”  The victims were called liars in public and learned that rabbis support the offender and not them.

Like their catholic counterparts, many rabbis advise and encourage victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families to not report these crimes to the police. They believe that incidents of child sexual abuse should be addressed internally, led by the rabbi. To keep victims from going to the police, they defend the perpetrators saying “he has a wife and children so why make his entire family suffer?”, “the abuse happened many years ago,” “it was a moment of weakness,” “he’s a righteous, God-fearing person,” “you’ll be bringing shame on you, your family and our community,” “you’ll ruin your marriage prospects,” and so on. 

Because of the closed Orthodox society there is greater opportunity for abuse and cover-ups – for example, having large families, use of male mikveh (ritual bath-house), limited or no sexual education, desire to protect the reputations of leaders/rabbis and institutions, isolated communities that often reject the use of mainstream law enforcement, the existence of extreme taboo/stigma etc.  Some experts believe that around 50% of Hassidic boys in Brooklyn are sexually abused. Much of the community is in denial but like the catholic church, exposure will wake up the faithful.



Monday, July 6, 2015

Thirty years of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP talks to the National Catholic Reporter

Barbara Blaine, holding a photo of herself as a child, protests at the Vatican in April 2005. (ZUMA Press/La Presse/Mauro Scrobogna)
This week the National Catholic Reporter is running a series about 30 years of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church.  It is a series worth reading. The first article is the sad but empowering story of Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  Barbara says, “A single issue of NCR changed the course of my life and eventually led to my starting an international movement of survivors of clergy abuse. I am extremely grateful to NCR!”  Please read the whole series – the more people who read this story, the safer children will be all over the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Catching Cardinals in the clergy sex abuse scandal: next stop Pope Francis

Cardinal George Pell


The Royal Commission in Australia has been investigating how institutions like schools, churches and sporting groups handle child sexual abuse cases.  In the spotlight currently is Cardinal George Pell. Pell has been under fire since allegations that he turned a blind eye to abuse resurfaced last week at the royal commission into child sexual abuse in Ballarat, Victoria. Pell has been accused of bribing abused victims to keep them quiet and ignoring victim’s complaints.  

Peter Saunders, a victim of sexual abuse himself, has broken his silence about Cardinal Pell. Saunders established the National Association for People Abused in Childhood in Britain 16 years ago. Last December, he was hand-picked by Pope Francis to lead the Vatican’s commission for the protection of children.

Appearing on Nine Network's 60 Minutes program*, Saunders described Pell as a dangerous individual. Saunders said about Pell in the interview: “He has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic, I would go as far as to say – this lack of care.”  “Pell had shown disregard for victims of child sexual abuse through his repeated denial of any knowledge of abuse within the church”, Saunders said.



Judy Courtin, from Australia’s Monash University’s law faculty, has extensively researched abuse within the Catholic church. In response to the interview.  Pell said he was considering his legal options, a move which Courtin described as “highly insulting to victims”.

Courtin said that for justice to be done, victims needed to be able to tell their story and also to know that senior figures in the institution where the abuse occurred were held to account.  “He seems more concerned with protecting his reputation than supporting victims,” she said about Pell.

The president of the Care Leavers Australia Network, Maureen Cuskelly, whose organization supports survivors of sexual abuse within institutions, also said it was concerning that Pell was considering his legal options.

Our efforts are succeeding.  We are exposing the abusers of children and all those who ignore or cover up the crimes of these abusers. Pope Francis is feeling the heat as the fires of justice get closer and closer.   


Monday, June 15, 2015

Another Catholic Church Committee Self-Serving and Ineffective

Barbara Blaine, founder and president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group for survivors of clerical sexual abuse.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wrote yesterday in the Chicago Sun Times:

“It’s been 30 years since the first pedophile priest case attracted nationwide attention. Since then, we’ve seen literally hundreds of Catholic abuse panels of one stripe or another. So it’s hard for us in SNAP to feel excited about the promise of another one, especially one in which clerics will judge fellow clerics.”

In Barbara’s opinion:

“Each church committee feels like another move to handle criminal matters quietly and internally. There’s a far better alternative: the time-tested set of independent “tribunals” already in place to deal with those who commit or conceal child sex crimes called the secular justice system. It is where abuse and cover ups in other institutions are handled. But in most cases, church officials fight such legal action vigorously. They always have and still do.

If Vatican officials want to really protect kids and deter cover-ups, they have all the power and policies they need. They can start by insisting that bishops world-wide lobby politicians for stronger child safety laws, and turn over all files about accused predators to police now.

Within weeks of taking office, Pope Francis quickly ousted a German bishop who spent $42 million renovating his house. He could – and should — take similarly decisive action against hundreds of his complicit staff. No new “mechanism” was or is needed.

That’s the advantage of a clear, rigid monarchy –those on top can easily sack underlings. But Catholic officials won’t defrock, demote, discipline or denounce even one church employee, from custodian to cardinal, for protecting predators. Not one ordained cleric on earth even criticized by name Missouri Bishop Robert Finn, who was criminally convicted of endangering kids.

What the church hierarchy lacks are not policies, procedures, protocols and panels. It lacks the courage to “render unto Caesar” known and suspected criminal church officials who selfishly put their clerical careers and comfort ahead of the safety of their flock.

No words on paper – however reassuring or encouraging – will give these clerics the courage they’re missing. Let’s be prudent, stay vigilant and withhold judgment until we see if and how this panel might act.”

Thank you Barbara for clearly showing that Catholic officials don’t protect children from predatory clergy – they protect themselves at all costs.




As Time Goes By –Vatican and Pope Never Change

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis resigned June 14
Steve Sheehan, publisher of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition News had this to say today about Pope Francis’ latest attempt to show that he is chasing down bad bishops:          

“Hark the Papal Tribunal sings!  It seems to me I heard that song before. Well, play it again, Sam!”

 Do you remember:

“1985: The Doyle, Mouton, Peterson report?  Well, let's just put that aside and perhaps it will simply fade away.

2002:  The Boston Globe Spotlight report?  Well, we'll have a conference, write a charter, create a Review Board and then it'll just be history.  Let's move Bernard Law to Rome where he'll be out of the hot seat.

2004:  We were told that the clergy sexual abuse crisis is now "history."

2004 to 2012: Rather than seeking to heal the Church, the US Catholic bishops went on the offensive seeking to reassert their lost moral authority by politicizing the Eucharist and focusing on divisive social issues such as religious liberty and marriage equality at the expense of speaking out collectively for the poor, further surrendering their moral voice.  

2012:  Finn? Well, we'll just sit this one out and people will forget about him. In a few years he'll retire and we'll be out of the woods.

2013: Maybe we should form a Pontifical Commission.  That'll look like we're doing something positive.

2015: The commission recommends a tribunal be established to look into holding bishops accountable. It'll take several years for that to get into action and in the meantime we'll talk about the environment and the economy and divert people's attention. Another encyclical will occupy their minds.

It's still the same old story - and the melody lingers on.”


What Steve says is true – these commissions are just window dressing – attempts by the Catholic Church hierarchy to look good and do nothing.  What Pope Francis doesn’t realize is that we see through his smoke screen and we are the people that he can no longer fool.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Resigning from the Catholic Church: Pope Francis was hired to stop the exodus

Fewer and Fewer
The catholic church is on the way out.  Attendance and number of churches has been declining for many years – faster since the pedophile priest cover-up was headline news in the Boston Globe in 2002.

In the U.S., of all the major denominations catholics have seen the largest decline in members.  Since the 1960s, four American-born Catholics have left the church for each person who has converted, according to a 2009 Pew study. From 2007 to 2014, 3 million people left the catholic church.  More than 1,000 parishes have closed since 1995, and the number of priests has fallen from about 49,000 to 40,000 during that same period. Some 3,400 Catholic parishes in the U.S. now lack a resident priest. “Catholicism is in decline across America,” says sociologist David Carlin. Numbers of catholics are also shrinking around the world in Europe and Australia.

There are some interesting statistics about the slippery slope the church finds itself sliding down.

If ex-Catholics were counted as their own religious group, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

If it weren’t for the many Catholic immigrants, especially from Latin American, the American Catholic Church would be shrinking even faster (CNN 2012). However, according to a Pew Research Center report, many catholic Latin Americans have left the church to become protestant. This is why the Vatican chose Pope Francis (from Argentina) – to keep Latin Americans in the catholic church.

In a study in the Trenton, NJ diocese some of the top reasons for leaving were:

Ø  The sex abuse crisis -- the church’s inadequate response to clergy sex abuse, refusal of bishops to list pedophile priests on the diocese’s website and non-support of the effort to lift the statute of limitations for survivors seeking justice in the courts. Some of those responding said they had been victims of sexual abuse by church leadership.
Ø  Dissatisfaction with the priest – words used were:  “arrogant,” “distant,” “aloof” and “insensitive”
Ø  Uninspiring sermons on Sundays -- messages from the priest, did not relate or “speak to” them. And whenever the church wanted to raise money, they dropped the sermon and talked about donations.
Ø  The church hierarchy was too closely tied to conservative politics. People felt that the church should stay out of politics; it should certainly not threaten politicians.
Ø  The status of women -- the church is too involved in American politics relating to family planning, women’s rights, not allowing women to become ordained.

Some other statistics:

Ø  A 2014 survey in the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, found 4 major reasons for leaving: Not happy with Church doctrine, losing interest in the faith and Mass, church sex scandals or feeling unwelcome or judged by the Church.  
Ø  Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing.
Ø  10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics.
Ø  79 percent of those born or raised catholic and who are no longer catholic or have any religious affiliation of any kind, made their decision by age 23 – this means that there will be no one to fill the pews in the coming decades

Each of us has personal reasons for leaving the church.  On this blog I have talked often about the reasons that I left.  If you (the reader) are leaving the church or have left it, let me know why. It may be for some of the reasons above, or you may have other reasons to share with me and other readers.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Catholic Nuns and Priests murdered and tortured children: are you listening Pope Francis? Part V. Bishop Hubbard’s Damage Control. A in a five part weekly series on catholic church crimes

Members of the New York State Legislature who represent the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese presented Bishop Howard Hubbard with a Proclamation honoring his years of service. Bishop Hubbard opened session for the Assembly beginning with an opening prayer. Where is the separation of church and state?
Paying for his sins using our money

Bishop Hubbard, who led the 400,000-member Albany diocese from 1977 and retired in 2014, denied that he ever broke his vow of celibacy. So to have an “independent” opinion, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board hired Mary Jo White. Ms. White, a law partner in the 500-member firm of Debevoise & Plimpton in Manhattan, was paid $770 an hour and that did not include her staff billing. How could she be independent if the people she investigated paid her salary?

After four months (at $770/hr.) White released a 200 page report. White’s investigation was only of Hubbard – it did not look at the many accounts of other Albany diocese priests who were sexually abusive or were homosexuals. No surprise: she concluded that there was no credible evidence the bishop was guilty of homosexual activity, or broke his vows of celibacy, or had sexual relations with anyone. The diocese got a $2.2 million bill for services rendered – and the Catholic faithful of the 14-county Albany diocese paid for it. But there is too much evidence that White’s report was a white wash and a cover-up. There are too many people who know the truth.

In addition to the Minkler case, White’s investigation was focused on claims by Andrew Zalay, who released his brother Thomas' 1978 suicide notes, one of which refers to a relationship with "Howard" and calls him the bishop. Thomas Zalay died after setting himself ablaze in his parents' home. White also discredited this account.  But what about people who actually knew Minkler? – like Bob Linde:

“The case speaks for itself. Hubbard took three million out of Catholic funds, and hired Former U.S. Attorney White (A Close Friend) to show that he was not a pervert. We know he is, and together with Father Nolan (who worked for Hubbard) is responsible for the death of Father John Minkler for trying to expose Hubbard and his cronies.

I knew Father John Minkler and talked with him on regular basis. I also know his sister Patty and am in touch with her from time to time. He was the Chaplin at the VA Hospital in Albany, sent there to be away from Hubbard.  John Minkler helped me get my partial pension from the Military – he helped me in many ways and we talked often. He was a good man, and loved life too much to commit suicide and I don’t believe that he did. I talked to him a couple days before and he was going to call me again. He did want to expose Hubbard as homosexual. He was under a lot of pressure from exposing the sexual activities involving Hubbard and his priest. A few days later he was dead from an overdose.  Michelle Bolton was an editor at Albany Times Union, and lost her job over this story. She told me that she would, but ran it anyway.”

Also said Bob, “Minkler and others knew that there was a gay bar in Utica NY where Hubbard and other clergy met quite often. Lesbian nuns also participated. Did you know that Hubbard is on the sex offenders list on the bishopaccountability.com website?”

From the bishopaccountability.com website:

“On 2/15/2004, Minkler was found dead at his home in Watervliet NY, three days after being identified as the author of a 1995 letter to Cardinal John O’Connor alleging doctrinal violations and sexual misconduct by Albany bishop Howard Hubbard, and one day after diocesan officials announced that Minkler had met with them and stated that he was not the author of the letter. The day after Minkler’s death, Stephen Brady of the organization Roman Catholic Faithful released to reporters a set of handwritten notes by Minkler dated 1/9/2001. He said Minkler had given him the notes three years earlier, along with a copy of the 1995 letter, which, Brady said, Minkler had written. Minkler's 2001 notes named more than a dozen Albany priests allegedly guilty of sexual misconduct, including Rev. Gary Mercure, who at that time was an active pastor but who was convicted in 2011 of raping two boys in the 1980s. In June 2004, former US attorney Mary Jo White released a report that Hubbard commissioned in February. White’s report found Hubbard innocent of the allegations in Minkler’s 1995 letter and 2001 notes but did not mention the allegations against Mercure and others.”

Justice is not served here

Why is it so difficult to get justice for children murdered and abused by priests and nuns in New York State?  Could it be that high political figures in the state are very friendly with the catholic church?  Governor Andrew Cuomo was criticized in 2011 by a consultant to the Vatican’s highest court, who said that the governor should be denied communion because he lives with his girlfriend with no sacrament of marriage.

Hubbard, leader of the Albany diocese and a member of the executive committee of the New York State Catholic Conference, made his comments at a news conference after meeting with Cuomo at the Executive Mansion to discuss the state budget, same-sex marriage and other issues. Question: Why does Hubbard get to discuss these issues with a politician when there is supposed to be separation of church and state? Hubbard said, “And when it comes to judging worthiness for communion, we do not comment on either public figures or private figures. That’s something between the communicant and his pastor personally. It’s not something we comment on.”  Although bishops in other states want to deny communion to elected officials who disagree with church teachings Hubbard said that NY bishops are not like them. 

Hubbard appeared with Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (known for his cover-ups of pedophile priests), and several other high-ranking bishops who had lunch with Mr. Cuomo at the Executive Mansion. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said: “The governor enjoyed his lunch meeting with Archbishop Dolan and the bishops from the Catholic Conference. He looks forward to continuing to work closely with them during his administration.” (my emphasis) So the bishops socialize with Cuomo and other politicians in the Executive Mansion. The State of New York belongs to the catholic church.  As long as there is no separation of church and state where is the equal opportunity for Jews and Muslims and other Christian denominations to add their beliefs? Or is it a closed club?  


Our job, in addition to stopping the rapists and murderers and those who cover up for them in the catholic church is to get rid of these politicians who support them.  We can vote them out of office.  We can stop giving our money to the catholic church who views us as cash cows to pay their lawyers to keep them out of jail.  Let’s do this now – while people like Bob, Bill, Papay, me and others around the world who know and remember their crimes and are fighting to stop these heartless, cold-blooded criminals who murder children and hide behind God. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Send a Survivor of Catholic Priest and Nun Abuse to the SNAP Conference

Survivors at SNAP Annual Conference

Those of us who have been sexually abused by predators hiding behind religious smokescreens often feel alone. The 2015 SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) conference puts an end to that isolation.  It is a place where survivors and their families and advocates meet to share our experiences, learn from each other or in workshops and lectures and are united in our efforts to stop the abuse.

SNAP of Boston/Worcester, MA would like to send its survivor members to the conference and the local Director is asking every source of potential funding for travel, meals and discounted lodging for help. If you would like to help send a survivor to the conference please click on this facebook link for more information:


Please help a sexual abuse survivor find the pathway to heal.  If you would like to attend the conference we welcome you.




“It is my hope that every survivor who desires to attend will receive assistance to do so.” … Dave O’Regan

Thank you for caring.

Conference Information