Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cardinal George Pell and Catholic bishops

Jack Waterford, editor at large
Canberra Times
March 30, 2014

Cardinal George Pell, former archbishop of Sydney, has departed for Rome to take charge of Vatican finances. His last acts in Sydney involved rationalising the contradictions in his leadership style caused by the chasm between moral and spiritual leadership of his community, and legal and fiduciary management of its assets and finances. For 30 years his has been the authoritarian, cold, unfeeling, and arrogant face of the church corporate in Australia.

His brother bishops, and the heads of most Australian religious orders, will be glad to see him go. He has never been very popular with his brothers - something exemplified by the fact few have ever voted for him to be chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Colleagues think the negative publicity he engenders has been disastrous for the reputation of the church.

But a good many of those bishops rose from the ranks by exactly the same processes as Pell, and are themselves distant from their flocks for having chosen, primarily out of ambition, to be the local representatives of Rome, rather than to Rome.

Pell is on a tough management job in Rome. In business terms he may do it well, but, if he does, it will be by behaving in much the same manner that has made him so ineffective as a pastor, but so powerful as a cleric, in Australia. He will not be preaching, or exemplifying a gospel of love, but being autocratic, driven and unaccountable to those below him.

This week he copied that strange, modern ministerial style of accepting responsibility - as the person at the top - while blaming everyone else and refusing to be actually accountable.

The diocesan lawyers, questioned about their hardball, no-prisoners approach to sexual abuse litigation, insisted that they acted on detailed and specific instructions from the diocese. The tight circle of top diocesan officials surrounding Pell gave evidence that those instructions came directly from him.

Pell denied giving detailed instructions or having close knowledge of the case. He effectively called a host of senior clerics and officials liars. That's the sort of leadership which illustrates why he has had sycophants, but not followers. While mouthing words of ''regret'' at the ordeal forced upon a victim, he would not look him in the eye, though he was metres away. This man of God is very mortal.

Yet George Pell was far from the worst of the Catholic bishops in his response over the years to evidence that an epidemic of sexual abuse of children by religious began in the 1960s and carried on until the 1980s, when it slowed. But his peculiar lack of empathy, and apparent belief that everyone was harping too much on the subject, remained with him to the end. It will handicap the image of the church and its bishops here for years to come. Decades from now, even after his statue has joined other effigies of past archbishops outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney (and perhaps one in Melbourne), Pell will be mostly remembered as the man who did not get it. The man whose almost every action further damaged the good name and reputation of the church.

Yet he was one of the first bishops to recognise that the church had a big problem on its hands. One of the first to draw up checks and balances, and procedures to deal properly with allegations. His pioneering response, and his interventions may seem, in retrospect, too little, too late, and with too keen an eye on limiting the liability of the corporate church. But he deserves some credit for acting while other bishops, and the leaders of some religious orders, were still in denial, shuffling abusers to other places where they could resume abuse, and, in many cases covering up or staring victims, and their families, down.

But in the end, Pell must wear, or own, even, some of the criticism that others deserve more richly. It was he, for example, who told lawyers to argue that there was no such legal entity as the church or the archdiocese, and that a bishop could not be held responsible, directly or vicariously, for the misdeeds of a priest, a pastor or a teacher.

It was all a part of shameful tactics used around Australia, including Canberra. Bishops played funny buggers about which canon law entity had legal ownership or responsibility for particular functions. Lawyers used every jurisdictional, procedural and limitation-oriented point to avoid paying proper compensation to victims. It is clear, from American and Irish inquests, that some of this was part of a tactic rehearsed in the Vatican, and passed on by its local representatives, not least some of those who have been so influential in appointing such managerialist bishops at the expense of pastors and moral leaders.

Just as shamefully, as was made clear by Pell's evidence this week, some tactics were designed to send out clear signals to the ''enemy'' - lawyers willing to act for victims - that the church was not a soft target, and would strongly resist any litigation. In many cases, kind words about the church's sorrow for and embrace of the victims were suffocated by simultaneous manoeuvres to limit liability, bluff victims from knowing or exercising their rights, and to restrict damaging publicity.

All long-running institutions having power over others have a background incidence of sexual abuse, superimposed on a separate but overlapping problem of physical abuse. But it now seems to be agreed that there was a marked upsurge 50 years ago, and that it continued for about 30 years until belated responses by institutions of the church and the state forced down the incidence again.

Understanding the problem is complicated by lags before victims come forward. With abuse in Catholic institutions, as elsewhere, lags were compounded by the problems of victims in being heard and believed. Thus the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse abuse is dealing with cases from up to 50 years ago, as well as much more recent ones.

The wickedness of perpetrators goes beyond ordinary issues of paedophilia. It involves abuse of power and authority by teachers, pastors or people in special positions of trust. It is the more perverse by having being carried out by people pretending to be religious guides, often indeed in religious contexts.

All too often, hurt and lasting psychological damage was magnified by the seeming incapacity of church leaders to believe victims, or, if they did, to put as first priority, the welfare of victims ahead of the financial interests of the church, and ahead of the reputations of it and its servants. A body sometimes said to be the oldest continuing institution in civilisation seemed, inexplicably, not to know of the problem until very late. It lacked protocols and procedures for dealing with it, or for creating circumstances that made the possibility of abuse less likely and the risk of detection more likely. A church often accused of being obsessed with issues of personal sexual morality and with a Jansenist belief in mankind's intrinsic sinfulness, seemed to have little understanding of risks that it fostered and damage that festered. Most of the worst abusers seem to have been of a generation who had grown to maturity in the decades before the opening of the windows supposed to occur at Vatican II, and in the decades before a supposed upsurge of sexual permissiveness and promiscuity in the 1960s. This is the generation of most Australian bishops. They seem to have been badly trained and ignorant about human sexuality and sin.

Thanks to external rather than internal pressure, and consequent shame, the corporate church is now having its nose rubbed in the stink of its inept response. The church's claim is that it is chastened and humbled - perhaps in the Murdochian sense. Such abuses, we must believe, will occur no more, or that if they do, will be swiftly detected and punished.

The bishops have given the appearance of extricating themselves from the processes. They have thrust media-savvy lay people or female religious to the front. But there is no sign that bishops have surrendered any ultimate absolute control over anything happening in their dioceses. Nor that the church has seriously addressed systemic problems of governance, or the lack of downward accountability of bishops to their priests, their parishioners, or the community at large.

Pell concedes a serious failure of moral leadership, by himself and many other bishops. He does not think that the church should suffer at the hands of the community.

The puzzling thing is that he clearly seems to expect that, now he has made this concession, everyone should ''move on,'' focusing instead on things that ''actually matter.''

It isn't that easy. Not for continuing Catholics so seriously let down by their leaders. Not for Catholics who have separated themselves from those leaders from sheer disgust. Nor for non-Catholics occasionally given to wondering why the Catholic Church is given by the state each year more money than is sent to the Western Australian government.

The church acquits its government money - in effect by certifying that it has spent it as promised. But it is not confronted with regulation, red tape or government inquisitiveness. Successive prime ministers - even former ministers for education such as Bill Shorten - vie with opposite numbers in promising even lighter scrutiny. The merest Aboriginal organisation receiving a grant is subject to more government and community accountability than many of the bodies, including the Catholic Church, that delivered generations of abuse to some of Australia's most vulnerable people.

The week also provided a tiny peek into Sydney archdiocesan finances. To the perhaps naive amazement of some reporters, it was shown that Pell controlled, as the effective absolute monarch over his see, assets of more than $1.2 billion, valued at cost price. The diocese had annual surpluses of up to $50 million. It seemed a lot - not least when one considers the self-conscious poverty of the primitive church, and its special pleading for public influence and funds to help the poor.

In fact, the peep was only at small bickies. The church in Australia controls about 1900 schools, 70 hospitals and hundreds of nursing homes and aged, welfare and children's institutions. It employs about 150,000 people on professional wages (whose work is supplemented by perhaps 60,000 regular volunteers). Australia-wide Catholic agencies, other than purely voluntary bodies such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, have incomes of about $6 billion a year. More than 50 per cent of this comes from government. Church agencies, pay no rates or taxes, nor do the greater proportion of them prepare balance sheets or ''profit'' and loss accounts for public consumption. Not even ordinary Catholics know the state of local church finances.

It would be a dreadful thing if the state - concerned with temporal things - were to take upon itself the duty of regulating the affairs of a voluntary mystical body that claims to speak of a Kingdom of Heaven, not of the goods of this world. But there is no reason why that body, when it wants of or deals in material things, should not be subject to the same rules, accountabilities and duties, as the merest voluntary association, club or corporation.

Church fought abuse claimants tooth and nail

Catherine Armitage
Sydney Morning Herald
March 29, 2014

The now infamous case of the brilliant lawyer and sex abuse survivor John Ellis before the child sex abuse royal commission has laid bare for the first time not just the Sydney Catholic archdiocese's wealth but the cold, dark heart of its handling of child sex abuse complaints.
The three-week hearing before Justice Peter McClellan has demonstrated in excruciating detail the exercise of power, against a vulnerable man, at the highest levels of the church and of the law in Sydney.

Cardinal George Pell, who on evidence before the commission called all the shots in the Ellis case, takes up a new job running the Vatican's finances on Monday.

McClellan has instructed his people to secure the cardinal's return to the witness box in Melbourne later in the year, when the commission will inquire into the ''Melbourne Response'' set up by Pell in 1996 to deal with sex abuse complaints.

Until then we have learnt:
Accounts tendered in evidence sensationally revealed for the first time the financial position of what is likely Australia's richest archdiocese. It is open for McClellan to conclude that it made low payouts to sex abuse victims because it chose to prioritise other uses, such as saving.
The archdiocese's assets have nearly doubled since 2004, to over $1 billion at the end of 2013. While liabilities and expenses grew similarly, the net position is a healthy one: net assets grew from $103 million in 2000 to $192 million in 2013.
In 2007 the annual surplus was $43.95 million. It was $19.6 million in 2006, and $9.2 million last year. Much of this has been achieved through real estate sales.

Since Pell became archbishop in 2001 the archdiocese has paid out $6.8 million to settle 82 claims for sex abuse according to figures provided by the archdiocese's business manager, Danny Casey - an average of $83,200. The largest payout was $795,000.

Apart from maintenance on the property portfolio, archdiocese expenses included the priests' retirement fund, the life, marriage and family office, youth services, Catholic Care and other welfare programs.

McClellan put it to Casey that "the state of these funds is such that it would be possible for the church to spend significantly greater monies in assisting people who have been abused than has been spent so far?" Casey replied: "There is always opportunity to redirect additional expenditure."

He added that the abuse payouts under Pell's stewardship had increased dramatically - before 2001, they averaged $11,000. And spending on lawyers had been reined in, "from about 67 per cent to 17 or 18 per cent", presumably as a proportion of the payout figure. McClellan asked Casey to confirm that the church does not pay income tax, capital gains tax or stamp duty (except in some circumstances). Nor are its books subject to external scrutiny, except for some regulatory requirements in relation to health and welfare allocations, he confirmed.

It is open for McClellan to find that given the extraordinary benefit conferred on the church through its tax-free status, its lack of external financial accountability is no longer in step with community standards. In the Ellis litigation, the church successfully argued that the trustees who held the assets could not be liable for damages because they were not responsible for the actions of priests. This 2007 Court of Appeal judgment has insulated the church against paying victim's damages ever since.

Pell conceded at the hearing that "money could be found" to pay out damages verdicts from the assets held by the trustees. Lawyers and their clients are unguarded in their correspondence when they don't expect it to be subject to public scrutiny. The commission, without the usual constraints of the rules of evidence, provided a rare insight into behind-the-scenes exchanges in major piece of litigation. Much of the correspondence between the archdiocese and its solicitors, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, in the exhibit list on the commission's website, is embarrassing (to say the least).

Pell admitted he "explicitly endorsed the major strategies of the defence" in Ellis' case, but his most controversial decision was taken on the advice of Corrs. This was to dispute in court whether the abuse occurred, even though the church's own assessment concluded that on the balance of probabilities it had.

Corrs partner Paul McCann gave evidence he was never told that the church had accepted the truth of Ellis' allegation. Pell described as a "mystery" an email from his private secretary to McCann which pointed to Pell having a role in what the commission's Gail Furness, SC, described as a "contrived" strategy to dispute that the abuse occurred.

In the end the archdiocese spent $1.5 million on Ellis' case, including legal costs of about $800,000 and $568,000 on ex-gratia payments to him. Early in the proceedings the church spent $20,000-$30,000 resisting a subpoena from Ellis' lawyers seeking information on what insurance policies might be available to cover his claim.

This was about the same as it offered as a "financial gesture" to Ellis in 2004, his barrister Maria Gerace noted. That year the archdiocese's annual surplus was $7.7 million.

On the last day of the hearing McClellan pressed the cardinal on his claim not to have known about Ellis' offer to settle in 2004 for $100,000. It sat awkwardly with the evidence that until then he had been closely involved in all key steps in Ellis' case until then. "I want to clear this up", McClellan said. "Before you made the decision to defend the proceedings, did you ask your advisors how much they understood John Ellis wanted?"

"I didn't ask because I was sure we had a shared conviction," Pell answered. "I just didn't know, I was not in the loop on that at all." Pell would have been only too aware when he entered the witness box that similar public inquiries in Ireland, which made damning findings on the church's responses to sex abuse victims, led to a collapse in its public standing and influence. Weekly church attendance plummeted. Pell's advisers gave evidence that the commission's proceedings had changed attitudes within the church administration, including Pell's. John Usher, chancellor of the archdiocese, said the cardinal was more willing to admit mistakes.

At the end of his evidence Pell met Anthony and Chrissie Foster privately. They have crusaded for victims since learning two of their daughters, when little girls, were sexually abused by a priest in Melbourne.

Anthony Foster said Pell agreed the $75,000 cap on payouts under the Melbourne Response should be removed and past payouts reassessed in line with Australian civil claim standards. He made a commitment to speak to Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart about it.

''It is what we have been asking for for 18 years'', Foster said.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Italy Cardinal defends controversial sex abuse policy

Deccan Chronicle
March 29, 2014

Rome: A leading Italian cleric on Saturday defended the decision to adopt a Vatican-approved policy which exempts bishops from having to report cases of suspected child sex abuse to the police.

"The Vatican requires national laws to be respected, and we know that there is no such duty (to report abuse) under Italian law," Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in Genoa.

The conference published guidelines on Friday which stipulated that clergy are under no obligation to inform the authorities about suspected abuse but have a "moral duty" to act to protect the vulnerable and "contribute to the common good".

The guidelines sparked fury among victim support groups, with the US-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) deploring the "stunning, depressing and irresponsible contradiction between what Vatican officials say about abuse, and do about abuse."

The Church has repeatedly been accused by victims of covering up abuse by priests and simply moving predator clerics from one diocese to another rather than reporting them, thereby putting other children at risk.

Bishops in possession of information on possible abuse cases have been required by the Vatican to report to the authorities since 2010, but only in those countries where they are required to do so under national law.

Bagnasco said the decision to adopt the Vatican's policy had been taken in part to protect victims who may not want to press charges.

"What is important is to respect the will of the victims and their relatives, who may not want to report the abuse, for personal reasons," Bagnasco said.

"We need to be careful that we in the clergy do not undermine the right to privacy, discretion and confidentiality, and the right of the victims to not be 'exposed' in the public square", he said.

The Vatican was denounced by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in February for failing to stamp out predatory priests, and urged to hand over suspected abusers for prosecution.

Pope Francis has defended the Church, saying it has done more than "any other institution" in tackling pedophilia, and last weekend he appointed a woman who had been molested by a priest as a child as part of a new commission on fighting clerical sexual abuse.

With little warning, bishop changes leadership, direction of Berkeley campus ministry

Monica Clark
National Catholic Reporter
March 29, 2014

BERKELEY, CALIF. Oakland Bishop Michael Barber's decision to change both the leadership and direction of ministry at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish here has left the community angry and mystified.

The decision, parish leaders told NCR, came without consultation with the pastor, campus minister, parish council, or the broader parish and student community.

Newman Hall Holy Spirit is a 1,300-member parish that serves as Catholic campus ministry at the University of California, Berkeley. It's been led by Paulist priests for more than a century.

A March 7 letter from Barber to parishioners -- three weeks after they learned their pastor and campus minister were being removed -- did little to clarify the situation. Barber wrote: "I believe we need to do more, to totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts for the University Community at Cal Berkeley." In a parish with 26 specific ministries for the Berkeley student community and another 44 ministries for students and other parishioners, the statement has caused great puzzlement.

"He does not know the community. He has spent no time with us," said Jean Molesky-Poz, an active Newman Holy Spirit parishioner for 24 years who teaches in the religious studies department at Santa Clara University.

Parishioners first learned of the bishop's decision during Masses the weekend of Feb. 15-16. The following evening, more than 200 assembled in the chapel for a parishioner-led meeting to pray, hear the facts and discuss possible responses.

Gina Hens-Piazza, professor of biblical studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, told the group that in November, the bishop asked Paulist leaders to withdraw the community from the parish, which they've served since 1907. Hens-Piazza was one of several parishioners the pastor, Paulist Fr. Bernard Campbell, consulted after he first heard the news.

The order reached a compromise with the bishop wherein two Paulists would be presented for the bishop's approval as replacements for Campbell, who's been pastor for the past seven years, and Paulist Fr. Bill Edens, student minister for the last five years. Neither had known that the bishop wanted them dismissed and a new direction taken in the parish.

Though Michael Brown, diocesan director of communication, told NCR the bishop had "a number of discussions with the Newman Holy Spirit parish priests" prior to the decision, Campbell called the statement "blatantly false."

When parishioners arrived for Mass the weekend of March 1-2, they learned that Paulist Frs. Ivan Tou and Dat Tran would become their new pastor and associate pastor. A week later, the letter from Barber, inserted into the parish bulletin, said the change was necessary to "reinvigorate and expand our mission 'to the periphery,' " a reference to statements by Pope Francis. No specifics were given as to what that might mean. A subsequent meeting with Barber, Campbell and Edens did not yield any clarity, Campbell told NCR.

Brown said the bishop "envisions greatly increased student participation and roles in decision-making." When the replacement Paulists arrive in July, Brown added, "planning for how to achieve those goals will begin." Currently, two students, nominated by the student ministry team, serve on the parish council.

Newman Hall served Catholic students and faculty from its site on the north side of campus until 1967, when a larger complex was built on the campus' south side. At that time, it also became Holy Spirit Parish. Known for its vibrant embrace of the Second Vatican Council's reforms, Newman Hall Holy Spirit has a breadth of ministries to serve its diverse community, which includes students, alumni, faculty, young families, active and retired professionals, as well as homeless adults living on Berkeley streets.

Current and former parishioners have sent Barber numerous letters attesting to the important role the parish has played in the development and practice of their faith. One letter was written by four members of the student ministry team, the co-chairs and a former co-chair of the parish council, and a council member.

"Our parish is an extraordinary community," they wrote. Noting the large number of ministries and programs, they spoke of the value of a multigenerational parish in which students "are strengthened in their faith commitment by the witness of older adult Catholics" and non-student parishioners are "inspired by the grace, spirituality and energy of the students." They praised Edens for his work "tirelessly to reach out to students on the fringe of the parish, calling them to deeper involvement in the parish and the larger Church."

Campbell said students make up about 55 percent of the parish with about 70 percent of those students of Asian heritage. The parish spends about $400,000 a year for campus ministry.

Brown said the bishop is concerned with "declining student involvement in the Newman Hall community."

Encouraging greater student involvement has been clearly part of Campbell and Edens' plan. In September, at Campbell's invitation, the parish welcomed four young adult missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. The missionaries live near campus and engage with Cal students in everything from basketball to Bible study.

"They're on campus finding the Catholics we don't see," Edens told The Catholic Voice, the Oakland diocesan newspaper. He spent a few days with the four during the summer while they were training at Ave Maria University in Florida.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students was established by a lay couple in 1998 at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in response to John Paul II's call for a "new evangelization." According to its website, the organization now has 361 missionaries on 83 campuses in 34 states.

At Berkeley, the missionaries host more than a dozen Bible study groups. "Contacts and friendships are developing," Campbell said. "Generally, I'm pleased with it." He said he believes the four missionaries, who graduated from colleges in Nebraska, Montana and Colorado, are coming to recognize that "the ecclesial moorings are different at Cal than other places."

Campbell said student involvement is actively encouraged in all aspects of parish life at Newman Hall Holy Spirit. But, he conceded, it is sometimes difficult to get students to follow through on their commitments because of academic demands and changes in their schedules.

He also said some students feel "shy about this place because it is not like their home parish." For example, the parish has a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group for students and another for non-students. It has a dance ministry, Taize prayer, spirituality groups for men and women, and a JustFaith group, and it is a member of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action.

In April, Camaldolese Br. Ivan Nicoletto is scheduled to speak to the Women in Conversation group on "An Evolutionary God, the God of Mystery." The Science and Faith group, which meets monthly, brings together students and professors from Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union to discuss how faith connects with questions of science.

For students looking for more traditional spiritual practices, the parish offers eucharistic adoration, a student rosary group and a Friday night Holy Hour. Campbell is working with a small group that wants student acolytes and cross bearers.

The Newman chapel is open 12 hours each day except Sunday, when it is open for 17 hours. Campbell said up to 200 students a week come to prayer in the Newman chapel.

Parishioner Molesky-Poz has high praise for the two "extremely good, intelligent, dedicated Paulist priests who have shepherded the parish and university community in inclusive, pastoral, deeply prayerful and wise ways. They speak and live the Gospel opening, inclusively. The Gospel is about witnessing to the love of God, not to power and prestige."

Another parishioner, John Bird, in a letter to the bishop asking that he reverse his decision said the two Paulists "have been urging and challenging us to live the Gospel. They merit our continuing support and they merit your support."

Campbell is using his last weeks in the parish to encourage parishioners. In his message to parishioners when the changes were first announced, he said, "No less an authority than Jesus would nudge us 'to think again,' moving away from the immediate reactions that lead only to more bruising and hurt and towards more patient, however hesitant, steps toward a future for Newman and the Church richer than even we and Barber can imagine now."

Barber has promised but has not yet scheduled a meeting with the eight signers of the joint letter originally sent to him. The co-chairs of the parish council have invited parishioners to tell them of their concerns and visions for the parish, so the meeting can be "the beginning of a fruitful and ongoing dialogue, hearing the bishop's concerns and also communicating the needs and identity of the parish."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Judge warns against delays in Gallup, NM bankruptcy case

Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
National Catholic Reporter
March 28, 2014

The Gallup diocese is the ninth Catholic diocese in the country to file for bankruptcy protection since 2004, but Judge David Thuma says he doesn't want to see Gallup follow in the contentious path of number eight, the Milwaukee archdiocese.

Thuma, presiding over Gallup's case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Mexico, recently cautioned attorneys in the case to get "to the end zone" and work toward settlement.

"We need to figure out a way to get the minimum facts before the committee and the debtor that they would need to settle this case, and we need to start thinking about how we get a whole lot closer to the end zone, to use a sports metaphor," Thuma said in a Feb. 14 hearing. "Because I don't want this case to be like the Milwaukee case where the debtor says all the money that could have been paid to creditors has been spent on litigation. I would be pretty unhappy if that happens in this case."

It's been more than six months since Bishop James Wall announced the Gallup diocese would file a Chapter 11 petition. He broke the news by instructing priests across this sprawling rural diocese to read his announcement to parishioners during Labor Day weekend Masses.

At the time, the diocese had been named in 13 clergy sex abuse lawsuits in Arizona. The first was slated to go to trial in February, current and former church officials were being scheduled for depositions, and the diocese was also negotiating an undisclosed number of out-of-court abuse allegations.

The Gallup diocese, which was established in 1939, straddles two states and includes parishes in six counties in western New Mexico, three counties in northern Arizona and seven Native American reservations. Prior to the formation of the Phoenix diocese in December 1969, the Gallup diocese extended west to the California border and south to central Arizona.

Until the Chapter 11 filing, Gallup diocesan officials have steadfastly refused to divulge the number of credible abuse allegations made against its clergy, an accurate list of accused clerics, the whereabouts of accused clergy who are still living, and the financial toll of abuse settlements and related legal fees. The majority of clergy abuse survivors known to the media have come from small communities across northern Arizona. Most have been Hispanic males, targeted for molestation while serving as altar boys.

Within a month of becoming Gallup's fourth bishop in 2009, Wall had issued a news release promising to shed light on the extent of abuse in the diocese. He announced that Fr. James Walker, then vicar general, would conduct a thorough review of priest personnel files that would include a check for credible accounts of abuse of children, youth and vulnerable adults.

Between 2003 and 2005, under the late Bishop Donald Pelotte, the diocese had released the names of 11 former priests who had been credibly accused of child sex abuse. Nine had worked as priests in the Gallup diocese, and two had moved into the diocese for retirement or volunteer work. Since 2005, the diocese has only publicly announced the removal of two more priests from ministry. A list this reporter maintains, collected through police reports, court documents, newspaper accounts of arrests, or the admission of church authorities, counts 23 clergy, who either ministered or lived in the Gallup diocese, who have publicly been accused of the abuse of minors.

However, once diocesan attorneys filed the Chapter 11 petition Nov. 12, some information about diocesan sexual abuse began to emerge. During the first court hearing, attorneys discussed how to manage the case's confidential claimant mailing list that featured the names of alleged abuse survivors. The list included the names of 105 people. Less than two weeks later, Wall submitted a document to the court revising that number up to 121.

A number of familiar church bankruptcy faces and themes have surfaced in the Gallup diocese case. The diocese hired lead bankruptcy attorney Susan Boswell and certified public accountant Christopher Linscott, both of Tucson and both veterans of other church bankruptcy cases. Los Angeles attorney James Stang, also a veteran of numerous church cases, is the legal counsel for the Unsecured Creditors Committee that represents the interests of clergy sex abuse claimants.

One pervasive theme that has permeated the case -- but has not been officially addressed by the court -- concerns the diocese's assertion that its parishes are separate legal entities apart from the diocese. Both sides, however, have been reluctant to formally put the matter before Thuma. Stang has referenced contradictory statements made previously by other diocesan attorneys that Gallup's parishes have no separate legal existence apart from the diocese, a corporation sole. For her part, Boswell has said litigating the issue might cause lengthy delays and drain the diocese's financial resources.

Other financial complications have already delayed the case. After working for the diocese for 14 years, the diocese's chief financial officer, Deacon James Hoy, resigned just two months before Wall announced his decision to file for Chapter 11, and Hoy's position remains vacant. Linscott's accounting firm has had to step into that gap.

Another initial subject of dispute was the market value of real estate property in the diocese. When the diocese filed its first financial documents, it listed all its property as having an "unknown" market value. According to Boswell, the diocese had to seek the assistance of county officials in Arizona and New Mexico to determine what parcels of land it owned, and diocesan officials were looking for brokers that could determine the market value of key pieces of real estate. Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor, who had filed the 13 clergy abuse lawsuits in Arizona, disputed Boswell's claim. Pastor referenced a confidential document, given to him by diocesan attorneys in negotiations with his first Arizona case, that includes an extensive list of real estate properties along with their value. Even Assistant U.S. Trustee Ronald Andazola questioned why an earlier diocesan audit included some property values.

Other financial concerns include:

Wall testified he had to borrow $200,000 from the Phoenix diocese and $29,000 from the Santa Fe, N.M., archdiocese to begin the Chapter 11 process.
Linscott stated the diocese's priest retirement fund or pension plan is underfunded.

Thuma had to find a remedy for about a dozen bank accounts that parish officials improperly opened with the diocese's tax identification number.
A number of parishes have hired a Tucson attorney to represent their financial interests.

Diocesan attorneys are still working to locate missing documents pertaining to modest oil and gas royalties.

Despite legal sparring, Boswell stated in a recent motion that she and Stang had been working to identify potential financial sources to fund a plan of reorganization, including a comprehensive list of property, possible recovery of funds, and analysis of insurance coverage. Thuma recently granted the diocese a 180-day extension to its original 120-day exclusivity period to file its plan of reorganization. The new deadline is now Sept. 8.

The next expected major development should be the announcement of a bar date for survivors of clergy sex abuse to file their claims. In early March, Boswell submitted a motion to set a bar date with a 120-day filing period. Under her motion, the bar date would be publicized across Arizona and New Mexico, and a toll-free number for claimants would be established, with Spanish- and Navajo-speaking translators available. Thuma is expected to rule on that in April.

American diocese sues Irish diocese for sending them pedophile priest

James O'Shea
Irish Central
March 28, 2014

In an unprecedented legal move a diocese in Minnesota is suing a diocese in Ireland, alleging it sent a priest to Minnesota knowing he was a child abuser.

The New Ulm diocese has filed a lawsuit against the diocese of Clogher, which encompasses four northern Irish counties: Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Donegal.

The lawsuit alleges that Clogher sent a pedophile priest, Father Francis Markey, to Minnesota in 1981 without revealing his past. The lawsuit also names the the Servants of the Paraclete religious order.

The New Ulm Diocese says it never would have accepted the Rev. Francis Xavier Markey in 1981 if it had been told about the allegations.

Markey was ordained in Ireland in 1952, but documents in several court cases show he was accused of sexually abusing numerous boys as early as the 1960s, long before he was transferred to Minnesota.

He was awaiting trial on child rape charges in Ireland when he died in 2012.

While posted to Minnesota Markey is alleged to have sexually abused three boys at a rural family home in 1982 when he was posted temporarily to rural parishes. One of those men is now claiming abuse and filed charges last year.

The Diocese of Clogher has denied the allegations and says they never approved sending the priest to America.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukrainian crisis may split Russian Orthodox Church

Sophia Kishkovsky
Religion News Service
March 27, 2014

Moscow - As Russian troops massed on Ukraine's border and a controversial secession vote in Crimea approached March 16, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox church called for prayers "that brothers of one faith and one blood never bring destruction to one another."

Russia has prided itself on its revival of Orthodox Christianity after decades of Soviet persecution, but a war with the Ukraine could splinter the Russian Orthodox church.

That church has its roots in Kiev, where Prince Vladimir baptized his people as Christians in 988, an event viewed as a cornerstone of Russian and Ukrainian identity. It has even deeper roots in Crimea, where, according to legend, Vladimir was himself baptized by Byzantine emissaries.

The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate, which has 12,500 congregations, is the largest of three Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

It has some degree of autonomy, with a Synod of Bishops that elects its own members. However, the church's leader, currently Metropolitan Onufry of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, although elected by the synod, has to be approved by Moscow.

In his sermon at the end of the service at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow March 14, Kirill, who has been known for his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested that Ukraine has a right to self-determination.

But he also stressed that it must not be trapped into a spiritual division from Russia.

"What we are referring to is the Russian world, the great Russian civilization that came from the Kievan baptismal font and spread across the huge expanse of Eurasia," he said according to a transcript posted on the Moscow patriarchate's website.

The "Russian world," or "Russky mir," has been an overriding theme for Kirill since he became patriarch in 2009, and it meshes with Putin's worldview, said Antoine Arjakovsky, director of research at the College des Bernardins in Paris and founder of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies in Lviv, Ukraine.

"For them, democracy is a danger," he said in a Skype interview. "They invented a new mythology, the new ideology of Russky mir, of the Russian idea, which would invent a kind of new theology of politics."

But for the churches in Ukraine, the protests that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych were also a galvanizing religious awakening and may lead to a seismic shift in church-state relations. Dramatic images of clergy with crosses standing between protesters and government forces went viral as the standoff escalated in January and February.

"The majority of the Ukrainian churches followed a paradigm common to Eastern Christianity; they aligned with the state," said the Rev. Cyril Hovorun, a former chair of the Ukrainian Orthodox church's Department of External Church Relations who has also worked at the headquarters of the Moscow patriarchate and is now studying church-state relations at Yale Divinity School.

"The churches in their majority on different levels supported the justifiable demands of the Maidan," he said referring to the square in Kiev where the protests took place.

Greek Catholics, or Eastern rite Catholics who are loyal to Rome, were the earliest and most active supporters of the demonstrations, he said. Many of them come from Western Ukraine, on the Polish border, where the state and communist policy of persecution of religion under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was accompanied by forced conversion from Eastern rite Catholicism to Orthodoxy. Atheism never took hold.

Yet during the protests, all of the churches "with a different pace realigned with the new agenda," Hovorun said, and prayer became an integral part of the protests, which also became, in effect, ecumenical meeting grounds.

"Maidan, apart from being an important civil event, appeared to be an important religious event," he said. "There were prayers said every day in the morning and at night. It was a religious phenomenon apart from being a political and social phenomenon, and it was also an ecumenical phenomenon because Maidan actually facilitated many churches, many church leaders who had never really conversed publicly with each other."

Andrei Zubov, a historian and expert in church-state relations at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was nearly fired earlier this month for writing an editorial that compared Putin's actions in Crimea to Hitler's Anschluss of the Sudetenland. He said that if events spill into war, a split between the Moscow and Kiev churches is inevitable.

"Putin has started an uncontrollable process," he said in a telephone interview from London.

Calls have been growing for an independent church that would unite all of Ukraine's Orthodox churches. (The other two are not recognized by the world's main Orthodox churches.)

Zubov said that if relations between Russia and Ukraine continue to deteriorate, the patriarchate of Constantinople would eventually recognize a Ukrainian church.

"Ukraine is the second-biggest Orthodox country after Russia," said Arjakovsky.

One thing is certain: A united Ukrainian church could redraw the map of Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Moscow Patriarchate slams Ukrainian Catholic Uniates for "meddling " in politics and taking a pro-Western stance

Nina Achmatova
Asia News
March 26, 2014

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate strongly condemned the Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church in Ukraine for "meddling" in politics, in the current crisis in the country. For its part, Russia continues to accuse the Ukraine of "religious intolerance," a charge the latter sharply rejects, noting instead how all religious denominations have come together to oppose violence and express support for Europe.

For Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and his predecessor, Lubomyr Husar, took a "very clear position from the beginning of the civil conflict, which grew unfortunately into an armed bloody conflict".

In his view, the Uniates not only advocated integration with Europe, "but even called for Western countries to intervene more decisively in the situation in Ukraine."

Speaking on The Church and the world, a programme on the Russia-24 TV channel, Hilarion also noted that "Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and [. . .] Filaret (Denisenko) even went to the United States, [. . .] to the State Department and asked for US intervention in Ukrainian affairs."

Excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate, Filaret is the head of the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate.

In early February, Archbishop Shevchuk spoke before the US Congress. On that occasion, he said that the Ukraine situation transcended politics and asked for US mediation to resolve the crisis.

Conversely, for Hilarion, the Greek-Catholic Church is a major obstacle in relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See.

The Orthodox, he said, have always perceived the Uniates in a very negative light, "as a special project by the Catholic Church," because "they dress like Orthodox, follow Orthodox rituals, but are in fact Catholic," which gives them and the Vatican a certain leeway.

When he asked a Catholic official for an explanation about the show of support from the Greek-Catholic Church for the breakaway Orthodox Church, the only answer Hilarion said he got was "We do not control them."

For his part, Shevchuk, who recently met with Pope Francis, bemoans the disappearances of people in Ukraine, who were "abducted and tortured" by the Berkut, the special police in the government of ousted president Yanukovych.

Moscow and Kyiv also continue to trade barbs over religion. The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has rejected Russian accusations of "religious intolerance" with regards to alleged threats and seizure of parishes that are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

According to the ministry's Religious Affairs Department, no such actions have taken place. On the contrary, during protests at Maiden (Independence) Square, "all the churches, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," came out to defend the people and show their support for a pro-European orientation in the country's development.

Likewise, Kyiv has denied claims by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government that the country is in a civil war.

Instead, Russia continues to be under diplomatic pressure to avoid a wider Ukrainian crisis, following its annexation of the Crimea.

In fact, US President Barack Obama is in Brussels for a summit with EU leaders Barroso and Van Rompuy to discuss possible new sanctions.

Ukrainian Catholic priests flee Crimea as Moscow Orthodox hail Putin's 'peace-making mission'

Josef Pazderka
The Tablet
March 26, 2014

Several Catholic priests in Ukraine fled the country’s Black Sea region of Crimea after receiving threatening phone calls and messages from local pro-Russian armed militia and being abducted for several days.

“The situation is very dangerous, we all hope that Western political forces will stop (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” said Fr Bronislaw Bernacki, Roman Catholic Bishop of Odessa-Simferopol.

With the growing numbers of Russian troops and local pro-Russian militia, pressure has mounted on people in Crimea who did not recognise Moscow’s sudden takeover of the Crimea peninsula, including Ukrainian Roman and Greek Catholic priests in the region.

“We need help and spiritual support … a miracle, a miracle of peace,” said Fr Jacek Pyl, a Roman Catholic priest in Crimea. The head of the Jesuits in Ukraine, Fr David Nazar, called the annexation of Crimea a “completely illegal occupation”.

While most of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches condemned Moscow’s actions in Crimea, the Russian Orthodox Church called it “the peace-making mission” that “should guarantee the Crimea citizens the right to self-determination and close ties with other peoples of historical Rus”. Fr Vladimir Legoyda, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, added: “We pray for fraternal blood to never be shed on the Crimean land and for God to keep all residents of the peninsula – Russians, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and representatives of other ethnicities – in peace, wellbeing and consensus.”

Francis removes German 'bling bishop'

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
March 26, 2014

Pope Francis on Tuesday effectively fired a German bishop who had attracted controversy for extraordinary expenses on a new diocesan center, sending a signal that he is willing to oust bishops who do not align with his vision of a "poor church for the poor."

The Vatican announced Wednesday the pontiff had accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who had reportedly spent some 31 million euro ($43 million) on a new residence and complex in his Limburg diocese in western Germany while at the same time reducing salaries for staff in the name of financial austerity.

Francis had suspended Tebartz-van Elst from his role in October while the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops studied the matter. Wednesday's statement says the pope on Tuesday decided that the German diocese had "come to a situation that prevents a fruitful exercise of the ministry" of the bishop.

The statement said Tebartz-van Elst will receive another assignment in a "timely manner" and asks the German diocese to "accept the decisions of the Holy See with docility and wanting to commit to finding a climate of love and reconciliation."

Tuesday's move puts into the spotlight the extraordinary power of any pope to remake the global church as he sees fit. It also highlights anew differences of opinion among the highest prelates of the church, some of whom had defended Tebartz-van Elst.

The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, had said in October that the accusations against the bishop were the "invention of journalists." The Vatican, said German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, supported the bishop "completely and fully." (The popular liturgy blog PrayTell first reported on the German-language report here.)

While Wednesday's release from the Vatican says Tebartz-van Elst resigned his office, the resignation was effectively at the pope's order.

The release says the pope accepted the resignation in accordance with church canon 401, which states that a bishop "who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause" is "earnestly requested" to present his resignation to the pope.

Francis' move to fire Tebartz-van Elst was quickly criticized by survivors of clergy sexual abuse, who are asking the pontiff to make the same move against bishops who mishandle or cover-up clergy accused of abuse.

"When it comes to finances and governance, Francis moves quickly and boldly," read a statement from the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "When it comes to children and crimes, Francis [moves] slowly and timidly."

Francis has been known for his frequent calls for the global Catholic church to stress simplicity, saying shortly after his election as pontiff he was seeking a "poor church for the poor." The secretary of one Vatican congregation, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo of the Congregation for Religious, even said earlier this month that "disciples must have nothing, not bread, not money in their bags."

Just before release of the Vatican statement Wednesday announcing Tebartz-van Elst's removal, Francis spoke for a lengthy period Wednesday morning during his weekly general audience on the sacrament of Holy Orders -- the Catholic sacrament where a man becomes a deacon, priest or bishop.

The key function of a bishop or priest, the pope said, is service. "A bishop who is not at the service of the community is not good," the pope said. "A priest ... who is not at the service of his community is not good. It's wrong. "

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Francis shows political instincts in naming anti-abuse panel

John L. Allen, Jr.
Boston Globe
March 22, 2014

Pope Francis captured the imagination of the world within hours after his election a year ago through his flashes of humility, and that’s not just a PR facade. In Argentina, he was known as a “bishop of the villas,” referring to the vast slums that ring Buenos Aires, because he had a special love for the poor.

Yet one should never forget that beneath that simple exterior lies the mind of a brilliant Jesuit politician. Some Argentines believe he may actually rival Juan and Evita Perón for the title of best set of political instincts the country ever produced.

That savvy was on display again Saturday, when Francis rolled out the initial members for a new Vatican commission to lead the charge in the fight against clerical sexual abuse.

Despite the generally glowing reviews Francis has drawn over his first year, there have been two streams of criticism that, if allowed to fester, could grow into serious headaches for the pontiff:

-- Critics say he hasn’t engaged the church’s clerical abuse scandals with the same vigor he has brought to other problems. An American advocacy group recently raised questions about his response to five abuse cases in Argentina, while his comments in a recent Italian interview reminded some observers of the defensive rhetoric employed by church officials at the onset of the crisis.

-- Francis has repeatedly called for greater roles for women in the church, but so far he has been more concrete about which doors remain closed rather than which may be opening: a firm “no” to women priests, for instance, and another “no” to women cardinals. When he recently created a powerful new finance council for the Vatican, he didn’t include a single woman among its seven lay members.

In one swoop on Saturday, Francis took a significant step toward addressing both of those smoldering objections.

On the abuse front, Francis signaled his commitment to reform by naming Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston as part of the team. While critics may raise objections about aspects of O’Malley’s record, no American bishop has a deeper experience of recovery from the abuse scandals and few prelates anywhere are more publicly identified with the press for accountability and transparency.

O’Malley, in other words, brings instant credibility to the effort.

Francis also showed sensitivity by ensuring that a victim was part of the team, in this case a well-known Irish campaigner for victims’ rights named Marie Collins. Among other things, Collins is known to have the ear of Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who, like O’Malley, is a prelate known around the world for taking strong stands in favor of coming clean on the abuse scandals.

Insiders will also note that Francis tapped a Jesuit, the Rev. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, to the body. He heads the moral theology faculty at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University. Yáñez is a Francis protégé, having been received into the Jesuit order by the Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the 1970s and having studied under the future pope.

One way Francis signals his personal interest in a project is by naming an intimate to its team, as he recently did by naming one of his personal secretaries, Maltese Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, to the Vatican’s new finance ministry. The Yáñez appointment will be taken the same way, as a sign that this commission matters.

As far as women are concerned, Francis has seemed to say that he wants them to play meaningful leadership roles in every capacity that doesn’t require making them priests. To date, however, he hadn’t offered any examples of what those roles might look like.

He certainly has now: Of the five lay people Francis included among the leaders of the new anti-abuse commission, four are women. The result is that fully half the commission’s members are female.

Beyond Collins, the other women are Hanna Suchocka, who served as Poland’s Prime Minister between 1992 and 1993, and who served five different Polish governments as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican; Catherine Bonnet, a well-regarded child psychologist in France who has written extensively on the trauma inflicted on children by sexual abuse and exploitation; and Baroness Sheila Hollins, president of the British Medical Association and a widely consulted expert on child development issues.

Clearly, these women aren’t window-dressing. They’re accomplished advocates and experts, with deep experience of getting things done both in secular circles and in the church. Francis presumably tapped them because of their personal qualifications, but he can’t be blind to the fact that this also amounts to a down payment on his pledge to boost women’s roles.

Granted, naming people to a commission is not, in itself, reform. It remains to be seen if this group can successfully ride herd on forces in the church still in denial, or help the pope hold bishops and other Catholic leaders accountable if they drop the ball.

If the commission turns out to be a dud, Saturday’s announcement won’t be enough to save the pope from the disillusionment that will ensure.

For now, however, the lineup card revealed by the pope not only amounts to a clear statement of seriousness about the abuse issue, but it also shows a deft political touch.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ukranian Catholics experiencing 'total persecution' in Crimea

Catholic News Agency

Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 18, 2014 / 04:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-
As the Russian president signed a bill to annex Crimea Tuesday, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the peninsula has been experiencing what a Church official calls “total persecution.”

“At this moment all Ukrainian Greek Catholic life in Crimea is paralyzed,” Fr. Volodymyr Zhdan, chancellor of the Stryi eparchy in western Ukraine, told CNA March 18.

From 2006 to 2010, Fr. Zhdan served as chancellor of the Odesa-Krym exarchate, which encompassed both the mainland port city of Odesa and the Crimean peninsula.

Since late February the peninsula has seen the emergence of pro-Russian troops, who have taken control of its airports, parliament, and telecommunication centers.

Referring to the kidnapping of three Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests in Crimea by pro-Russian forces over the weekend, Fr. Zhdan stressed that one such case could be called a mistake, but that “multiple kidnappings are not an accident.”

On March 15 Fr. Mykola Kvych, a naval chaplain stationed in Sevastopol, was detained immediately after celebrating a “parastas,” a memorial prayer service for the dead. The following day Fr. Bohdan Kosteskiy of Yevpatoria and Fr. Ihor Gabryliv of Yalta were also reported missing.

Later that night all three were said to be alive and safe, with Fr. Kvych confirming that he had escaped to the mainland of Ukraine with the help of parishioners.

Fr. Kvych told the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s information department that he was held and questioned for eight hours by representatives of the Crimean self-defense force and Russian intelligence officers.

According to Fr. Kvych, they accused him of “provocations” and of supplying the Ukrainian navy with weapons. Fr. Kvych maintained that he helped organize the delivery of food to a blockaded naval base, and that he gave two bulletproof vests to journalists.

Upon seeing a Ukrainian flag at his home and portraits of Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera – Ukrainian nationalists who fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets in the 1940s and 50s -- inside, Fr. Kvych’s captors accused him of being in the “SS Army,” a reference to Nazi Germany.

Followers of Bandera are colloquially called “Banderites,” a label that has been heavily circulated by Russian authorities and media in recent months and whose reported presence in Ukraine, many analysts say, has been used to justify Russian intervention in the country.

Fr. Kvych has been charged with “extremism,” which in the Russian Federation can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Fr. Kvych does not know how the trial will be conducted, since the national status of Crimea is in dispute.

A referendum was held in the territory March 16 regarding union with Russia. Crimean authorities claim that 97 percent of voters favor seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, and March 18 Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty declaring the territory absorbed by Russia.

Western nations and the government in Kyiv have condemned both the referendum and the annexation.

In addition to the arrests in Crimea, several other problems at Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches throughout the country have been reported in recent days.

According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, an important 130-foot electrical cable was stolen from a small chapel in the Kherson region north of Crimea over the weekend. On March 15 a parish in Kolomyya was vandalized and another in Dora was burned to the ground, reportedly from arson. Both damaged parishes are in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, which borders Romania in the west of Ukraine.

In Crimea, clergy have received threatening phone calls and messages. At the home of one apprehended priest, a note was left that read this should be “a lesson to all Vatican agents.”

“This is not new,” Bishop Vasyl Ivasyuk, who served as Exarch of Odesa-Krym from 2003 to 2014, told CNA.

“During Soviet times, we were always accused of being ‘agents’ of the Vatican,” Bishop Ivasyuk continued. “Of course not all people in Crimea think we are spies, but there is a very active pro-Russian group there that does.”

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was heavily persecuted during the Soviet era; it was considered illegal, and operated completely underground until 1989.

“The Church emerged from the underground 25 years ago, having been the largest illegal church in the world for 45 years prior,” Bishop Boris Gudziak, Eparch of Paris, explained to CNA last month.

“The UGCC was the biggest social body of opposition to the Soviet ideology and totalitarian system. It was completely illegal, but in the catacombs, it was spiritually free because it was not collaborating.”

Bishop Ivasyuk confirmed that such freedom is important in Crimea, where the relationship between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the local government has always been complicated.

“Many Crimeans respect the UGCC for not taking part in elections, for staying out of politics,” he said. “Our priests do not run for political office and this has granted them a kind of moral authority.”

Of the five priests normally serving Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the peninsula, two reportedly remain.

When asked their motivation for staying, Bishop Ivasyuk explained that they want to be with the people as long as possible.

“Life is the most important thing, so we shouldn’t go looking for the mouth of the lion … but we’ll stay with the people wherever they are.”

On March 18 the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs in Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture issued a statement condemning the persecution of clergy in Crimea.

“Recently, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea cases of persecution of the clerics of various denominations have been documented. There has been an unprecedented violation of rights in the field of freedom of conscience and religion,” the statement read.

“We demand there be a stop to the practice of terror and for rights and liberties to be respected.”

With the signing of the Russia-Crimea treaty, it is unclear what will happen to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the region. It is estimated there are roughly 5,000 Ukrainian Greek Catholics on the peninsula.

“What we saw this weekend was a disturbing signal of a future political direction,” Fr. Zhdan concluded.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cardinal Marx: The IOR will no longer be able to damage the Vatican's reputation

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
March 19, 2014

In the future the IOR will no longer be able to harm “the Holy See’s reputation.” Scandals, money laundering, shady operations… the “Vatican Bank” has been the subject of numerous judicial investigations which have tainted its evangelical ethos. Such scenarios should never be repeated again, stressed the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Cardinal Marx is President of the German Bishops’ Conference, a member of the Pope’s advisory Council, the C8, and was recently nominated Coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Marx’s interview with Palabra will be published in April’s issue. Europa Press gives readers a taste of what was said.

“No decision has yet been taken” regarding the IOR, the cardinal said. “The Commission that was set up last summer to reform the IOR presented some proposals which still need to be looked into. I trust that in the coming months the fate of the Institute will be decided. We want to ensure that from now on the IOR will no longer be able to harm the Holy See’s reputation.”

Marx stressed that “the Vatican’s real bank” will be the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and added that all will become clearer “shortly”.

The German cardinal explained that the creation of the new Secretariat for the Economy and the Vatican’s new Council for the Economy is one of the topics discussed in the C8 meetings. Francis established t
he Council of eight cardinals a month after his election, to advise him on Curia reform and help him with the government of the universal Church. The decision to create the Vatican ministry of finance was taken unanimously in Francis’ presence, with the aim of promoting “transparency”.

“The establishment of a ministry of finance in the Curia is something very new in the history of the Holy See,” Marx said. “In the future, money will be managed in a transparent way that conforms to international standards.” “The time came to clean things up” so that all other important reform matters could be addressed.

Speaking about Francis, Cardinal Marx stated that the Pope “wants to give the Church new impetus” and he is “already achieving this.” He has created “a new climate of openness where there are new opportunities.” But the Pope “is still part of the Church tradition” and “he does not want a split.”

On the subject of remarried divorcees and the possibility of them being granted access to the sacraments, Cardinal Marx assured that “the Church must continue and will continue to defend the indissolubility of marriage” although it does believe Cardinal Walter Kasper’s comments at the Consistory “worthy of consideration.” It is worth “debating”, in order to see how Catholic Church doctrine on the issue can be developed without breaking with tradition.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cardinal Pell was 'giving instructions' as Catholic church fought abuse claims

David Marr
The Guardian
March 18, 2014

Claims by Cardinal George Pell that he had little to do with the conduct of the notorious Ellis case have been flatly contradicted by the church’s own lawyer in dramatic testimony on Tuesday to the royal commission into the institutional response to child abuse.

“I didn’t have any doubt the cardinal was being kept up to date on developments in the case,” Paul McCann of church lawyers Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth told the commission. “He was giving instructions on various steps.”

John Ellis sued Pell and the trustees of the Catholic church in 2005 after being refused compensation for his abuse at the hands of Father Aidan Duggan. After a hard-fought contest, Ellis lost. The decision made legal history, confirming the Catholic church in Australia is unsueable. For years the church demanded Ellis pay its legal costs of $750,000.

When a frail Ellis met Pell for the first time in 2009, he came away immensely relieved to think the cardinal had not been “in the loop” when decisions were made on fighting his case. After the meeting, the cardinal’s secretary, Dr Michael Casey, wrote to Ellis apologising for the rough time he had had during the litigation.

“Cardinal Pell wants you to know that although he believed that your claim was for many millions of dollars, he now knows that the truth of the matter was … an “offer of compromise” submitted to the Archdiocese in December 2004 of only $750,000.

“Further, the Cardinal was distressed to learn that this submission was never responded to by the Archdiocesan lawyers. For this he apologises. Once again the Cardinal reiterated that he will do all in his power to ensure that this sort of legal abuse is never repeated again.”

Even before McCann entered the witness box at the commission to confront those claims, Pell’s then vicar-general, Monsignor Brian Rayner, gave evidence he had the cardinal’s permission to offer Ellis $25,000 and later $30,000 in the early days of the dispute.

“I did not have authority to make decisions about amounts of money,” he told the commission.

Rayner insisted he had also alerted Pell to an early counter-claim by Ellis and his wife for $100,000. Peter Gray SC, counsel for Pell, has indicated the cardinal will deny those claims. Rayner said: “His recollection of events is not clearly accurate.”

Taking the stand shortly before lunch, McCann told the commission he received instructions from Casey on each of the strategic decisions involved in fighting Ellis’s claim. These included the decision not to mediate at the outset, to reject Ellis’s final request for $750,000 and to deny – despite the findings of the church’s own investigator and admissions made to Ellis by Rayer and others – that he had ever been abused.

Under questioning from the commissioner, Peter McClellan, McCann said he did not doubt the cardinal was kept up to date with and was giving instructions on these steps.

Pell is expected to take the stand on Monday.

Catholics in Crimea fear oppression under possible Russian rule

Fox News
March 17, 2014

Many Catholics living in the disputed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea are worried about their future after the region declared independence Monday following an overwhelming vote to secede.

Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in the town of Kerch, Ukraine, in eastern Crimea, told the Catholic News Service that members of his church are frightened by the recent Russian military occupation and fear their communities may be forced out under possible Russian rule.

"No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine," Milchakovskyi said. "Our church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it's uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed. We fear our churches will be confiscated and our clergy arrested," the priest added.

Milchakovskyi said the Ukrainian Catholic Church's leader, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, had pledged "prayers and support" to any Catholics who felt threatened.

"Many have already stopped coming to church, after being branded nationalists and fascists by local provocateurs," Milchakovskyi said.

Church leaders are concerned that Russians would inflict a new oppression on Ukrainian Catholics, who make up about 10 percent of Crimea's 2 million people.

Under Soviet rule, from 1946 to 1989, the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed. While some continued to practice their faith in secret, others attended an Orthodox church or gave up going to religious services. The government confiscated all church property, handing over some buildings to the Orthodox Church and putting other buildings to secular use.

Two days before the referendum, Milchakovskyi said many Catholics would likely not vote. "They say that it's not legal. They will not take part in it and that it is just illegal," he said.

Milchakovskyi said he had been allowed, as a military chaplain, to visit Catholics serving with the Ukrainian naval infantry in Kerch, after their base in the eastern port was blockaded by Russian-backed forces.

He reported that Russian troops were "controlling who and what gets through," and said young recruits now lacked food and medicine.

"The Orthodox have always insisted they're dominant here and done everything to make life unpleasant for us. If they're now given a free hand, we don't know whether they'll behave like Christians or follow the same unfriendly policy," Milchakovskyi said.

Vatican expels Newark, NJ priest Michael Fugee from priesthood

Mark Mueller
The Star-Ledger
Mar. 18, 2014

Acting with uncustomary speed, the Vatican expelled a New Jersey man from the priesthood for repeatedly defying a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

Michael Fugee, 53, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors despite signing a court-sanctioned decree forbidding such activities, is no longer a priest, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark archdiocese.

The Vatican typically takes a year or longer to expel priests, a process known as laicization. In some cases, the procedure drags on for several years.

Fugee's removal comes just four months after the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office agreed to drop criminal charges against him in exchange for his expulsion. He remains under lifetime supervision by the prosecutor's office.

Asked about the swift pace of Fugee's removal, Goodness said the former priest's petition for laicization was "given a good amount of attention when it was submitted."

Fugee's interactions with children, first reported last April, led to national criticism of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, who had repeatedly defended the priest and returned him to ministry after a molestation conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Months later, Pope Francis appointed a co-archbishop for the archdiocese. Myers maintains his handling of Fugee and other priests credibly accused of sexual abuse was unrelated to the pope's decision.

Fugee's troubles stretch back to 2001, when he admitted under police questioning that he fondled the genitals of a teenage boy, that it sexually excited him and that he recognized it was a "violation." Two years later, a jury convicted him of criminal sexual contact, and he was sentenced to five years' probation.

The conviction was later reversed by an appellate court, which ruled the trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors.

The ban on ministry to children, enshrined in a 2007 memorandum of understanding signed by the archdiocese's vicar general, required Fugee to undergo counseling for sex offenders and to stay away from children. The archdiocese agreed to ensure the terms.

Because of the court reversal, Fugee was not required to register as a Megan's Law offender.

Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy and support group, called Fugee's expulsion from the priesthood "long overdue."

"This should have happened years and years ago," Crawford said. "If the archbishop was truly open and transparent, Fugee would never have been returned to ministry. At least now he will be monitored by professionals, and we will no longer have the archbishop's empty promise that Fugee will be supervised. It's crystal clear he was never supervised."

Fugee, ordained a priest in the Newark archdiocese in 1994, was serving at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff when he became close with the 14-year-old alleged victim and the boy's mother. Fugee spent evenings at the teen's home and traveled with him on vacation.

During several visits, Fugee engaged in wrestling matches with the boy, groping him in the process, prosecutors charged.

After Fugee's return to the priesthood, Myers named him chaplain at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark without informing hospital officials of the criminal case. When The Star-Ledger informed the officials of the priest's past, they demanded his removal.

Fugee later served as co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, a position at the archdiocese's headquarters in Newark.

At the same time, however, his contact with children continued. He went on youth retreats, attended youth ministry meetings and heard confessions from minors at St. Mary's Parish in Colts Neck and at Holy Family Church in Nutley. He also traveled to a Canadian shrine with youth group members from both churches.

The prosecutor's office criminally charged him in May with seven counts of violating a judicial order. Six months later, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli dropped the charges on the conditions that Fugee agree to laicization and that he submit to lifetime monitoring and a host of other restrictions.

The controversy led to the gravest crisis of Myers' tenure in Newark, with calls for his resignation from lawmakers, parishioners and advocates for sex abuse victims. The pastor and two youth ministers at the Colts Neck church were removed from their positions, and the vicar general, Msgr. John Doran, was reassigned.

Goodness said he doesn't know where Fugee is living now.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Settlements and legal fees escalate for the Kansas City - St Joseph diocese

The Kansas City Star
March 13, 2014

Six years after a massive settlement closed the curtain on a dark era of priest sexual abuse scandals, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese is spending millions on a new crop of cases.

Settlements last month with two families whose minor daughters were victims of a priest convicted of producing child pornography brought to $6 million the total the diocese has paid out since last May. That doesn’t include $7 million the diocese has spent on legal costs involving those and other sex abuse cases the past two fiscal years.

And the end may not be in sight. With more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits pending, along with a breach-of-contract case filed by plaintiffs who settled with the diocese for $10 million in 2008, a number of Catholics are wondering:

Is bankruptcy on the horizon?

“Among the active and retired clergy, there is a genuine and sincere concern of diocesan bankruptcy,” said Jeff Weis, a lifelong Kansas City Catholic who initiated a petition drive seeking the removal of Bishop Robert Finn. “There’s a fear that this diocese is being driven into the ground financially.”

A diocesan spokesman said bankruptcy is not under consideration.

“The diocese is not contemplating or in a position requiring bankruptcy,” said communications director Jack Smith.

That’s not the case in other dioceses across the country. In the past decade, 11 U.S. dioceses and two religious orders have filed for bankruptcy protection, three of them since November.

Those filing for bankruptcy have claimed a financial hardship because of sex abuse lawsuits. Bankruptcy allows a diocese to resolve the litigation and compensate victims in an equitable manner, proponents say.

But critics contend bankruptcy is merely a strategy used by dioceses to protect their assets while delaying jury trials and the disclosure of documents.

“It’s almost always on the eve of one of two things happening,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who is representing hundreds of plaintiffs in several of the bankruptcy cases. “Depositions of the top officials that are going to reveal publicly their role in concealing the crime or a trial that is to begin that is going to be public.”

Once a diocese files bankruptcy, Anderson said, everything is put on hold.

“It halts the discovery, it halts the disclosure, it keeps the public from knowing the truth and throws it into kind of a quasi-secret proceeding in bankruptcy court,” he said. “And that’s much more secretive by nature than a public proceeding in a state court or trial.”

While victims in some cases have received settlements comparable to what they may have received in nonbankruptcy cases, the settlements in bankruptcies are typically less, Anderson said.

In January 2011, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for bankruptcy — the eighth diocese in the country to seek protection since the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston in 2002. The archdiocese said it had spent more than $29 million over the past 20 years to cover costs associated with sex abuse cases.

“Since 2002, we have sold property, liquidated savings and investments, and put all available real estate on the market in order to free up resources,” said a statement posted on its website.

During that period, the statement said, the archdiocese had reached settlements with nearly 200 people. But mediation had broken down with alleged victims in recent cases, it said.

“A Chapter 11 reorganization will enable the court to compensate all these individuals in a single process, ensuring that each is treated equitably,” the statement said. The bankruptcy action would basically serve as “a kind of ‘last call’ for financial claims against the archdiocese.”

Three years later, the case is still ensnared in the courts. More than 500 people have come forward with sexual abuse claims, and the plaintiffs have accused the archdiocese of hiding nearly $57 million in a cemetery trust fund to keep it from going to the victims. Last month, the archdiocese filed a reorganization plan offering to set aside $4 million to pay about 125 victims of sex abuse, leaving victims and their advocates outraged.

Jim Stang, an attorney who has represented the creditors’ committees in 10 of the bankruptcy cases involving Catholic dioceses or religious orders, said the number of claims varies from diocese to diocese.

The fewest number of claims has been in Stockton, Calif., he said, where there are seven pending — although more probably will be filed before a deadline shuts the process down. Milwaukee had 17 to begin with, Stang said, but ended up with 575 after the archdiocese sent out a notice alerting people about a deadline to file claims.

Stang said the biggest settlement involving a bankruptcy case has been in San Diego, where the diocese paid out nearly $200 million to 144 victims.

Contrary to what many may believe, Stang said, bankruptcy does not shut down a diocese.

“Gallup (New Mexico) says we’re the poorest diocese in the country; Helena (Montana) says we’re the poorest,” he said. “But none of them have closed their doors.”

KC cases

Kansas City area Catholics thought the priest sex abuse issue had finally been put to rest in 2008 when the diocese announced its $10 million settlement with dozens of victims who alleged abuse going back decades. As part of the settlement, the diocese put into place more rigorous policies and procedures to prevent such heinous acts from occurring again.

“Many felt that our diocese had turned the corner,” Weis said, “that our chapter of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church had come to a close.”

But in December 2010, a computer technician found hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s laptop computer. A Jackson County judge later found Bishop Finn guilty of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities after the photographs were discovered. Finn was sentenced to two years of probation for the misdemeanor.

Ratigan pleaded guilty to five child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. His case triggered a whole new wave of litigation saying church leaders had again covered up sexual abuse by priests in the diocese.

Only a half dozen of the latest round of lawsuits have been settled, but the cost to the diocese has been significant. Last month, the diocese paid settlements totaling $1.8 million to two families whose daughters were victimized by Ratigan. Two other families received settlements last year totaling an additional $1.9 million in cases involving Ratigan.

And last summer the diocese settled for $2.25 million with a couple who said their son took his life three decades ago after repeated sexual abuse by a monsignor who has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits. Another case, filed against a priest, his religious order and the diocese, was settled in December for $130,000.

The diocese still faces about 30 other civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, as well as the breach-of-contract case. In that case, filed in 2011, the plaintiffs say the diocese and Finn failed to live up to some of the 2008 settlement’s critical terms — among them a pledge to follow mandatory state reporting requirements and diocesan guidelines to report suspected sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement. A judge granted the plaintiffs’ request for arbitration, and that process is underway.

Beyond the settlements, the diocese has amassed hefty legal costs associated with the lawsuits and criminal case against Finn.

The diocese spent $4.6 million in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 on claims involving priests that were alleged to have occurred from the 1960s through 1980s, according to diocesan financial reports. Those fiscal years ran from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013.

The costs for civil actions against the diocese involving Ratigan were $944,296 during that period, the reports showed. The diocese said it did not, however, pay for Ratigan’s personal defense.

The diocese also spent $1.7 million on legal costs for the grand jury and criminal proceedings involving the diocese and Finn, and $67,576 on legal proceedings regarding the breach-of-contract lawsuit.

Weis and other local Catholics expressed their concerns about the diocese’s finances in letters they recently wrote to Pope Francis. The letters were included as part of a formal request that the pope remove Finn as bishop because of his handling of the Ratigan case.

Some said parishioners had stopped giving money to the diocese.

“In my own parish, several longstanding parishioners have ceased all financial contributions to the parish because they do not want a cent of their gift to go to the diocese,” wrote John Veal. “… Many of our parishes are struggling financially. … More such suits are pending. The scandal is far from over.”

Smith, the diocese’s spokesman, said it was difficult to tell whether contributions had decreased because the diocese is in the midst of a capital campaign that includes plans for a new high school.

“The diocese has suspended the Bishop’s Annual Appeal while it is conducting a capital campaign, so there are no apple-to-apple comparisons for giving to the diocese,” he said. “Giving to the capital campaign is significantly more than regular annual giving through the appeal. Money given to the capital campaign is restricted to the goals identified by the campaign.”

He did say, however, that “contributions to parishes overall are flat compared to last year.”

The cost of the settlements themselves have been covered by the diocese’s insurance carrier, he said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Abuse charges roil heavily Catholic Puerto Rico

Danica Coto
Associated Press
March 12, 2014

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — First, the Catholic Church announced it had defrocked six priests accused of sex abuse in the Puerto Rican town of Arecibo. Then, local prosecutors disclosed that at least 11 other priests on the island were under investigation for similar accusations.

DANICA COTO | AP PHOTO In this March 2, 2014 photo, a man gives money to a beggar after Mass outside the San Felipe Cathedral in the Arecibo Diocese in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Prosecutors are pursuing more than a dozen sex abuse cases in Puerto Rico, including those of six priests defrocked by the Diocese of Arecibo.

Now, as U.S. authorities acknowledge that they, too, are looking into abuse allegations by priests on this devoutly Catholic island, many are reeling from revelations of abuse involving some of the U.S. territory's most beloved clerics.

Puerto Ricans had largely been spared the lurid accounts of sex abuse involving the Catholic Church, and many had come to believe they were immune. But Barbara Dorris, a director with the U.S.-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the new reports mean it's likely the problem is much worse than previously imagined.

"In general, these things tend to snowball because victims are afraid to come forward," Dorris said. "If the priests have been on this island for a while, it probably means that it's dozens upon dozens of victims out there."

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said last week that at least four dioceses are being investigated. He also warned he might file charges against church officials suspected of withholding information.

He described the situation as "truly scandalous."

"We are not going to rest," Miranda said. "We are going to capture them, we are going to process them and we are going to put them in jail."

Allegations of sex abuse by priests are not new here, but the latest wave of investigations has dwarfed anything seen on the island of 3.6 million people, more than 70 percent of whom identify themselves as Catholic.

"People want to believe in the specialness of the priests, in the power of the priests," said Richard Sipe, a California-based psychologist and former priest who is an expert on clergy sexual abuse. "The Latin American community is much slower in bringing charges against the priests. ...The priests themselves are held in greater esteem, and the culture is identified with the Catholic Church more closely."

On a recent Sunday morning in Arecibo, churchgoers streamed through the heavy wooden doors of the city's 17th century cathedral. A swell of voices soon joined the priest inside in prayer, while 44-year-old Jose Soto hurriedly walked past the Mass in the town's deserted streets.

"When you go in through those doors, it is supposed to be a spiritual, wholesome place," he said, adding that he once regularly attended Mass in the cathedral. "You don't know who you're listening to anymore ... It's like using the word of God for other purposes."

The wave of allegations began in late January with a series of reports in local media, primarily in the newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

In response, Arecibo Bishop Daniel Fernandez released a statement disclosing that since 2011 he had defrocked six priests accused of sex abuse, an unusually large number for a diocese with about 90 priests. Church officials said they have also provided counseling for at least one alleged victim and reparations in an unspecified number of cases across the island.

Last week, one of Arecibo's defrocked priests, Edwin Antonio Mercado Viera, was charged with committing lewd acts. The 53-year-old, who had been a popular figure in the parish, is accused of fondling the genitals of a 13-year-old altar boy in 2007.

Prosecutor Jose Capo Rivera said the bishop himself is "part of the investigation" due to accusations he committed lewd acts involving a minor. Fernandez has said he is innocent.

"Clearly, it's revenge for the decisions I've taken since the moment I assumed leadership of the diocese, where the situation that I found was not the most positive," he said in a written statement.

Agnes Poventud, an attorney for a man who says Fernandez molested him when he was child, told The Associated Press that federal agents recently interviewed her and her client. She declined to say when the alleged abuse occurred or how old her client was at the time, only to say he was a minor.

A federal official confirmed to the AP that U.S. authorities have requested information about alleged clergy abuse from the Puerto Rico Justice Department. The official agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name because the information was not yet public.

Further revelations have followed the Arecibo cases. The Diocese of Mayaguez, on Puerto Rico's west coast, said it has handled four cases of alleged sex abuse, the majority of them being reviewed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which takes on such accusations.

In addition, San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said prosecutors are investigating six alleged sex abuse cases in the diocese of Puerto Rico's capital. He said the accused priests have been suspended and the statute of limitation has expired in five cases.

Prosecutors also are investigating a sex abuse allegation in the Diocese of Caguas, Capo said.

Meanwhile, justice officials accuse the Arecibo diocese of withholding information and are fighting a lawsuit still pending in court that the diocese filed to keep secret the names of alleged victims to protect their confidentiality. Prosecutors assert the move is intended to protect the accused priests, a charge diocese attorney Frank Torres denies.

"The church has cooperated and has a policy of transparency, but that cooperation does not mean the church is free to violate the guarantees of confidentiality it has awarded the victims," Torres said in a phone interview.

Diocese officials in Puerto Rico say that the statute of limitations has expired in many cases, an argument that Florida-based lawyer Joseph Saunders said has been the church's first line of defense. He said many church officials argue they should have been sued when the alleged violations occurred.

"Nobody sued a bishop or a priest back then," he said. "There's an underlying fear of going to hell for suing the bishop."

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