Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Catholic Church spent $10 million on lobbyists in fight to stymie priest sex abuse suits

Catholic Church spent $10 million on lobbyists in fight to stymie priest sex abuse suits
The money was spent in eight northeastern states where bills to aid victims of clerical sex abuse were in the works.
By Corky Siemaszko
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/catholic-church-spent-10-million-lobbyists-fight-stymie-priest-sex-n1013776

The U.S. Catholic Church spent $10.6 million on lobbyists to prevent victims of clerical sex abuse from suing for damages.

According to a new report, the money was doled out from 2011 through 2018 in eight northeastern states where bills to reform statute of limitations laws were either in the works or being considered.

“This report lays out what we have known all along — that the Catholic Church refuses to take responsibility for the decades of abuse that took place knowingly under its watch,” said attorney Stephen Weiss, who works for one of the law firms that commissioned the study.

“Statute of limitations reforms give survivors more time to obtain some measure of closure on the atrocities committed against them,” attorney Gerald Williams added. “The church has yet to implement meaningful reforms, and by working to prevent these laws from passing, the church is clearly demonstrating that it does not stand with survivors.”

In Pennsylvania, where currently victims of child sex abuse can come forward with criminal allegations until the age of 50 and can file civil claims until age 30, the church spent $5,322,979 to keep those limitations in place, according to the report, “Church Influencing State: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse.”

The report was commissioned by Seeger Weiss LLP, Williams Cedar LLC, Abraham Watkins and the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm, which collectively represent 300 survivors of clergy sex abuse nationwide. The data in the report was obtained from public filings in the individual states.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose blockbuster grand jury report last year identified 301 “predator priests” in six dioceses who were alleged to have abused more than 1,000 children, has been leading the charge to lift those statutes of limitations.
“The extensive lobbying by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania against the reforms recommended by the Grand Jury proves what I have said all along: the Church cannot be trusted to police itself,” Shapiro said. “It’s reprehensible that the Church continues to spend significant sums of money fighting these reforms, instead of protecting and supporting the victims of clergy sexual abuse.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return an NBC News request for comment.

In New York, the church spent $2,912,772 in what ultimately was a failed bid to prevent the passage of the Child Victims Act, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Feb. 14. It allows child sexual abuse victims to sue their abuser or institutions until age 55. Previously the cutoff was age 23.

Of that money, 80 percent went to the Catholic Conference Policy Group Inc., which was tasked with lobbying on “statute of limitations, legislative issues and liability issues,” the report found.

“I think it’s incredibly troubling that parishioners who on Sundays contributed to the church collections may have been inadvertently funding lobbying efforts against victims of sex abuse seeking legal redress,” New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who championed the Child Victims Act, said. “Three million dollars that went for lobbying could have done a lot of good elsewhere, including soup kitchens, after-school programs for children, support for seniors. In my district, a Catholic school that is closing might perhaps have stayed open if that money had been used for better causes.”

Shortly before the New York state Legislature took up the Child Victims Act, Cardinal Timothy Dolan called in an op-ed published in The New York Daily News for measures that would avoid “breaking” the Roman Catholic Church.

In an email to NBC News, Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, said: “All of our lobbying activity is reported as required by law to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and has always been publicly available.”

“As far as the Child Victims Act, while we did raise concerns about the one-year look back, ultimately when sponsors amended the bill at our request to provide an opportunity for recourse to survivors in public institutions, the Catholic Conference dropped its opposition this year,” he wrote.

When asked for comment, New York Diocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling referred NBC News to Poust.

In Connecticut, where advocates for victims of priest sex abuse are presently pushing for the elimination of statutes of limitations for major sex crimes, the church spent $875,261, according to the report.

The report also said the church spent $633,458 in New Jersey where Gov. Phil Murphy last month signed legislation that allows child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or “within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm,” according to The Associated Press.

During that time period, the church spent $537,551 in Massachusetts, $124,260 in Maine, and $61,961 in Rhode Island.

“That is completely inaccurate,” said James Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. “I have no idea where the writer of this report came up with this figure. They never checked with me for any input before they wrote this report.”

And in New Hampshire, where legislation to lift or amend the statute of limitations has yet to be introduced, the church has spent $134,345, according to the report.

Tom Bebbington, a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, said it “advocates before the state legislature on issues of importance for the good of all citizens including abortion, assisted suicide, education, preventing human trafficking, and repeal of the death penalty.”

“The services of lobbying professionals were used during the time period of this report for advocacy on all of these issues and more, but no lobbyist was engaged to advocate on behalf of the Diocese on statute of limitations legislation,” he insisted.

David Clohessy, the former director of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said church funds should never be used to fight clerical abuse victims.

“It’s appalling that parishioners’ donations are used to keep child sex crimes — and those who committed and concealed them — covered up,” said Clohessy. “There’s no better indication of how bishops think and act than where they put their flocks’ funds. And there are few more egregious and reckless ways to spend churchgoers’ contributions than to put their kids at risk by fighting secular reforms that help expose predators.”

Asked if he believes the church was willing to spend that kind of money on lobbyists because it feared payouts for victims would cost 10 times more, Weiss said that appears to be the case.

“The church made the soulless decision to spend 10 million of its dollars to evade its responsibility to those harmed by clergy abuse, rather that use those funds toward the healing process,” he said. “Clearly these expenditures were aimed at protecting the church’s financial interests, not at doing the right thing.”

Study identifies 16 child sex abuse rings in Victorian Catholic Church

Study identifies 16 child sex abuse rings in Victorian Catholic Church
By Debbie Cuthbbertson February 23, 2020
https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/study-identifies-16-child-sex-abuse-rings-in-victorian-catholic-church-20200215-p54158.html

Pedophile and Pedophile Pimp Cardinal George Pell

A three-year research project into paedophile Catholic clerics in Victoria has identified 16 child sex abuse networks operating over six decades involving 99 priests and Christian Brothers.

The investigation found that clergy paedophile rings shared patterns of behaviour with criminal gangs, the Mafia, terrorist cells, corrupt police, drug dealers, money launderers and price-fixing cartels.

The research showed their abuse was facilitated and reinforced by church hierarchy, including five successive archbishops of Melbourne from Daniel Mannix, appointed in 1917, through to George Pell (himself appealing against a conviction for child sex abuse) in 2001.

The researcher, Sally Muytjens, spent more than three years investigating “dark networks” of paedophile clergy in Victorian dioceses. She published the research late last year, receiving a doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.

Muytjens’ research found the largest and most active dark networks were at schools including St Alipius in Ballarat and Salesian College, Rupertswood, and orphanages including St Vincent de Paul’s in South Melbourne and St Augustine’s in Geelong.

One of the worst offenders, convicted paedophile and former Christian Brother Edward “Ted” Dowlan, was active in five of the 16 dark networks, she found.

Her study also identified Christian Brother Rex Francis Elmer as a member of two paedophile networks. The Sunday Age last week revealed that Elmer taught at Catholic schools in regional Victoria and Africa for decades after his order first knew he had abused children at a Melbourne orphanage.

In her thesis, Muytjens used a research method called social network analysis, which can reveal hidden patterns and ties between members of groups and provide insights into how they operate.

Using SNA enabled her to identify connections between clergy perpetrators and specific locations in Victoria from 1939 until 2000, unearthing what she described as a pervasive “sexual underworld” that had the potential to destroy Victorian dioceses.

Elsewhere, SNA has been used to map links between terror cells involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks and 2005 London bombings, and to track child sex trafficking networks in Britain, Italian money-laundering rackets and an Australian amphetamine trafficking ring.

It has also been employed to track the spread of contagious diseases, as well as population displacement after natural disasters.

Muytjens also drew on material from the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites and media coverage of criminal trials involving clergy, to map links between clergy child sex abusers in Victoria over six decades.

Her thesis examined the responses of the Catholic Church to such criminal activity, describing the institution as a “grey network” that repeatedly facilitated abuse.

“One of these patterns was promoting known clergy perpetrators of child sex abuse to senior positions which not only provided further access to victims but also placed them in positions where they were better able to protect the dark network from exposure,” she wrote.

The code of silence among Catholic clergy in Victoria mirrored patterns of behaviour exhibited by groups including crooked police and the Mafia, Muytjens added, and that “extended to a refusal to give evidence to the police”. “Similar methods were utilised by clergy perpetrator networks within the Victorian Catholic Church to maintain silence.”

Documented clusters of paedophile clergy, including at St Alipius Boys’ School in Ballarat in the 1970s, showed they were “conducting illicit activity in an organised and co-operative way”,  Muytjens wrote.

Dowlan and notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale both had multiple convictions for sexually abusing children, including at St Alipius. Another four clergymen were each part of least two different clusters of abusers at different times, Muytjens found.

“Some [clergy] committed child sex abuse at institutions where they were the only known dark network actor … [but] they were also transferred to parishes where there were clusters of other known clergy perpetrators.

“These perpetrators were part of multiple clusters at different times … As [Ridsdale and Dowlan] were prolific perpetrators, it can be reasonably argued that [they] were transferred out of clusters when subject to complaints of child sex abuse but were returned to clusters where they could be better supported and protected through stronger ties.

“Fr Ridsdale and Br Dowlan’s movement between clusters … [and] the number of convictions for these two clergy perpetrators demonstrates the unfettered access they had to child victims.”

The church’s pattern of response to complaints of child sex abuse by its clerics functioned as a resource for the paedophile rings, Muytjens found.

“Members of the sexual underworld support one another in seeking positions of responsibility by praising one another and condemning any critics … this sexual underworld is so pervasive that acknowledging and addressing this may destroy a Diocese,” she wrote.

Drawing on research from around the world into child sex abuse by Catholic clerics, she said the data showed that “clergy perpetrators … were placed in roles of recruiting boys to the priesthood”.

Muytjens’ thesis was completed around the same time as an investigation by The Age revealed that clusters of paedophile priests in Victoria worked together to sexually abuse children, including at Melbourne’s Corpus Christi seminary.

Her research was supervised by UTQ School of Justice criminologists Dr Jodi Death and Associate Professor Mark Lauchs. Lauchs’ research has focused on organised crime and corruption, while Death has also mapped paedophile networks of Catholic clergy, including among the Christian Brothers in Western Australia.

Associate Professor David Bright, a criminologist and clinical psychologist who has worked with convicted sex offenders, has used social network analysis extensively in his research, mainly in relation to drug trafficking and terrorism.

He said SNA was an effective tool for displaying links between overlapping abusers in the church: “The clustering that Sally found, it’s quite persuasive in that what it’s suggesting is that there were clusters of offenders in institutions and that this is the case more so in some than others.

“It strikes me that either these individuals were incredibly good at manipulating the system to be at the same facility … or the system was just so negligent about this and turned such a blind eye and was so convinced that these things weren’t going on that it just allowed it to continue.”

The Christian Brothers Oceania Province and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne were approached for comment on Muytjens’ findings.

“The Christian Brothers co-operated fully with both the royal commission and the Victorian parliamentary inquiry which undertook exhaustive work into the failures of our institution and countless others that enabled the tragic and unacceptable abuse of children and how such abuse was not properly responded to … we reiterate our enduring apology to those who have been harmed as a result,” said a spokesman.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said: “The issue of historical sexual abuse, across all institutions including the Catholic Church, has been extensively and comprehensively documented in the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the royal commission. The recommendations from these inquiries, coupled with ongoing institutional reform, have helped bring justice and more effective redress for victims.

“Whilst we believe our parishes and schools are safer than ever, we remain vigilant and committed to ensure our practices, processes and policies deliver a safe environment for everyone.”

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

Deaf Argentine victims of clergy sexual abuse protest at Vatican

Deaf Argentine victims of clergy sexual abuse protest at Vatican
By Philip Pullella February 21, 2020
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-abuse-idUSKBN20F2KZ

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests at a school for the deaf in Argentina staged a protest at the Vatican on Friday to bring attention to an upcoming trial of more alleged abusers.

Last November a court in the province of Mendoza convicted two priests and the former gardener at a Catholic Church-run school on 28 counts of sexual abuse and corruption of minors.

Trials for about 10 others who worked at the Antonio Provolo Institute for the deaf, including teachers and a nun, are expected to start in a few months. They are accused of abetting the abuse by the priests.

About 20 people, including several former students, held up signs reading “Zero Tolerance,” “Don’t Forget,” and “We Are Not Going Away” in front of the building housing the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith, which handles abuse cases. The victims’ lawyers and other victims of abuse were among those who joined the protest.

“Church officials in Argentina are not cooperating with civil authorities and not cooperating with prosecutors concerning the rape and sexual abuse of dozens of deaf children in Argentina,” Peter Isely, a founder of the advocacy group Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA), told Reuters at the demonstration.

The case in Argentina and a similar one at a school for the deaf in Italy have prompted outrage because of the particular vulnerability of the children and their difficulty in communicating about the crimes.

ECA and several other groups of victims traveled to Rome to mark the first anniversary of a Church summit on sexual abuse at the Vatican.

They say Pope Francis and Vatican officials have not done enough to make bishops and other members of the Catholic Church hierarchy accountable for the cover-up of sexual abuse.

The two priests convicted in last November’s trial were given sentences of 42 and 45 years in prison respectively while the school employee was given 18 years. They are appealing the ruling.

The Catholic Church around the world is still struggling to come to grips with the worldwide crisis, most of which involves cases of abuse that happened decades ago.

It has devastated the Church’s credibility and dented its coffers. About two dozen dioceses in the United States alone have filed for bankruptcy because of mounting lawsuits.

A number of U.S. states have also changed statutes of limitations law enabling victims to file for damages for abuse that occurred decades ago.

Survivors stunned after Bishop Scharfenberger celebrates Mass with abusive priests

Survivors stunned after Bishop Scharfenberger celebrates Mass with abusive priests
By Charlie Specht
https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/survivors-stunned-after-bishop-scharfenberger-celebrates-mass-with-abusive-priests

Never trust a person who can clear their conscience of any immoral act by asking forgiveness from their imaginary friend

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Survivors of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Buffalo reacted with outrage and despair Tuesday to news that interim Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger celebrated Mass the day before with multiple priests the diocese admits are credibly accused of child sexual abuse.

Scharfenberger invited priests of the diocese to Mass and lunch at St. Leo the Great in Amherst on Monday. At the Mass, dozens of priests dressed in robes and concelebrated, or shared the Mass and Eucharist with, the Rev. Fabian J. Maryanski.

“I’m so very sad and confused today,” said Stephanie McIntyre, who said she was abused by Maryanski starting when she was 15 years old. “This is an all time low moment that hit me just when I thought I was ready to begin healing.”

Maryanski had been accused of abusing McIntyre decades ago at a parish in Barker, and he denied the allegations. But on Jan. 7, 2019, the diocese included both Maryanski and the Rev. Mark J. Wolski on its official list of “priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.”

Diocesan leaders previously said the priests’ cases would go to the Vatican, which makes the final decision on whether to defrock pedophile priests. A priest who attended the Mass on Monday told 7 Eyewitness News that both men — Maryanski and Wolski — were present, with Maryanski concelebrating the service and Wolski saying the convocation, or prayer, before the catered lunch. In 2018, a man said Wolski abused him from 1968 to 1970 while he was between 15 and 17 years old.

McIntyre said she started to cry and had “a total meltdown” upon hearing the news of Scharfenberger allowing Maryanski to concelebrate the Mass with dozens of other priests.

“[It] feels like justice was ripped away,” McIntyre said. “If the proof of my case doesn’t beg for justice, no victim will ever have justice.”

In a written statement released Tuesday afternoon, Scharfenberger said the gathering “was a private Mass…not open to the public” and added, “I deeply regret that this decision to gather privately in prayer and penance opened the door to yet another wound for those harmed.” Read Scharfenberger’s full statement here.

Also present at the Mass, according to the priest, was the Rev. Art Smith, who has been accused of sexually abusing multiple children (he denies the claims) as well as allegedly assaulting Fr. Ryszard Biernat while Biernat was a seminarian.

Biernat said Smith approached him Monday at the priest luncheon and began making bizarre comments.

“He asked if there could be mediation between me and him because ‘he never wanted to hurt me – he just wanted to show me how much he loved me and how much he cared for me,'” Biernat wrote on Facebook. “He said that he still loves me and it is all misunderstanding. I said to him that there is no misunderstanding. If you go into somebody’s bed and climb under the sheets and grab their genitals and kiss their neck there’s no misunderstanding there.”

Biernat wrote that when he worked as Bishop Richard J. Malone’s secretary, Biernat planned to apply for a restraining order against Smith because the priest kept contacting him after the alleged assault, but Biernat said Malone discouraged him from doing so.

“I have forgiven Art Smith, but to continue to hear how much he loves me and cares about me gets me so upset and angry,” Biernat wrote. “Why doesn’t he understand that this type of love is not OK? Why doesn’t he understand that this is not how you show that you care about somebody? 16 years after being sexually assaulted I still deal with this guy who would not let go. Sixteen years later I lay in bed and it feels like I am there again…”

Biernat said Bishop Scharfenberger was joined on the altar by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, Msgr. Robert Zapfel and the Rev. Joseph Gatto, who was accused by multiple men of sexual misconduct. Gatto denied the allegations but acknowledged spending time at a church “treatment center” in Canada.

He was returned to ministry by Malone last year, but the bishop reversed the appointment after outrage by parents. Since then, Zapfel has quietly allowed him to assume a position as parochial vicar at St. Leo’s in Amherst.

Lawsuit: Former Providence priest trafficked children for sex

Lawsuit: Former Providence priest trafficked children for sex
By Brian Amaral
https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20200227/lawsuit-former-providence-priest-trafficked-children-for-sex

And, the suit says, the Diocese actively thwarted efforts to stop the predator priest, instead giving him a new assignment, to St. Martha Church in East Providence.

A priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence trafficked children for sex, using the guise of international charitable work to prey on boys at orphanages in Haiti and rectories in Rhode Island, a lawsuit filed Thursday says.

The diocese and its defenders looked the other way and actively thwarted efforts to stop the predator priest, the suit says. In one instance, a parishioner who later became associated with the diocese’s legal counsel reported leaving a party at a rectory because he was made uncomfortable by the presence of boys, some dressed in diapers, according to the suit.

And even today, the diocese continues to blithely minimize the toll of child sexual abuse, the suit says, such as when a West Warwick parish priest said recently that “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone.”

The allegations are laid out in a complaint filed Thursday in Superior Court, Providence, against the diocese, Bishop Thomas Tobin, retired Bishop Louis Gelineau, and St. Joseph Church in Providence.

Reached Thursday, Gelineau declined to comment, citing his advanced age — he turns 92 in May — and frail health. He would not be able to analyze the issues or recall facts enough to make a comment, he said.

The diocese did not respond immediately to a request for comment sent after 4 p.m. Thursday.

The plaintiff, Robert Houllahan, a 51-year-old Providence resident, says he was molested as a child by the Rev. Normand Demers — who received the “protection and affirmative assistance” of the diocese and its leaders, the suit said. Houllahan is represented by attorney Timothy J. Conlon, who has represented numerous other priest-abuse victims.

Houllahan himself does not say he was trafficked to the United States for sex, but said he saw children from Central America when he was brought upstairs to Demers’ private quarters in the rectory of St. Joseph in Providence. Houllahan was molested there by two men, Demers and an unidentified person, the suit says.

Demers, who died in 2018, was included last year in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence’s list of clergy who it deemed had been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors.

Demers was removed from ministry in 2002, more than a decade after the diocese became aware he’d been accused of misconduct with minors at an orphanage in Haiti. He continued to serve as a Rhode Island priest despite the allegation, until a letter accusing him of sexual abuse at Fatima Hospital surfaced in 2002, according to Journal archives.

The suit says Demers was involved with foreign missions that had been described as “orphanages” or “schools,” but that were in fact known to the diocese as a source of child sexual-abuse victims both within the country and outside the country.

He brought child victims into the country as “sponsored” students and housed them on property supplied by the diocese and its leaders, the suit says. He also shared a child victim with at least one other predator, the suit says.

Demers used parish property to house boys, keeping between three and six with him and “sending back” at least one of them who rebuffed his sexual advances, the suit says.

But when people tried to report Demers’ conduct to the diocese, all its leaders did was protect their own, the suit said.

In 1989, for instance, a woman went to Haiti to become the new director of an orphanage and school that Demers had helped establish. She soon became concerned, though, because a teenage boy was sleeping in Demers’ room. Once she started working with the boys, she learned he was a “threat” to them.

The boys reported that he used clothes brought from Rhode Island as an excuse to undress and then molest them, the suit says.

She went to the police there, and Demers was arrested and held.

But then-Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Angell, at the direction of then-Bishop Gelineau, promised the director that if she cooperated in dropping the charges against Demers, he’d be brought back stateside to “face this,” the suit alleges.

Based on the promises that Demers would be investigated, prosecuted and punished on his return, she signed a document allowing him to be released.

Demers not only faced no immediate consequences when he came back to Rhode Island, he received a new assignment at St. Martha Church in East Providence in 1990. He denied the allegations when they surfaced in 2002.

Civil litigation has helped expose the extent of past sexual abuse, Houllahan’s suit says. But he also takes aim at the diocese and its leaders for more current statements, like the West Warwick priest, the Rev. Richard Bucci, who told WJAR that, unlike abortion, “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone.” He later backtracked from those comments, but they’re cited in the lawsuit.

Pedophilia can, in fact, be deadly, the suit notes; multiple victims of clergy sexual abuse in Rhode Island and throughout the country have died by suicide.

“The long-term effects of abuse can have generational costs — first in terms of the costs of treatment and injury to the victims, but secondarily in the destruction to the lives of the victim’s parents and other childhood family members, and thereafter to the victim’s spouses and children,” the suit says.

‘Church is no longer a safe place:’ State prison for local priest in indecent assault of girl

‘Church is no longer a safe place:’ State prison for local priest in indecent assault of girl
By Sarah Cassi
https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/2020/02/church-is-no-longer-a-safe-place-state-prison-for-priest-in-indecent-assault-of-girl.html

Kevin Lonergan, center, seen here on June 8, 2014, as he celebrated his first mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Pottsville, Pa.Andy Matsko/The Republican-Herald via AP | For lehighvalleylive.com

A former Allentown priest was sentenced Monday to state prison for the indecent assault of a girl he met through his city parish.

Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos noted it was a maximum sentence of one to two years in state prison for 31-year-old Kevin Lonergan, who has been free on bail in the case since he was charged.

Lonergan pleaded guilty in November to indecent assault of the girl, who was 17 at the time.

In addition to commending the bravery of the teen girl who came forward, Dantos took note of a prior accusation against Lonergan in another county.

In that incident, Lonergan was accused of molesting a 15-year-old girl, Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Falk said. But the girl and her family did not cooperate with an investigation and the case stalled, Falk said during Monday’s hearing.

Lonergan was transferred to Allentown, a practice Dantos railed against as she hit her bench in the courtroom.

The Catholic church’s practice of transferring priests accused of misconduct came to light in the 1980s and continues more than three decades later, the judge said.

“There’s plenty of blame to go around, most of it on your shoulders,” the judge said to Lonergan.

The diocese in a prepared statement disputed Dantos’ characterization of what happened with the previous allegation.

“Regarding statements made in court, it is not accurate to say that the Diocese improperly transferred a priest who had committed an offense. Father Lonergan received a new assignment in 2016 only after Northampton County Children and Youth determined that the accusation was unfounded,” the statement said. “The Diocese took immediate action upon receiving the information on this previous allegation. Father Lonergan was forbidden from ministry, and the Diocese reported the allegation to law enforcement under its zero tolerance policy.”

The victim and her parents described a life of service to the Catholic church, and how the community built around their faith made the church a constant in their lives.

The victim described the rage she felt and the sleepless nights after the incidents with Lonergan, and the repercussions she and her family have dealt with since she reported the crime to authorities.

In one instance, a relative of Lonergan’s contacted the victim through social media, and offered her money to drop the case.

“I can feel your strength. Sometimes that’s not always an easy burden to bear, to be strong,” the judge said.

The victim’s mother and father described their devout faith, of raising their daughter in a church and community they trusted, and how church became a place of good memories and comfort.

“Church is no longer a safe place,” the victim’s mother said, adding that Mass is torturous for her and she cannot walk into a church without crying. “Kevin Lonergan’s actions have taken away my sense of security, my belief system.”

Since the charges were filed, the family has been isolated, and did not hear from their fellow parishioners or any priests.

“The church that we so believed in abandoned us,” the mother said.

Lonergan was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church on 11th Street in Allentown, when he met the accuser in August 2017.

He got her cellphone number from another member of the church and communicated with her, mostly via Snapchat, through January 2018, the district attorney previously said. The messages included nude photos of Lonergan and one video, Dantos said.

In February 2018, Lonergan hugged the victim at church — she attempted to pull away, but he pulled her closer and grabbed her rear over her clothes, prosecutors said.

After the victim told another priest of the assault in June 2018, the diocese reported it to the DA’s office and Lonergan was immediately suspended from public ministry.

A family friend of Lonergan’s spoke of Lonergan “humbling” himself to work at his Pottsville auto dealership. When the man said the accusations against Lonergan didn’t seem to fit, the judge stopped him.

Dantos said Lonergan pleaded guilty, and that the presumption of innocence was gone. She then told the man to take a seat, and none of the other supporters in the audience spoke.

Lonergan, in his statement to the court, did say he was guilty, of the crime, of stealing the victim’s dignity, and of the pain suffered by his family.

Lonergan asked for forgiveness, and said he would “never forgive myself for what I have done.”

Lonergan was a priest for five years, and was previously assigned to St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Palmer Township from June 2014 to May 2016. Monsignor Stephen Radocha previously said there were no credible allegations made against Lonergan while he was assigned to St. Jane’s.

A concern was raised about him in 2016 by a third party, but Northampton County Children and Youth investigated and determined that concern to be unfounded, the monsignor said.

“The Diocese offers its heartfelt prayers to the victim, to her family, and to everyone who was hurt as the result of Father Lonergan’s actions,” the Diocese of Allentown said in a released statement. “From the beginning of this case, the Diocese followed its protocols to the letter, and will continue to do so. Bishop Alfred Schlert removed Father Lonergan from ministry and immediately notified law enforcement on the day the allegations were made.”

Lonergan will not return to ministry. Now that the criminal case is finished, the diocese will submit the case to the Vatican.

After the hearing, and asked about a possible appeal, defense attorney Eric Prock said he still needs to discuss possible next steps with his client, but that all options are on the table.

FBI ramping up its Buffalo Diocese investigation

FBI ramping up its Buffalo Diocese investigation
Interviews sex abuse victim in another state
By Charlie Specht
https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/fbi-ramping-up-its-buffalo-diocese-investigation

The FBI is pursuing a “wide-ranging” investigation of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and its role in covering up clergy sexual abuse over decades, according to news reports and three sources who have spoken to federal agents.

The Buffalo News first reported Friday that agents have spoken with multiple victims of clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, even though many of the alleged sex crimes happened decades ago. The victims said agents are interested in proving historical and ongoing cover-ups perpetuated by Buffalo Diocese leaders, according to The News.

“They’re really looking for proof of a cover-up,” Nicole Delisio Wright, an advocate for victims of clergy abuse, told The News. “Any type of proof that there’s a widespread cover-up.”

Wright previously confirmed to 7 Eyewitness News that she was interviewed by federal agents. Two other sources also confirmed that they were interviewed by agents from the bureau, who asked about specific cases of sexual abuse and the way the diocese handled them.

Stephanie McIntyre, a victim of alleged sexual abuse by Fr. Fabian Maryanski, recently spoke with federal agents from her home in another state, she also confirmed Friday. McIntyre has been offered a $400,000 settlement from the diocese for the alleged abuse.

“With the encouragement of others who are helping to fight for justice, along with lots of prayer, I realized that I had both a moral and civil obligation to do this,” McIntyre told 7 Eyewitness News of her interview with the FBI. “I believe I was able to offer them information that will be very instrumental. I continue to pray that my suffering, my story, will help others to be able to obtain the transformational justice that they need and deserve in order to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.”

FBI spokeswoman Maureen P. Dempsey said, “The FBI cannot confirm or deny any matter that may fall under its investigative purview unless and until it is made public through a court filing or press announcement.”

Buffalo Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

7 Eyewitness News featured McIntyre’s story in September in Part 3 of its investigation into Bishop Malone. Maryanski first met McIntyre in 1984 when he was the pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Barker. The Buffalo News reported her story in May, when Maryanski was still in active ministry at Nativity church in Clarence despite the allegations.

McIntyre, in a letter she sent to Bishop Malone in April, said the priest abused her for seven years, beginning when she was 15 years old. Maryanski maintains she was in her 20s at the time.

“My abuser not only robbed me of my youthful innocence,” she wrote, “but he destroyed my family.”

McIntyre hired a lawyer and reported the abuse to the diocese in 1995 but said she “was not offered one iota of help to deal with the fallout from Fr. Maryanski’s actions.”

Church documents show the diocese considered placing Maryanski on the list of 42 accused priests in March but officials concluded, “We did not remove him from ministry despite full knowledge of the case, and so including him on list might require explanation.”

The diocese withheld Maryanski’s name from the list and has still not included him on a list of credibly accused priests.

KEY LINKS IN THE BUFFALO DIOCESE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL:

Part 1 of the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation revealed that Malone returned Fr. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. Malone returned the accused priests to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him, documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show.

Part 2 revealed that Malone allowed Fr. Robert Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary’s in Swormville despite multiple sexual harassment allegations by young men. 

Part 3 cited church records that showed more than 100 priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. Malone in March released a list of only 42 priests “who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The investigative series sparked Buffalo civic leaders to call for Malone’s resignation and Catholics have mounted weekly protests in front of the Diocese of Buffalo Chancery. Malone in August held a news conference and refused to resign as Buffalo bishop.

In September, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and last week, it was revealed the FBI has launched its own criminal investigation into the diocese.

In October, “60 Minutes” aired a national investigative story on Bishop Malone and the Diocese of Buffalo. 

In November, I-Team Chief Investigator Charlie Specht traveled to Portland, Maine. Malone served as bishop there before coming to Buffalo. There, Charlie spoke with advocates for victims of sexual abuse about how Malone had been accused of mishandling sex abuse cases. The I-Team also obtained new documents surrounding the cases which paint a much different picture of the bishop’s past.