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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.”

Legion of Christ finds 33 priests, 71 seminarian sex abusers

Legion of Christ finds 33 priests, 71 seminarian sex abusers
By the Associated Press
https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/12/legion-of-christ-finds-33-priests-71-seminarian-sex-abusers/

The Legion of Christ religious order, which was discredited by its pedophile founder and the cult-like practices he imposed, says an internal investigation has identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians who sexually abused minors over the past eight decades.

A third of the priestly abusers were themselves victims of the Legion’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, while others were victims of his victims – a multi-generational chain of abuse that confirms Maciel’s toxic influence spread throughout the order.

The Legion counted 175 victims of the priests, but didn’t provide a number for the victims of the seminarians, most of whom were never ordained and left the congregation.

The Legion released the statistics on Saturday, the same day Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the Legion’s biggest defender at the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals.

Sodano, who was secretary of state under St. John Paul II, had for years blocked the Vatican from investigating sex abuse allegations against Maciel, even though the Vatican had documented evidence dating from the 1940s that he was a drug addict and pedophile. Under John Paul, however, Maciel was admired at the Vatican for his supposed orthodoxy and ability to produce donations and vocations.

The Vatican in 2010 took over the Mexico-based Legion and imposed a process of reform after an investigation showed that Maciel had sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women. The Vatican found he had created a system of power built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion.”

Two-thirds of the Legion’s priestly victims – 60 – were Maciel’s victims, the report found. Most were boys between ages 11 and 16.

The 33 priestly abusers represented 2.44% of the 1,353 Legion priests ordained since 1941, the report found. That percentage is far lower than national averages of credibly accused priests over a similar period in the U.S. or Australia, where the percentages are 5.8 and seven, respectively.

The Legion acknowledged that more victims may come forward with other accusations, and attributed the comparatively low percentage to the fact that 60 of the seminarians who abused weren’t ordained as priests.

The Legion only published the names of four U.S.-based priests who were among the 33 abusers, saying ethical and legal considerations prevented identifying the others. U.S. religious orders and dioceses have been publishing names of credibly accused priests following the re-eruption of the scandal there.

A former Legion priest, Father Christian Borgogno, said the report debunks the Legion’s effort to blame all its problems on Maciel alone and showed that abuse festered far beyond his inner circle.

In a series of tweets, Borgogno questioned the seemingly low number of abusers, noted some had been ordained even after allegations against them were known, and complained that the report said nothing about the web of cover-up that allowed Maciel and others to continue abusing.

The report acknowledged that it was limited in scope, didn’t address issues of abuse of power or conscience, or matters of cover-up and negligence, but said that was an “important pending task.”

It said it was publishing the report as a first step on a “path of reconciliation” with victims, by recognizing the history of abuse in the order.

The Legion leadership is due to consider the report at a general meeting next month.

Yes there is a cure for Roman Catholic Church priest pedophiles and their Pedophile Pimps.

Legionaries founder sexually abused 60 boys, religious order's report says

Legionaries founder sexually abused 60 boys, religious order’s report says
By Phillip Pullella
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-abuse/legionaires-founder-sexually-abused-60-boys-religious-orders-report-says-idUSKBN1YQ02Y

Sexual abuse of minors was rife among superiors of the Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order, with at least 60 boys abused by its founder Father Marcial Maciel, a report by the group showed.

The report is important because for decades until 2006, including during all of the pontificate of Pope John Paul, the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that Maciel had abused them sexually, some when they were as young as 12.

The order said the report, which was released on Saturday and covers the period since Maciel founded it in his native Mexico in 1941 to this year, was “an additional attempt (by the Legionaries) to confront their history”.

Maciel, who died in 2008, was perhaps the Roman Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophile, even abusing children he had fathered secretly with at least two women while living a double life and being feted by the Vatican and Church conservatives.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was secretary of state under John Paul, was for years one of the Legionaries’ biggest protectors in the Vatican.

Pope Francis accepted his resignation as dean of the college of cardinals on Saturday and simultaneously changed church law to limit the dean’s position to a five-year term, rather than for life.

The Vatican first acknowledged Maciel’s crimes in 2006, when former Pope Benedict ordered him to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence”. But Benedict resisted calls from some in the Church who said the order should be dissolved because it was toxic to the core.

The Vatican instead took over the order in 2010 and began a process of reform.

The new report says that between 1941 and 2019, 175 minors were victims of abuse by 33 priests in the order. At least 60, or about one-third, were abused by Maciel himself, it said.

Most victims were boys between 11 and 16, it said.

ABUSE OF POWER

While the report said the 33 amounted to only 2.44% of the 1,353 priests ordained by the order, it said that nearly 43% of those who committed the abuse were in positions of authority, making it difficult to report or punish the abuse.

“(Abuse) was linked to the abuse of power and conscience on the part of some who took advantage of their posts to abuse,” it said.

Of the 33, six have died, eight have left the priesthood, and one had left the order. Of the 18 who remain members, four have “ministerial restrictions” to keep them away from minors and 14 have no public priestly ministry, the report said.

Seventy-four seminarians studying for the priesthood also abused minors and 81% of them were not ordained.

Father Christian Borgogno, a former member of the order, said that the numbers of those abused were “clearly unlikely” to be accurate and believed that they were much higher.

“It is difficult to think that this is anything more than a whitewash of the (Legionaries’) image,” he said in a tweet. He said the reported lacked “independent sources”.

After Maciel’s death, Vatican investigations found that he had also fathered several children with at least two women, visited them regularly and sent them money. He also used drugs.

Former members have said the order was run like a cult, with rules forbidding any criticism of the founder or questioning of his motives.

They said Maciel gave huge contributions to the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul, who admired the Legionaries’ orthodoxy and ability to produce vocations.