Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Catholic Abuse News - Letting The Predatory Priests Off

Roger Sinclair, who was removed by the Diocese of Greensburg in Pennsylvania in 2002 for allegedly abusing a teenage boy decades earlier. Now serving a prison sentence in Oregan for abusing a developmentally disabled man in 2017.

Credit: Deschutes County District Attorney's Office / via AP
Almost 1,700 priests and clergy accused of sex abuse are unsupervised

An investigation by reporters from Associated Press has discovered that almost 1700 American Catholic priests and clergy who had been named as credibly accused of sexual abuses are working unsupervised in the community, often with children.

According to this report by Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer of Associated Press:
Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found. These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and daycare centers. They foster and care for children. And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.
For example, Roger Sinclair, pictured above, was removed from Greensburg Dioceses, Pennsylvania after being accused of abusing a teenage boy. He ended up in Oregon where he continued his sexual predation. In 2017 he was arrested for abusing a developmentally disabled man and is now serving a prison sentence for the offence.

According to AP:
As early as 1981, church officials knew of allegations that Roger Sinclair had acted inappropriately with adolescent boys. Two mothers at St. Mary’s Parish in Kittanning, Penn., wrote a letter to the then-bishop saying that Sinclair had molested their sons, both about 14 at the time.

Sinclair played a game where he would shake hands and then try to shove his hand at their genitals, the mothers said in their letter, parts of which were made public last year as part of the landmark report in Pennsylvania. They said he also tried to put his hands down one of the boy’s pants.

Other accusations emerged about Sinclair showing dirty movies to boys in the rectory, exposing himself and possibly molesting a teen he had taken on a trip to Florida a few years earlier. After a group of mothers called the police for advice, the police chief told them he had heard the rumors but took no action, according to documents reviewed by the Pennsylvania grand jury.

The church sent Sinclair for treatment, returned him to ministry and provided him with a letter that listed him as a priest in good standing so he could be a chaplain in the Archdiocese of Military Services, according to the grand jury. That assignment took him to at least four different states, including Kansas, where in the early ‘90s he was a chaplain at the Topeka State Hospital, a now-closed state mental hospital that had a wing for teenagers.

He was fired from that assignment in 1991 after trying multiple times to check out male teenage patients to go see a movie. Administrators said he had managed “to gain access to a locked unit deceitfully.”

Sinclair was removed from ministry in 2002 while the diocese investigated claims from a victim who said the priest sexually abused him in the rectory and on field trips beginning at Sinclair’s first assignment as a priest. He resigned a few years later, before the church concluded proceedings to defrock him.

When he started serving on the board of directors of an Oregon senior center and working as a volunteer there, he was required to pass a background check because the center received federal dollars for the Meals on Wheels program. But no flags were raised because he was never charged in Pennsylvania.

According to accounts from both former center staffers and law enforcement officials, Sinclair’s downfall began when the center’s then-director looked outside and saw him with his hand down the young man’s pants. He immediately barred Sinclair from the center, but left it up to the man’s family to decide whether to press charges. Three months later, after learning why Sinclair had been absent, an employee went to the police out of fear the former priest would target someone else.

Now-Sgt. Steven Binstock, the lead investigator in Oregon, said Sinclair immediately confessed to committing multiple sexual acts with the developmentally disabled man. He also confessed to sexual contact with minors in Pennsylvania 30 years earlier.

“He was very vague, but he did tell us that it was some of the same type of behaviors, the same type of incidents, that had occurred with the victim that happened here,” Binstock told the AP.

The Pennsylvania diocese had never warned Oregon authorities about Sinclair because it stopped tracking him after he left the church. The diocese, which did not tell the public Sinclair had been accused of abuse until it released its list in August 2018, declined to comment on his case.
Another shocking example is that of the former priest, Hadmels DeFrias, who was defrocked and convicted of molesting two boys in New Jersey. He is now teaching English to children in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

The AP investigation found that of the 5,100 clergy names as having been plausibly accused of sexual abuses by diocese and religious orders, of which almost 2000 are still living, 1,700 remain largely unsupervised and 76 were untraceable. More than 160 are working or volunteering in churches, many in Catholic dioceses overseas and some in other religious denominations. About 190 are working in education, medicine, social work and in counselling.

In addition to Sinclair and DeFrias, the investigators found other examples of abusers who still had unsupervised access to children. Like Sinclair, the Church never disclosed the details to the law-enforcement and child protection agencies, so no criminal prosecutions were ever brought. In so doing, the Church created the conditions under which there was no criminal history to be discovered by state licensing boards and background checks, enabling the abusers to seek employment, become foster parents and live in communities unaware of their history as sexual predators.

Despite the 'Dallas Charter', introduced when the first big sexual abuse scandal hit the Catholic Church in the USA, which calls for openness and transparency, many diocese refused to name priest who had plausible complaints against them and have since adopted policies which seem more designed to protect the abusers and allow them to continue their predation, than to protect potential future victims.

Before the landmark, 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which revealed that over 300 predatory priests had sexually abuse over 1000 children in the state of Pennsylvania alone, there had only been 1,500 named predatory priests in the entire USA. Now, in a little over a year, hundreds of Catholic Dioceses have named thousands more, but often with little detail of the nature of their crimes and nothing on which to base a prosecution. Many of the lists don't even reveal the priest's current status within the Church or even details of the last city in which they worked.

The AP investigation has revealed that:
At least two worked as juvenile detention officers, in Washington and Arizona, and several others migrated to government roles like victims’ advocate or public health planner. Others landed jobs at places like Disney World, community centers or family shelters for domestic abuse. And one former priest started a nonprofit that sends people to volunteer in orphanages and other places in developing nations.

The AP determined that a handful adopted or fostered children, sponsored teens and young adults coming to the U.S. for educational opportunities, or worked with organizations that are part of the foster care system, though that number could be much higher since no public database tracks adoptive or foster parents.

Until February, former priest Steven Gerard Stencil worked at a Phoenix company that places severely disabled children in foster homes and trains foster parents to care for them. Colleagues knew he was a former priest, but were unaware of past allegations against him, according to Lauree Copenhaver, the firm’s executive director.

Stencil, now 67, was suspended from ministry in 2001 after a trip to Mexico that violated a diocese policy forbidding clerics from being with minors overnight. Around that time, a 17-year-old boy also complained that Stencil, then pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Casa Grande, Ariz., had grabbed his crotch in 1999 in a swimming pool. The diocese determined it was accidental touching, but turned the allegations over to police. No criminal charges were filed.

Since 2003, Stencil’s name has appeared on the Tucson diocese’s list of clerics credibly accused of sexually abusing children, and his request to be voluntarily defrocked was granted in 2011.

Copenhaver said Stencil passed a fingerprint test showing he did not have a criminal history when he was first hired part time by Human Services Consultants LLC 12 years ago.

“We did not have any knowledge of his indiscretions, and had we known his history we would not have hired him,” she said, emphasizing that he did not have direct access to children in his job.

Stencil was fired from the company for unrelated reasons earlier this year. He later said in a post on his Facebook page that he was working as a driver for a private Phoenix bus company that specializes in educational tours for school groups and scout troops.

“I have always been upfront with my employers about my past as a priest,” Stencil wrote in an email to the AP when asked for comment. He said he unsuccessfully asked years ago for his name to be removed from the diocese’s list, adding, “Since then, I have decided to simply live my life as best I can.”
More than 160 of the priests were found by AP to have remained working for, or volunteering in, a church, with three-quarters of those serving in some capacity in the Roman Catholic Church. Others became ministers and priests in different denominations, or even as priests in Catholic churches not affiliated with the Vatican, sometimes even when allegations had been published against them.

More than 30 priests accused of sexual abuse in the U.S. moved overseas, where they worked as Roman Catholic priests in good standing in countries including Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, Ireland and Colombia. AP found that in all, roughly 110 clergy members moved or were suspected of moving out of the U.S. after allegations were made.

At least five priests were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of their refusal to stop participating in other religious activity.

Of particularly disturbing note was the case of James A. Funke and Jerome Robben:
More than three decades ago, James A. Funke and a fellow teacher at a St. Louis Catholic high school, Jerome Robben, went to prison for sexually abusing male students together. Funke, released in 1995, was eventually bounced from the priesthood. But years later, the two men joined together again, promoting Robben as the leader of a church of his own making. Since 2004, Missouri records show that Robben has listed his St. Louis home as the base for a religious organization operating under at least three different names. Beginning in 2014, those papers have identified Funke as the order’s secretary and one of its three directors. Mary Kruger, whose son committed suicide when he was 21 after being abused by the men in high school, said she raised fresh concerns about Robben in 2007 when she heard he was presenting himself as a cleric. At the time, he was being considered for promotion to bishop in a conservative Christian order based in Ontario, Canada. Kruger said members of the order told her that Robben had dismissed questions about his abuse conviction, claiming he had merely rented an apartment to Funke and that police blamed him for not knowing what went on inside. Robben eventually was defrocked from the Christian order, and apparently then started his own. Until last year, when its paperwork expired, the group was registered with Missouri officials as the Syrian Orthodox Exarchate. However, a Facebook post from 2017 identified Robben _ photographed wearing a crown and gold vestments — as the leader of a Russian Byzantine order raising money to build a monastery in Nevada.
And so the long litany of failures on the part of the Catholic Church and their horrendous consequences for the contuing victims of their former preists' abuses continues.

Of the 2000 still alive, only 310 were charged with the crimes they committed while priests. A further 64, including Sinclair, have since committed other crimes, and 42 of them involved serious sexual assaults and/or violence, of which about a dozen were committed on minors. Of the 2000, only 85 appear on sex offenders' registers because of successful lobbying by the Church and plea bargaining to reduce the seriousness of the charge to an offence which is not required to be registered, in return for a guilty plea.
Decades after Louis Ladenburger was temporarily removed from the priesthood to be treated for "inappropriate professional behavior and relationships," he was hired as a counselor at a school for troubled boys in Idaho.

Ladenburger was arrested in 2007 and accused of sexual battery; in a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He served about five months in prison.

According to Bonner County, Idaho, sheriff's reports, students said Ladenburger told them he was a sex addict. During counseling sessions, they said, the former Franciscan priest rubbed their upper thighs and stomachs, held their hands and gave them shoulder and neck massages. If students expressed confusion about their sexual identities, the sheriff’s reports say he fondled them and performed oral sex on them.

Ladenburger was fired from the school. In an interview with sheriff's officials at the time, he "admitted being a touchy person," kissing many students and having his "needs met by the physical contact" with the boys.

By then, he’d been gone from the church for more than a decade — in 1996, the Vatican had granted his request to be released from his vows. No officials from his religious order or from the dioceses in six different states where he had served had warned the school or provided details of the allegations against him when he was a priest.

In a lawsuit involving a sexual abuse allegation against another member of the Franciscan order, the complaint cited Ladenburger as an example of the harm done when church officials don’t report accusations of abuse to law enforcement, saying he likely never would have been hired at the school if the Franciscans had reported him when they first became aware.

"For all intents and purposes, they set loose a ticking time bomb that exploded in 2007," the lawsuit said.
To finish off, just two more of the many similar cases reported by Associated Press:
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology was not aware of the allegations against former priest William Finger when he was licensed as a counselor in 2012. The Brooklyn diocese publicly named Finger only in 2017, even though he had been laicized since 2002 because of abuse allegations.

According to a complaint filed in January with the board, a woman who asked not to be named contacted Finger’s employer last year to say he had abused her for a decade, beginning when he was a priest and she was 12 years old. She said he kissed her, fondled her and digitally penetrated her and also alleged he had sexually abused her sister and a female cousin.

The employer fired Finger, now 83, and reported the allegations to the state’s licensing board.

In many states, allegations dating from before someone was licensed or that never made it to court would have been dismissed. But Alabama’s board issued an emergency suspension because it is allowed to consider issues of “moral character” from any point in a licensed individual’s life.

The decision whether to permanently suspend Finger’s license is pending. He did not return multiple messages from the AP but denied the allegations in a statement to the licensing board. He also remains licensed as a counselor and hypnotherapist in Florida.

The AP also found that 91 of the clergy members had been licensed to work in schools as teachers, principals, aides and school counselors, only 19 of whom had their licenses suspended or revoked. Twenty-eight still are actively licensed or hold lifetime certifications.

That’s almost surely an undercount, since some private, religious or online schools don’t require teachers to be licensed and states like New Jersey and Massachusetts don’t have public databases of teacher licenses.

School administrators in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, knew for years that sixth-grade teacher Joseph Michael DeShan had been forced from the priesthood for impregnating a teen parishioner. But nearly two decades later, he remained in a classroom.

DeShan, now 60, left the Bridgeport, Connecticut, diocese in 1989 after admitting having sex with the girl beginning when she was 14. Two years later, she got pregnant and gave birth. The diocese did not report DeShan to the police, and he was never prosecuted.

By 2002, he was working as a teacher in Cinnaminson when church disclosures about his past raised alarms. After a brief investigation, administrators allowed DeShan to return to the classroom, where he remained until last year, when a new generation of parents renewed cries for his removal.

The school board tried to fire him, citing both his conduct as a priest and recent remarks to a student about her “pretty green eyes.” In April, a state arbitrator ruled against the district, saying it had been “long aware” of DeShan’s conduct as a priest.

The state confirmed DeShan, who did not return calls for comment, still holds a valid teaching license, but that the licensing board is seeking to revoke it. Parents say he is not in a classroom this fall, but his profile remains posted on the school website and the idea he could be allowed back is troubling, said Cornell Jones, whose daughter was in DeShan’s class last year.

“When I found out about this guy being her teacher I was just, ‘No way — there’s no way possible,’” Jones said. “I get a traffic violation and they make me pay. You violate a child and they just put you in a different zip code. How fair is that?”

It's clear from this report that the instinct of the leadership of the Catholic Church is still to protect the abusers and keep their crimes under wraps, regardless of the fact that many of them will go on to predate on more victims and looking for ways to gain access to children and vulnerable adults.

Where is the determination to root out this malignancy within the Church, to protect future victims and to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, that the Pope piously announces and cried his crocodile tears over? The Catholic Church, at least in the USA, is still insitutionally and instinctively acting like a huge paedophile ring accountable only to itself and believing itself to be above the law.

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