The major developments in the clergy sex abuse scandal What follows is a state-by-state summary of the major developments since January in the clergy sex abuse scandal that has battered the Roman Catholic Church in America. The information is based on AP reporters’ interviews with Catholic officials across the country and daily reporting on the crisis.
Attorney General Bill Pryor wants legislators to review a state law exempting members of the clergy from a requirement to report suspected child abuse or neglect. While information gathered during confession should remain confidential, Pryor said, officials should be required to report any allegations involving church employees. The Legislature is not expected to take up Pryor’s request before next year. Neither of Alabama’s two Catholic dioceses report receiving any allegations of clergy sex abuse this year. Church officials in Mobile are making sure all employees have signed a sex abuse policy, which includes a statement that they have never been charged with, or accused of, sexual misconduct.
Catholic leaders say no priests have been accused of sexual abuse this year, but in light of the scandals elsewhere the Anchorage Archdiocese is reviewing its sex abuse policy. The Fairbanks Diocese plans to review its policy within a year.
The Diocese of Tucson on Jan. 29 settled 11 civil lawsuits alleging that four diocese priests, two still living, sexually molested children. The diocese agreed to pay an undisclosed sum — estimated in the millions — to 16 plaintiffs. Bishop Manuel D. Moreno and Coadjutor Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas apologized to the victims and their families. Most of the incidents were between 1967 and 1976, with one in 1989. The two priests who are still living have been suspended, with canonical defrocking procedures under way.
Moreno named a review committee in February to recommend revisions of the diocese’s sex abuse policies. Its mission now includes all diocesan policies and procedures concerning sexual misconduct.
The Diocese of Phoenix announced a review of its sexual abuse policies and procedures after the arrest of two lay volunteers in youth ministry programs.
The Diocese of Little Rock’s anti-abuse policy was adopted in 1992 and includes a provision that it be reviewed every five years — which puts it up for examination this year. Monsignor Francis I. Malone, the diocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs since 1990, said he has never had to use the policy, which will come up at a meeting of a priests’ council in the next two months. The statewide diocese has about 100 priests, plus another 60 or so assigned to the state through various religious orders.
The church has been rocked by myriad allegations of child abuse by priests. Most go back decades but have been made public by dioceses only since Jan. 1. At least 30 priests around the state have been fired, forced to resign or temporarily suspended amid allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct. At least another four retired or former priests have been charged or are under criminal investigation. The dioceses of Orange, San Bernardino, Oakland, San Francisco and Monterey have acknowledged either reviewing or revising their sex abuse policies.
Among those hardest hit has been the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the nation’s largest. The Police Department has taken more than 50 reports of abuse, but Cardinal Roger Mahony will not say how many priests have been removed as a result of investigations. The LAPD (news – web sites) said it has been told between six and 12 priests were removed, although archdiocese e-mails leaked to the media have put the number at eight. Mahony himself was cleared of molestation charges after the Fresno police determined a woman’s abuse allegations were without merit.
State law does not require clergy to report abuse, but the Denver Archdiocese, which has 380,000 parishioners, requires any of its employees, including priests, to report to authorities any case of child abuse or neglect. The policy has been in place since 1991.
The Diocese of Colorado Springs changed its misconduct policy this year to clarify how abuse claims should be reported. However, officials said the revisions have been in the works for years and were not a response to recent scandals.
The Bridgeport Diocese has removed three priests from their posts in 2002 as a result of sexual misconduct allegations from years ago. A fourth accused priest requested a leave of absence, and as a result has lost his authorization to perform priestly duties. The diocese is also processing accusations that were recently brought against one priest involving incidents that allegedly occurred in the 1960s. Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori appointed a sexual misconduct review board April 19, and the diocese has examined the records of all clergy for signs of abuse.
Since Jan. 1, the Archdiocese of Hartford has received seven allegations of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. Most of the accused priests are deceased, said the Rev. John Gatzak. The claims are being reviewed by the archdiocese.
In the Diocese of Wilmington, which covers Delaware and a portion of eastern Maryland, Bishop Michael Saltarelli met with Attorney General Jane Brady this month to discuss abuse allegations against priests. Saltarelli gave Brady the names of five accused priests and the attorney general’s office has received complaints against six others.
Rev. William E. Irwin, 63, was relieved of his duties after telling diocesan officials he had received an anonymous phone call in which the caller accused him of abuse.
Diocesan officials this year have identified 15 documented allegations of abuse by priests since 1952, the last being in 1992. A spokesman said none of the priests is active, and that most have died.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
One priest in the Archdiocese of Washington is on administrative leave because of sexual misconduct claims. Monsignor Russell Dillard was removed from his parish last month after allegations were made about inappropriate relationships with two teen-age girls over a five-year period ending in 1984. Dillard admitted he might have “stepped over the line” with at least one girl, but denied anything sexual happened and likened it to a “father-daughter” relationship. Police say there is nothing they can do because the statute of limitations is long past. At the time he was placed on leave, Dillard was pastor of St. Augustine Church, a parish attended by some of Washington’s most affluent and influential residents, including Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Anthony O’Connell became the highest-ranking church leader brought down by this year’s scandals when he resigned as bishop of the Palm Beach Diocese after admitting he abused a teen-age boy in the late 1970s at a Hannibal, Mo., seminary.
O’Connell is the second bishop of Palm Beach to resign over a sex scandal in the last four years. Additionally, one priest resigned and two others were relieved of their duties in Palm Beach because of sexual misconduct allegations dating back years.
In the Tampa area, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg disclosed sexual harassment allegations brought by his former spokesman. Lynch has denied the allegations. There have been misconduct allegations against three other priests in the Tampa area as well.
On Saturday, another priest in the St. Petersburg Diocese resigned after an accusation surfaced that he fondled a youth 30 years ago. The Rev. Richard Allen, pastor at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Largo, left his ministry Friday.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta said this month that it had responded to six claims in the past 13 years of priests sexually abusing boys. Most of the incidents dated back to the 1960s and ’70s.
The archdiocese has paid more than $500,000 to settle claims, including $31,250 from its own coffers and the balance from insurers, according to court records and an attorney for the archdiocese. Some of the claims were not pursued in the courts because the statute of limitations had expired.
Most of the money went to settle cases involving Anton Mowat and Stanley Idziak, priests who served the Corpus Christi parish in Stone Mountain during the 1980s. Both were removed. Mowat, a visiting priest at the parish, served prison time for molesting four boys.
The Atlanta archdiocese said it has no claims against priests currently serving. The Diocese of Savannah, which represents 80 south Georgia parishes, said it has had no claims against any of its priests.
Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu called a standing committee on sexual abuse to meet and review old cases. The committee made up of priests, psychologists, social workers and lawyers has met twice since March and plans to meet again in May.
Bishop Michael Driscoll of Boise has decried the sexual abuse scandal rocking other dioceses and urged anyone in Idaho who may have been sexually abused by a cleric as a child to contact him or other diocesan officials. Driscoll has promised to help victims obtain spiritual and professional counseling. No one has come forward.
New allegations that the Joliet Diocese sheltered priests accused in decades-old cases led to the removal of two suburban Chicago hospital chaplains, Gary Berthiaume and Phillip Dedera, from their posts. Another priest from the diocese who was serving in Kentucky also was placed on administrative leave. Priests who were accused in Joliet and transferred to other dioceses — Anthony Ross in Santa Rosa, Calif., and Fred Lenczycki in St. Louis — also were removed when old allegations surfaced. St. Louis Bishop Timothy Dolan said there is no record Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch warned St. Louis church officials when Lenczycki was placed there in 1992, but Imesch said he told the former archbishop, who died in 1994.
The Archdiocese of Chicago’s sex abuse review board has found two credible allegations against priests this year. Rev. Robert Kealy of Winnetka was removed from his parish and Rev. Richard Fassbinder, who retired from Lake Villa in 1997, is being monitored by church officials. The review board continues to receive and consider other allegations but will not reveal the number, archdiocese spokeswoman Mary McDonough said.
All of the Illinois cases made public so far stem from allegations from the 1980s or earlier, and no criminal charges have been filed.
Officials with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have reviewed their procedures regarding suspected sex abuse by priests, but have not made any revisions. Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel Buechlein on March 12 issued a public apology to anyone who had been harmed by a priest. Other bishops also have condemned abuse, most notably Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, who said there was no room in the church for priests who abuse children.
Sioux City Bishop Daniel DiNardo said in March that a priest was “summarily retired” in 1991 after he was accused of molesting an altar boy 10 years earlier. Because the allegation was so old, DiNardo said, charges were never filed. The victim was provided with assistance and therapy. The accused priest, the Rev. George McFadden, never returned to ministry.
The Diocese of Kansas City reported Wednesday that it is investigating allegations against a Benedictine monk who may have abused children in the 1960s at a parish in northeast Kansas. The priest was removed March 1 from the parish and placed in an abbey. The diocese also said it has received complaints against other priests, but it is too early in the investigation to reveal other details. The Diocese of Wichita, which dealt with its own sex abuse scandal more than a year ago, has received one allegation involving a priest this year. Church officials did not report it to civil authorities after determining the allegations were false.
According to the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses, four priests have either retired or been suspended amid allegations of sexual misconduct, though no criminal charges have been filed.
The Rev. Carroll Howlin, a priest of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., had been a pastor in Whitley City, Ky., since 1980, but was suspended by the Joliet diocese and the Lexington, Ky., diocese this month pending an investigation into sexual misconduct. In March, the Rev. Louis Miller of Louisville retired following allegations he sexually abused minors in the 1960s and 1970s. The priest had been barred from working with children since January 1990, a month after the Archdiocese of Louisville received a complaint about him. Since Miller’s retirement, three alleged victims have filed suit against the Archdiocese of Louisville.
All four dioceses have said their sexual misconduct policies have been updated and comply with state laws.
In this state where the case of serial molester Gilbert Gauthe first brought national attention to sex abuse by Catholic clergy, there has been action in at least four cases this year.
Among the high-profile cases, prosecutor Michael Harson has said his office is looking into an allegation against the Rev. John Andries, who was removed as pastor of St. Margaret Church in Boyce after a family complained about misconduct with their teen-age son.
The Rev. Norman J. Rogge, a Jesuit, is no longer serving after records showed he continued working in the priesthood despite being sentenced in 1985 to a year in prison in Florida for sexual abuse of a boy.
In addition, the Rev. Joseph F. Pellettieri was suspended while the Diocese of New Orleans investigates allegations of past abuse in another diocese, a church official said Saturday.
New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes, a former top aide to embattled Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, sent a letter to be read last week in 142 churches saying he apologized in his own name and in the name of the church for harm that has been done by the scandals.
The Portland Diocese has removed two priests from northern parishes after each admitted sexually abusing a minor. On the diocese’s order, the Revs. Michael Doucette and John Audibert told parishioners about the abuse in February. Some members of Audibert’s congregation already knew about his case, while others apparently only had a vague idea. Doucette’s case had not been previously disclosed publicly.
On March 9, the diocese removed both Doucette and Audibert and announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which states that any priest facing a credible allegation of abusing a minor will be removed.
On Saturday, the diocese announced it removed the Rev. Leo James Michaud from his parish assignment in Ellsworth. The accusation was made by a man who said Michaud abused him 25 years ago, when Michaud was a seminarian and the alleged victim was a teen-ager. Michaud’s response was not disclosed.
In cases of both Doucette and Audibert, the abuse occurred more than 20 years ago and cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired. Still, the diocese has agreed to turn over to prosecutors all victims’ allegations against living priests in Maine.
A priest in the Baltimore Archdiocese was charged this month with lying to police to cover up his encounter with a male prostitute. Church officials have removed the Rev. Steven Paul Girard from duty. Archdiocese spokesman Ray Kempisty said the church also has received calls from alleged abuse victims, which it is now checking, but none of the cases involved priests currently in ministry. The incidents allegedly happened decades ago, he said.
Two lay teachers at Catholic schools have also been charged with having inappropriate contact with female students this year.
Boston has been the epicenter of the growing sexual abuse scandal since January, when church documents released as part of a civil lawsuit showed the archdiocese moved serial molester John Geoghan from parish to parish despite allegations of sexual abuse of children.
Since then, nearly 500 people have come forward claiming they were abused by Boston-area priests. The archdiocese itself sent prosecutors the names of 87 priests accused of sexual misconduct over the past 50 years. Further revelations that the archdiocese did little about repeated allegations against the Rev. Paul Shanley, known as a proponent of sex between men and boys, only intensified public outrage and boosted calls for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.
Law, who made a secret trip to Rome prior to last week’s Vatican (news – web sites) summit, has so far rejected the idea of giving up his post. He said the subject of his possible resignation “never came up” at the meeting.
At least seven priests have resigned or been removed this year amid sexual misconduct allegations. In at least five cases, the charges involved minors. Another priest, removed last year, was charged April 5 with raping a 48-year-old woman.
Five of the state’s seven Roman Catholic dioceses say they’re reviewing sexual abuse policies, and church leaders have addressed the scandal from the pulpit, or in letters and discussions with clergy.
In April, the Archdiocese of Detroit relented to pressure from prosecutors and agreed to hand over internal reports about its investigations of clergy sex abuse.
While state law doesn’t require clergy to turn over information about abuse, two of the state’s dioceses say their policies require such information be given to authorities. There has been talk among lawmakers about including clergy in reporting requirements.
No allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced in Minnesota’s five Catholic dioceses this year, though the dioceses of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Crookston and Duluth are reviewing their policies for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.
In response to lobbying by a victim of a priest’s sexual abuse, the Legislature considered giving Minnesotans more time to file claims of childhood sexual abuse. The proposal was opposed by local churches and other child-serving institutions and died in the state House on April 9.
Church officials have acknowledged two abuse-related cases, one in which a priest was suspended from his duties, but have not released the names of the priests or other details.
The Rev. Michael Flannery of the Jackson Diocese said a committee composed of a state appeals court judge, two attorneys, a nurse and three clinical psychologists, has reviewed the church’s sex abuse policies and is considering a revision this summer.
More than a half-dozen priests have been removed since the scandal broke in January. Among them was the Rev. Bryan Kuchar, 36, of the St. Louis area, who was criminally charged April 11 with sexually abusing a teen-age boy in 1995.
The Jefferson City Diocese has also closed St. Thomas Seminary in Hannibal, Mo., where former Palm Beach, Fla., Bishop Anthony O’Connell allegedly abused several seminarians from the late 1960s through the 1980s. In closing the seminary, Bishop John Gaydos said the scandal has made recruitment all but impossible.
a requirement to report suspected child abuse or neglect
In St. Louis, a man who was forced out of the priesthood in 1977 amid sexual abuse allegations was arrested earlier this month for allegedly exposing himself to boys at the St. Louis grade school where he worked as a counselor. Archdiocese and school officials have argued about how James Beine was allowed to work in nearly a dozen schools since he left the clergy.
The Rev. Joseph Hart was twice accused of sexual misconduct with boys while he served the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph during the 1960s and 1970s. He later became bishop for the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., and has since retired. He has denied the allegations.
Three people in the Great Falls-Billings Diocese have come forward this year to tell church officials they were sexually abused by priests years ago. The church is investigating all reports, two of which date from 30 to 40 years ago. The other involves a priest who officials believe is no longer active in the ministry.
The Omaha Archdiocese dismissed a 62-year-old priest from his job as a pastor and allowed him retire early following accusations that he sexually abused boys at four parishes more than 30 years ago. The claims against the Rev. Thomas Sellentin are too old to be prosecuted in criminal court. No civil lawsuits have been filed.
The Rev. Robert Allgaier is to stand trial in June on charges of attempted possession of child pornography and has been suspended from his duties. After being caught in one parish, Allgaier admitted to church officials he often viewed child porn, but the Omaha archdiocese never notified police. Instead, Allgaier was transferred to another parish where he was a middle-school teacher. Allgaier was arrested in February after police received a tip from a concerned teacher.
A priest in a Las Vegas suburb was charged last week with fondling, photographing and massaging teen-age boys he was counseling at his parish.
Rev. Mark Roberts, 51, was charged with two felonies for allegedly using minors in the production of pornography after being accused of taking Polaroid photos of two boys. He also faces seven gross misdemeanor charges, including lewdness and child abuse.
The Diocese of Las Vegas says the Roberts case is the only one in Nevada involving an active Catholic clergy member accused of sexual misconduct. He was suspended Jan. 30 from his parish in Henderson.
The case became public after eight boys filed a civil lawsuit in March against Roberts, the diocese, Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, and former Las Vegas Bishop Daniel Walsh, now bishop in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The Diocese of Manchester in February gave prosecutors the names of 14 priests with allegations of sex abuse against them. Seven already were suspended, the others were suspended that day. The diocese released the name of another previously suspended priest a month later. Authorities are still investigating the claims.
On Friday, allegations surfaced against two more priests. The Rev. George H. Robichaud was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a boy in 1985. The Rev. Edward D. Richard was removed from his church pending an abuse investigation.
The state attorney general’s office has said it is investigating allegations against more than 40 others. Those complaints were made to authorities by alleged victims.
Bishop John B. McCormack, who was in charge of ministerial personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston from 1984 to 1994, has been accused in lawsuits of shuffling around Massachusetts priests accused of abusing children, and of ignoring complaints about them. He stepped down this month as chairman of a national committee studying the scandal for the U.S. bishops’ conference.
The state’s five dioceses have been providing authorities the names priests and staff accused of abuse, though prosecutors have often found the cases are too old for criminal charges.
The Archdiocese of Newark relieved two priests following allegations of abuse or inappropriate conduct. The Trenton Diocese screened 50 years of records for sex abuse allegations, removed one priest and provided authorities the names of 13. Camden Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio supplied prosecutors the names of 19 priests, 12 of whom had already been named in lawsuits against the diocese. The remainder were no longer active in the ministry. One lawsuit against the diocese is being tried. Two priests in the Metuchen Diocese have taken leaves of absence after the diocese learned of abuse allegations, one dating back 20 years and the other to the 1950s and 1960s. The Diocese of Paterson has placed two priests on administrative leave after learning of allegations they had sexual contact with minors more than two decades ago.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, covering most of New Mexico, was battered by sex scandals in the early 1990s but has not been hit with “credible” new accusations in recent years, Archbishop Michael Sheehan told a news conference Friday. Even so, he said two priests have been removed in recent weeks from parish duties, one based on old complaints and a second as a precaution even though allegations were unsubstantiated from a third-person source. Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces said his diocese sent a priest back to New York, where he had been accused of abusing minors.
Soon after the Boston scandals erupted early the year, questions began to arise about clergy sex abuse in the New York City area.
With public scrutiny rising, the New York Archdiocese and the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses each turned over information about accusations against priests to district attorneys.
New York Cardinal Edward Egan has been criticized for his handling of allegations against priests when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and released a letter before the Vatican summit saying he apologized “if, in hindsight,” he made any mistakes in handling such charges. The New York Archdiocese has also freed sex abuse victims from any legal promises they made to remain silent about their cases.
One priest on Long Island, the Rev. Michael Hands, was convicted in March of sodomizing a teen-age boy. He faces similar charges in Suffolk County.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced this month that a special grand jury would be formed to look solely at cases of sexual misconduct involving priests. He has said evidence collected so far indicates a possible cover-up.
In upstate New York, one priest has been reassigned to administrative duties, another has resigned and a third is being investigated by his diocese as the result of sex abuse allegations this year. The complaints all date back a decade or more, and one is at least 30 years old.
The Diocese of Raleigh has removed three priests from their parishes after allegations surfaced against them; all the charges originated in other states where they worked.
The Diocese of Charlotte, meanwhile, relieved a priest of his duties last week at a Greensboro parish following allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior in another state.
Charlotte also placed another priest on administrative leave pending the outcome of an abuse investigation. It has also alerted authorities to at least three other cases from 25 years ago or longer.
The Charlotte Diocese confirmed this month that in the 1990s it used its money and insurance funds to pay parents who accused a priest of sexually abusing their sons.
The Raleigh Diocese held a day of prayer April 14 “for the church in crisis.”
Two western North Dakota priests were stripped of the power to perform sacraments and resigned parish posts after Bishop Paul Zipfel of Bismarck adopted a “zero tolerance” policy toward molestation in March. A third priest resigned as a seminary teacher and is under criminal investigation after telling Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila in February that he had molested children while a parish priest.
The Bismarck Diocese said that two priests, Steve Zastoupil and Norman Dukart, had admitted molesting children decades ago and had been disciplined. Zipfel’s new policy prompted him to ask both men to resign from their parishes. Prosecutors do not plan to file charges.
In the Fargo case, state Crime Bureau agents are interviewing four families as they investigate the Rev. Charles Fischer’s conduct while he served parishes between 1995 and 2000. Aquila barred him from performing sacraments, but Fischer has not been charged with a crime.
In the Cleveland Diocese, the Rev. Don A. Rooney killed himself earlier this month, just three days after being accused of a molesting a girl in 1980. Eleven priests have been suspended in Cleveland and an independent commission has been created to review policy.
In Cincinnati, prosecutors subpoenaed archdiocese records, and Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk was summoned before a county grand jury April 18.
He was excused from testifying because his office turned over information which authorities were seeking. He is the only U.S. archbishop subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, according to a leading victims’ attorney.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City this month republished its 1991 policy regarding sexual abuse allegations from minors; the policy was printed in its newspaper, the Sooner Catholic. The policy quotes an Oklahoma law requiring mandatory reporting of such allegations to law enforcement officials. The archdiocese continuously reviews the policy, said the Rev. Edward Weisenburger.
An 82-year-old priest, the Rev. Louis Charvet, was recalled to the Benedictine Abbey in Mount Angel this month pending an investigation of claims by 58-year-old David Schmidt that Charvet and another priest, who has since died, molested him in the 1950s.
Oregon Archbishop John Vlazny has publicly urged victims of priest abuse to contact the archdiocese.
At least 23 active priests accused of abuse have been removed from assignments since Jan. 1 as a result of reviews by diocesan officials and new claims by alleged victims.
In all but a few cases, the allegations were decades old. District attorneys throughout the state have pressed church officials for more information on old cases, though the statute of limitations makes prosecutions unlikely.
Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua ordered priests to observe a “day of atonement” last Wednesday. The Philadelphia Archdiocese said in February that credible abuse allegations had been made against 35 priests over five decades.
The Diocese of Providence suspended the Rev. Normand J. Demers in early April after a man accused him of sexually assaulting him at least 35 years ago. Demers, who has denied the allegations, is the state’s only priest to be suspended since Jan. 1.
The Rev. Daniel Azzarone was indicted April 5 on charges he sexually assaulted two people over a one-year period. He was first arrested in November and suspended by the diocese at that time.
The Rev. Juan Carlos Castano of Rock Hill was charged in March with committing a lewd act on a minor for allegedly fondling a 4-year-old girl in her home in September 2000. He is awaiting trial.
The Diocese of Charleston suspended Castano the day before his arrest. He is the state’s only priest suspended or otherwise disciplined by the church since Jan. 1, diocese spokesman John Carroll said.
South Dakota has been spared from the scandal: Officials in the Sioux Falls and Rapid City dioceses knew of no recent abuse allegations. The Sioux Falls Diocese has invited the state attorney general’s office to review its procedures for handling abuse cases.
There have been no allegations of sex abuse by priests. But Catholics were stunned by the resignation of Bishop Anthony O’Connell of Palm Beach Fla., who admitted abusing a seminarian in Missouri decades ago. O’Connell was the founding bishop of the Knoxville Diocese and served there for 10 years beginning in 1988.
Since the Dallas Diocese was hit with a huge 1997 verdict involving a priest who molested altar boys, it has imposed strict guidelines to combat sexual abuse. They require fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all workers, mandate the installation of windows in every office door and forbid adults to be alone with children in certain circumstances. In April, the diocese reassigned two priests for failing to fully implement the background checks.
In the San Antonio Diocese, a priest was suspended for incidents that allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago.
In a state where Catholics make up just 8 percent of the population, there have been no major developments in the sex abuse scandal.
The statewide Diocese of Burlington said that since Jan. 1 it has received “a few” allegations of abuse against priests, all dating back decades.
Church leaders met Attorney General William Sorrell (news, bio, voting record) earlier this month to discuss sex abuse, and Sorrell criticized the church following the session for not being responsive enough to his questions.
Sorrell said his office had gathered information independently leading him to believe there were some priests who had committed sexual abuses in the past who were still active in the diocese. He did not suggest a number but said his office had received about a dozen calls.
The Diocese of Richmond announced Monday more stringent guidelines for hiring church volunteers. Criminal background checks will now be mandatory for all volunteers, just as they are for lay and religious parish employees, said the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, secretary to Bishop Walter F. Sullivan. Previously, background checks on volunteers were optional.
Kathleen Kenney, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Arlington, said no changes have been made to Arlington’s sexual abuse policies this year, since they were just reviewed last year.
Since Jan. 1, one priest has been accused of molestation. In complaints dating back to the 1960s, five men have alleged the Rev. John Cornelius abused them. Cornelius has denied the allegations. He was placed on paid administrative leave from an Everett parish in April.
A similar allegation was made in 1996, after which the archdiocese demoted him and transferred him from Seattle to Everett.
Cornelius, 50, a former Seattle city police chaplain, has been an adoption activist and has adopted 13 children himself.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is updating its child sexual abuse policy to make it mandatory for priests to report suspected abuse to authorities, conforming to state law. The current policy “includes the expectation” that clergy will report suspected abuse. Bishop Bernard Schmitt has ordered a review of the personnel files of active and retired priests and the files of priests from outside the diocese who are serving in the state. The diocese has declined to discuss the findings.
At least nine priests are being investigated on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors. Two of them, one each from the Diocese of Green Bay and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, have been suspended.
Two of the state’s five dioceses have named task forces to review the personnel files of priests. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is reviewing the cases of all accused archdiocesan priests, while the Green Bay Diocese will examine the files of all its priests.
Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland also called a meeting of all archdiocesan priests to discuss the sexual abuse scandal.
Earlier this month, Bishop Raphael Fliss of the Diocese of Superior apologized for failing to more thoroughly investigate a priest for alleged sexual misconduct in the early 1980s.
The Diocese of Cheyenne says it has no evidence that any priests have abused minors. Bishop David Ricken may review the diocese’s 1994 policy on handling abuse allegations after he attends the June meeting of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops. Ricken has assured the faithful that the state’s 41 priests can be trusted.
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