Entries in Catholic Church (10)


Retiring Chicago Priest Refuses to Leave Rectory

George Doyle/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago parish is in turmoil because its beloved priest has balked at his impending removal from the Catholic Church rectory, while his incoming successor, who says he was attacked by a staff member, admits that he shares some of the blame for the disruption.

The Rev. Daniel Mallette, a civil rights and anti-poverty activist, has lived at St. Margaret of Scotland rectory since 1977, but the Chicago Archdiocese ordered him to move out earlier this year because it is in need of repair and is now considered unsafe for the frail but spry reverend.  Mallette, 80, was brutally beaten on the church's property by robbers late last year; he recovered from the incident and soon returned to St. Margaret's.

It is part of established church governance in Chicago that a departing pastor lives off the premises for six months after the new pastor arrives, so he can get settled and establish his leadership.  The deadline for Mallette to leave the church came and went Monday, and he has yet to vacate.

"I would love to stay where I'm at, and I thought when you became a pastor emeritus, this new pastor would come in and run the parish and I wouldn't interfere with anything," Mallette told ABC News affiliate WLS-TV.

Mallette said the cardinal previously told him that he would be able to reside at the rectory until he dies.  But now, he says, the cardinal denies having told him that.

"There was a time I thought that was what he said," Mallette told ABC News Wednesday.  "He's a good man, and he's suffering.  He says he didn't say it.  I thought I heard him say that I could stay here.  It could be that I didn't hear it correctly."

Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Archdiocese, told the Chicago Sun-Times that repairs on the rectory that were scheduled to begin on Monday have now been delayed.

The kerfuffle over Mallette's departure comes as conflict grows between senior staff at the church's school and the new parish priest, the Rev. William O'Donnell, who arrived at St. Margaret's three months ago.

Rickey Harris, the principal of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School, sent a letter to church families on Tuesday announcing his resignation.  He mentioned his treatment by the Office of Catholic Schools and his "recent suspension by Fr. William O'Donnell."

"The unfortunate events of these last few weeks have caused me to pause and reflect on who I am, my purpose, and whether or not I will allow myself to be disrespected, my integrity questioned and reputation that I have worked so hard to build to be stained with deception and untruths," Harris wrote, adding that O'Donnell questioned his commitment to those he serves.

O'Donnell, however, told WLS on Tuesday that it is he who has been subjected to intimidation since his arrival at St. Margaret's, and that a now-suspended school staff member lunged at him twice.

"I was physically intimidated and, in fact, other teachers in the room stepped between us to stop it," O'Donnell said.

Principal Harris told ABC News that he was not present at the time of the alleged altercation, but he was surprised when he heard about it.  Although O'Donnell says he was almost attacked, he believes he must share some of the blame over how his arrival at the church has played out, he said.

"It would be very arrogant of me to think I was not somehow part of the problem; that perhaps I didn't do this correctly," O'Donnell said.

Mallette has also chimed in on O'Donnell, calling him arrogant and even a bully, WLS reported.  When asked about his successor during one interview, Mallette reportedly broke into a rendition of the folk song "Plastic Jesus."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Confessions of Priest Who Molested 17 Boys Released

Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The lurid confessions of a priest who sexually abused young boys in his parish choir and the seminary offer a glimpse into one of the minds behind the massive sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.

Former priest Robert Van Handel's 27-page sexual history, which he wrote for a psychologist between 1993 and 1994, details his history of abuse and fantasies of abusing boys age 8 to 11. The document was released as part of a settlement between the Franciscan order of priests and 25 abuse victims.

In the essay, Van Handel, now 65 and a registered sex offender in Santa Cruz County, describes wrestling, tickling and fondling young boys whom he invited to attend one-on-one choir practices, admits to molesting high school boys at a seminary where he taught, and says he took pictures of young boys wearing few clothes or showering.

"It was clearly my choir and the fulfillment of my fondest dreams," he wrote. "Now I understand that it was also a constant supply of attractive little boys."

He also described an encounter with another priest, while Van Handel was in seminary around high-school age, in which the priest molested him while he was in the infirmary.

"While I don't think it is of crucial importance in my life, it is curious that this is nearly the exact activity I would perform 10 to 15 years later," he wrote.

Van Handel's account of his own descent into pedophilia traces his shame and guilt growing up, learning about and trying not to think about sex, into young adulthood, where he bought porn magazines and became interested in naked children.

"I asked my best friend once if he saw anything 'special' in pictures of children. He said, 'no, not at all.' I began to realize that I was different. Sometimes I worried about this, but I thought that as long as it was just fantasy, there was no reason to panic," he wrote.

He progressed from reading about sex with boys to taking pictures of young boys and finally, when he took over directing a boys' choir, abusing boys.

Van Handel describes trying to speak to a Franciscan counselor about his actions twice in the early 70's, but said he was too vague for the counselor to understand what he was saying.

In 1992, Van Handel pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor and served four years in prison, and another four years on parole.

The release of Van Handel's confessions is rare, even among the thousands of church abuse cases that have made it to the court system in the past 10 years, according to attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has handled more than 2,000 church abuse cases.

Van Handel and his attorney, Robert "Skip" Howie, did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Seattle Churches Refuse Petition to Reverse Gay Marriage Law

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- At least two Catholic churches in the Seattle area are resisting an archdiocese effort to reverse Washington state's newly enacted marriage equality law.

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain sent a letter to all area churches encouraging them to hold petition drives for Referendum 74, which would put the issue of gay marriage on the ballot in November.

Opponents of gay marriage, which the legislature approved earlier this year, must collect 120,000 signatures by June 6 to get the referendum on the ballot.

The letter states that the Catholic church teaches that people who experience same-sex attraction have the same dignity as heterosexuals, but insists that marriage can "only be between a man and a woman."

"The word 'marriage' isn't simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships.  Instead, 'marriage' reflects a deep reality -- the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman.  There is nothing else like it, and it can't be defined or made into something that it isn't," reads the letter.

If Referendum 74 doesn't receive enough support to make it on the ballot, the marriage equality legislation signed into law on Feb. 13 by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire will go into effect as planned on June 7.

"I am confident that we will collect enough valid signatures to place it on the ballot," archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said.  "We have 170 parishes and over 140 pastors and the vast majority of them are supporting the bishop in his strong desire to put Referendum 74 on the ballot so that voters can decide the issue of marriage in Washington state."

But not every area church wants to take part in the drive for signatures.

Reverend Michael Ryan of Seattle's St. James Cathedral noted on the church website that "after discussing the matter with the members of the cathedral's pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish.  Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community.  In saying this, I do realize that there are some who will be disappointed with this decision."

At St. Joseph Parish, a note on the church website simply says, "Please be aware that Fr. Whitney has decided that no petitioning will be permitted anywhere on the campus of St. Joseph.  Please contact Fr. Whitney with any concerns."

ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV reports that Seattle's St. Mary's church will also abstain from signature drives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Calif. Bishop Admits Having Fathered Two Children, Resigns

David McNew/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A Catholic bishop serving in Los Angeles has resigned after admitting that he fathered two children over a decade ago, the L.A. archdiocese announced Wednesday.

Bishop Gabino Zavala submitted his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI and has since stopped serving as the head of the archdiocese, according to spokesman Tod Tamberg. The Los Angeles archdiocese is the largest in the country, Tamberg noted.

The diocese's archbishop, Jose Gomez, sent out a letter to parishes and schools Wednesday explaining the resignation, calling the situation "sad and difficult."

Tamberg said the bishop, who served as an auxiliary bishop in the San Gabriel region, announced in early December that he is the father of two teenage children who live with their mother in another state and had already submitted his resignation to the pope. There was no discussion about the circumstances ahead of time and the diocese did not know why Zavala decided to come forward with the information at this time, Tamberg said.

The diocese would not comment on who the family is, but said that they have reached out to offer spiritual and financial assistance to the children.

Zavala will go on to lead a private life, Tamberg said.

Zavala was a prominent bishop in the church, presiding over the U.S. arm of Pax Christi, the church's international peace movement. Prior to becoming a bishop in 1994, he had served at churches in the Los Angeles area since his 1977 ordination. He was not able to be reached for comment.

The Catholic Church enforces a vow of celibacy on its clergy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope Accepts Resignation of Philadelphia Archbishop

Jeff Fusco/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Philadelphia archbishop Justin Rigali, whose archdiocese has been under the cloud of a sex abuse controversy for years.

Rigali was accused by a grand jury of covering up sex abuse complaints against dozens of Philadelphia priests. He spoke of the controversy last March, saying “I personally renew my deepest sorrow to the victims of sexual abuse in the community of the church.”

The Vatican says his resignation is due to age, but Rocco Palmo, author of a Catholic blog, says the appointment of conservative Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput as Rigali's replacement sends a message: “It would be an indicator from Rome that they want a thorough housecleaning.”

Rigali submitted his resignation last year when he turned 75, as required by church law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Catholic Sex Abuse Linked to 'Deviant' Behavior of 1960s, '70s

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- Research commissioned by the nation’s Catholic bishops concludes that the sexual promiscuity and widespread drug use exhibited in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s coincides with an increase in child sexual abuse at the hands of priests, suggesting that a rise in “deviant” behavior in the country tracks with a higher rate of abuse by priests.
The report, which has already sparked controversy, says that no single factor causes priests to become sexual abusers of children, but it claims that abuse cases were “influenced by social factors in American society” during the Vietnam Era.
“The increased frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is consistent with patterns of increased deviance in society at that time,” said the study’s lead author, Karen Terry, the dean of research and strategic partnerships at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
Terry told reporters in Washington Wednesday that those “deviant” behaviors -- including drug use, crime, premarital sex and divorce -- “intersected with vulnerabilities of some individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate at that time."
But a decline in reported cases of sex abuse by the mid-1980s, Terry says, tracks with an increased societal awareness of the sexual abuse of children and an increased effort by the church to teach priests about “human formation” while in seminary.
The study is also likely to provoke controversy for its determination that priests who abused children older than 10 are not to be considered “pedophiles,” since the victims -- by the authors’ broad definition -- had already hit puberty.
The American Psychiatric Association defines prepubescent children as those under the age of 13.
A small group of protesters that gathered outside the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops before the report’s release Wednesday included D.C. resident Kevin Higgins, who was abused as a young boy in Kansas City at age 11.  Higgins held a sign reading, “Bishops Claim: Not Our Fault.”
"It sounds like a very unspiritual practice, to blame others for your own faults," Higgins said.  "I think there are scriptures that talk about pulling a log out of your own eye before you blame others, and I think they should practice what they preach."
His brother, who Higgins says was also abused by the same priest, committed suicide as a teenager.
Critics also noted that the report was commissioned by the bishops’ conference, using data collected by the church itself.
“When you have the bishops doing the self-reporting, I mean it's sort of like the fox is watching the hen house,” said Robert Stewart of the group Voice of the Faithful.
But Terry insisted the academic integrity of the report had not been compromised by its backers and primary source of funding.
“All of the work that we did was ours, all of the writing was ours, all of the conclusions were ours and none of the bishops had any influence on the findings of the study,” Terry said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Priests In Church Abuse Crisis Not All Pedophiles, Report Claims

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A five-year examination of sexual abuse by Catholic priests changes a traditional definition of pedophilia and concludes that most abusive priests are not pedophiles; fewer than 5 percent of cases fit into that category, according to the report's definition.

The authors of the study, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, consider children age 10 and younger "prepubescent," despite the typical definition that considers prepubescent kids to be those aged 13 and younger.

The report also found no statistical evidence that homosexual priests were more likely to abuse children than priests who are straight. Most of the victims were adolescent males, the report concludes, because of opportunity and not preference.

The report was prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Christmas Mass Puts Catholics At Risk of Hepatitis A

Photo Courtesy - WABC-TV New York(NEW YORK) -- Catholics who receive communion at Sunday mass believe the sacred wafer they swallow contains the body of Christ. New York health officials have warned the parishioners of a Long Island church that the wafers they received on Christmas Day may have also contained hepatitis A.

The Nassau County Department of Health in New York is warning parishioners who attended Christmas Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park to seek treatment, worried that the hundreds who took communion could fall ill. Those who attended the 10:30 a.m. and noon Masses are most likely to be at risk, according to the health department.

While no individuals who attended the services have reported illness, MaryEllen Laurain, a spokesperson for the county's department of health, said vaccines will be offered as a "preventative measure."

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, is contracted by putting something in your mouth that has been contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person. It is frequently spread when an infected person fails to wash his or his hands after using the toilet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consuming food that has been handled by an infected individual is one of the most common ways of contracting the disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bishop Long's Ex-Wife Claimed 'Vicious' Abuse During Divorce

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ATLANTA) -- The ex-wife of the Atlanta mega-church pastor accused of sex abuse by four young men once claimed the exalted church leader had a "vicious and violent temper" and beat her while she was pregnant with his son.

In court documents filed during the couple's 1985 divorce, Dabara Houston, then Dabara Long, said she was terrified of Bishop Eddie Long and that she fled their home with their son "in order to ensure their safety," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Long's attorney, Craig Gillen, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Alleged Victim Calls Pastor Eddie Long a "Monster" 

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(ATLANTA) -- One of the four men who've accused a Georgia mega-church pastor of coercing them into sex called the man at the center of the controversy a "predator" and a "monster."

Jamal Parris, 23, told WAGA-TV in Atlanta that Bishop Eddie Long, leader of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, swept into his life and used him for sex and moved on to younger prey. When Parris was 17, he said, Long would take him "alone to the guesthouse" and "encourage him to call him daddy," according to his lawsuit.

None of Long's accusers had spoken publicly since their lawsuits were filed last week. The other young men claimed in separate lawsuits that he lavished them with expensive gifts and trips and then forced them into sexual relationships when they were teenagers.

Bishop Long continues to deny the accusations and called himself "David" and the accusers "Goliath."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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