Entries in Priests (3)


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


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


Philadelphia Archdiocese Suspends 21 Priests over Sex Abuse Report

George Doyle/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed 21 priests on administrative leave Tuesday following a grand jury report that found over three dozen priests allegedly behaved inappropriately with minors.

The priests, who were not named, were removed from their positions while the cases against them are investigated.  The cases range from allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to boundary issues with minors.

"As we strive to move forward today, I wish to express again my sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors committed by any members of the Church, especially clergy," Cardinal Justin Rigali said in a statement.  "I am truly sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as to the members of our community who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime."

In February, the grand jury report found 37 cases of concern.  Shortly after, three priests were placed on administrative leave, adding onto the 21 that were placed Tuesday.  Five others who would have faced the same action were either already on leave, not in active ministry or no longer in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The remaining eight priests were spared from leave as reviews of their cases found no further investigation was necessary.

"I know that for many people their trust in the Church has been shaken," said Rigali. "I pray that the efforts of the Archdiocese to address these cases of concern and to re-evaluate our way of handling allegations will help rebuild that trust in truth and justice."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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