Seven times since 2015 where members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have covered up abuse, showed reckless disregard for victims, or refused to follow their own reforms.
2016 Altoona-Johnstown Diocese Grand Jury Report
According the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General “a statewide investigating grand jury has determined that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of at least 40 years by priests or religious leaders assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.”
The two-year investigation included a search warrant of the Altoona Bishop’s “secret archive.”
The report also determined Bishop Joseph Adamec was at the forefront of the cover-up and acted to avoid scandal rather than protect children.
The widespread abuse involved at least 50 priests or religious leaders and endangered thousands of children and allowing proven child predators to abuse additional victims.
A year later, in 2017, the Diocese announced “reforms” in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office.
Those reforms included:
- The creation of an independent, multidisciplinary oversight board;
- The retention of an outside expert to develop a new, comprehensive child abuse prevention program;
- A reporting protocol that requires the Diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within twelve hours after receipt; and
- Counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals chosen by the victims.
All of the above items were already a part of the 2002 Dallas Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its Norms. You can read the Charter here we note where you can find the corresponding reforms:
Item A (Norm 4), Item B (Article 9 and12) Item C (Articles 2 and 4) and Item D (Article 1)
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak
Retired Bishop Joseph Victor Adamec
Crookston Bishop sued for coercion. Deacon says he was blackmailed into signing a document in 2015 saying he was never sexually abused as a child in order to save his son’s career as a priest.
In May 2017, Crookston Catholic Deacon and child sex abuse survivor Ron Vasek came forward and filed a lawsuit saying that “Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner threatened to undermine his religious work and his son’s if he didn’t retract a clergy abuse claim.”
Vasek says he was sexually abused by Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, the former Vicar General of the Crookston Diocese, a very powerful priest.
According to the lawsuit, during a closed-door 2015 meeting, Hoeppner said that Vasek’s son’s priestly career would be in jeopardy if he didn’t sign the document saying he was never sexually abused by Grundhaus.
At the time of the meeting, Hoeppner was under court order to turn over the names of all clerics credibly accused of abuse. He did not turn over Grundhaus’ name.
Bishop Michael Hoeppner
Minnesota bishop is caught up in abuse and cover-up scandal, until diocese itself is criminally charged. He is then accused of interfering with the careers of seminarians who rebuff his advances. Vatican orders evidence destroyed.
In 2013, Minnesota passed a landmark bill that allowed victims of child sexual abuse to use the civil courts to expose their abuser, no matter when the abuse took place.
Ensuing lawsuits showed that the Archdiocese under John Nienstedt and his predecessors actively covered up the sexual abuse of minors for decades.
After continued public scandal, Nienstedt stepped down and the Archdiocese was criminally charged for contributing to child sexual abuse.
In 2014, an independent law firm was hired to investigate allegations against Neinstedt. Ten seminarians came forward providing affadavits saying that if they refused Nienstedt’s sexual advances, he would interfere with their careers.
When the findings were presented to a Vatican representative by Bishop Lee Piche, he was told to stop the investigation and destroy evidence against Neinstedt.
After Nienstedt stepped down, he settled into a small parish in Battle Creek, Michigan in 2016. When parishioners found out Nienstedt’s history, they complained to the media and demanded his ouster.
With nowhere to go, Nienstedt was offered a cushy job at the Napa Institute, where he says private masses in California’s wine country.
Archbishop John Nienstedt
San Diego priest pleads guilty to battery against a woman, but that doesn’t stop him from finding a new job in the Diocese of Oklahoma City
Jose Alexis Davila plead guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2012. The plea agreement came when the victim refused to testify after parishioners tried to stop her mother from attending prayer group and accosted her brother.
Prosecutors were able to get a sentence of three years’ probation and community service. Despite this, the Diocese of San Diego tried to reinstate Davila, until local outrage and media attention stopped the move.
Davila disappeared until 2016, when he showed up at a parish in Oklahoma City. When parishioners became upset, Bishop Paul Coakley said that he had all of the information necessary about Davila and considered him “fit for ministry” and safe.
When more parishioners complained, however, he changed his mind, citing “new information.” He refused to disclose what this “new information” was.
Oklahoma City Bishop Paul Coakley
San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy
A seminarian in Ohio attempts to buy babies and toddlers off of Craigslist in order to adopt and sexually abuse them.
Joel Wright was a legally blind seminarian at Columbus, Ohio’s Pontifical College Josephinum
in 2016 when he was arrested for attempting to adopt a one- and four-year-old child to rape and molest.
A native of Steubenville, Wright had wanted to be a priest for many years. In fact, Wright’s mother claimed the he had been rejected by 45 other seminaries due to his blindness and other physical handicaps.
Despite what the church calls “rigorous psychological testing,” media accounts say that Wright was placing ads on Craigslist in 2014, offering parents $150 to watch their children, a “red flag” behavior that was reported to church officials. Although Steubenville police were informed, Wright was allowed to remain in the seminary.
Columbus Bishop Fredrick Campbell remained silent throughout the entire scandal. Although the Josephinum operates with his permission and seminarians must meet his standards, he did not offer any condolences to possible victims, apologies for Wright’s behaviors, or promised that anything would change to make sure that men like Wright would not be allowed to become priests in Columbus.
Bishop Fredrick Campbell
Netflix makes a blockbuster documentary about a nun’s murder and child sexual abuse. Instead of helping victims and law enforcement, the Archdiocese of Baltimore turns into a social media troll
Netflix’s recent documentary, The Keepers, has been a blockbuster for true crime and documentary fans. A gripping tale of abuse, cover-up, and murder, the series tells the story of how a group of former students are trying to find justice for their teacher, a murdered nun from Baltimore.
Representatives from the Archdiocese of Baltimore—who play a large role in the series for their part in covering up the child sex abuse of numerous girls at Archbishop Keough High School and throughout the archdiocese—did not appear in the film and only agreed to answer questions in writing.
After the film’s release and blockbuster success, the archdiocese began trolling the filmmakers on social media, using emojis and “spoiler alerts” about the serial abuser in the film, Father Maskell, and trying hashtags like #thekeeperstruth.
Then, instead of working with the film’s directors to do outreach, find new victims, or help those who are suffering, they trolled the filmmakers on a Reddit AMA.
In fact, the Archdiocese of Baltimore website is devoted to addressing The Keepers, with an FAQ, a statement by Archbishop William Lori, infographics about how they handled the Maskell case, and “mythbusting” the film.
Nowhere do they offer to make public Maskell’s file, with the names of victims and innocent third parties redacted, or turn over evidence that can be used by prosecutors, law enforcement, or grand juries.
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori
Wilmington DE Bishop W. Francis Malooly—He was involved in the cover-up of the Maskell case and in a statement says that he is not aware of a report against Maskell because it was made when he was in college, although he had access to Maskell’s file in 1994.
In Chicago, an admitted abuser is allowed to hang out at a parish, despite being banned and sued for abuse.
In 2014 Fr. Bruce Wellems was banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles when they found out that he had sexually abused a seven-year-old boy when Wellems was fifteen. Los Angeles sent him back to Chicago, where Cardinal Blase Cupich immediately put the priest back into ministry.
In 2015 Wellems was removed from ministry in Chicago when a survivor advocate called local Chicago authorities and reported him, giving law enforcement information Cupich had all along.
Wellems, a member of the Claretian order, admitted the abuse. His victim, Eric Johnson, sued the Claretians in 2016.
However, this week, Wellems appeared at a fundraiser for the “Peace and Education Coalition College Preparatory High School”, a high school program that is located at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, the Archdiocese parish where he worked for years.
Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Blase Cupich
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.