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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chicago-based Catholic group sued for abuse; SNAP responds

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)

The Carmelites, based in the Chicago suburb of Darien, are in the news again. Last week, they were sued in Florida for alleged child sex crimes committed last year and this year by one of their clerics.

The child molesting cleric, Fr. William C. Wert (who’s now in Florida), belongs to the Carmelites and also faces criminal charges of child sexual abuse.

Last May, the Carmelites generated headlines in Chicago when they removed a Glendale Heights priest, Fr. Kevin M. McBrien, because of credible allegations that McBrien molested a Joliet boy. Sadly, the Carmelites only took action after our group publicly disclosed that for months, they ignored a credible report of abuse by McBrien.

We hope the Carmelites will act more responsibly in the Wert case than they have acted in the McBrien case.

It’s been almost a year since the McBrien allegations surfaced, yet the Carmelites continue to act secretively and do little to warn others and reach out to others who may have been hurt by him.

We urge the Carmelites to use their vast resources to seek out anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes – whether by McBrien, Wert or any Carmelite – instead of passively sitting back, doing nothing, and letting deeply wounded men and women suffer in silence, isolation and shame.

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2010/05_06/2010_06_08_Okon_JolietDiocese.htm

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, peterisely@yahoo.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)

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Father of abuse accuser sues religious order.

Last Modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.

SARASOTA COUNTY - A Nokomis man filed a lawsuit against The Order of Carmelites on Friday, accusing the religious group of failing to supervise a priest now charged with repeatedly sexually abusing his son.

The lawsuit claims the Carmelites were aware of Father William Wert's past conviction for touching a 14-year-old boy on the inner thigh when they allowed him to move to the Carmelite home in Venice while on a leave of absence.

Wert now faces criminal charges he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Nokomis boy from September to January, including at the order's home, where Wert lived, and in a motel room.

The father of the Nokomis boy, listed in the lawsuit only as John Doe Sr. to protect his son's identity, first contacted authorities when he found inappropriate messages on his son's cell phone.

The lawsuit states that the Order of the Carmelites had a duty to supervise Wert and prevent him from engaging in sexual abuse on its property, which is close to the Epiphany Cathedral and School in Venice.

"They were well aware this man was an abuser and they put him in a position where he could abuse some more," said one of John Doe Sr.'s attorneys, Venice lawyer Bob Widman. "Here's a guy who abused a 14-year-old boy, and you put him in a house that's within walking distance of a school."

The Carmelites, based in Illinois, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Father John Welch, a prior who oversees Wert and 190 Carmelite priests in the continental United States and South America, previously told the Herald-Tribune that he took steps to keep Wert away from children.

Related Links:

Bail set for priest accused of sex abuse

Venice priest at heart of sexual abuse inquiry

UPDATE: Venice priest faces more sex abuse charges

The lawsuit claims the Carmelites were aware of Father William Wert's past conviction for touching a 14-year-old boy on the inner thigh when they allowed him to move to the Carmelite home in Venice while on a leave of absence.

Wert now faces criminal charges he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Nokomis boy from September to January, including at the order's home, where Wert lived, and in a motel room.

The father of the Nokomis boy, listed in the lawsuit only as John Doe Sr. to protect his son's identity, first contacted authorities when he found inappropriate messages on his son's cell phone.

The lawsuit states that the Order of the Carmelites had a duty to supervise Wert and prevent him from engaging in sexual abuse on its property, which is close to the Epiphany Cathedral and School in Venice.

"They were well aware this man was an abuser and they put him in a position where he could abuse some more," said one of John Doe Sr.'s attorneys, Venice lawyer Bob Widman. "Here's a guy who abused a 14-year-old boy, and you put him in a house that's within walking distance of a school."

The Carmelites, based in Illinois, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Father John Welch, a prior who oversees Wert and 190 Carmelite priests in the continental United States and South America, previously told the Herald-Tribune that he took steps to keep Wert away from children.

Welch said he sent Wert to the church-owned retirement home in Venice because it had "no proximity" to a school, mission or any other Carmelite-run ministry.

Welch did not notify the Catholic Diocese of Venice about Wert's presence or about his conviction. Welch said that was not necessary because Wert was not authorized to perform ministry for the diocese. The diocese is not named in the suit.

Widman said the case was somewhat unusual because there is an entire 2007 criminal case with accusations of sexual conduct by Wert that put the religious order on notice of his dangerous behavior.

That year, a 14-year-old boy at a transit station in Washington complained to police that Wert had followed him, asked for his name and touched his thigh after suggesting they "hide" somewhere. Originally charged with a misdemeanor sex offense, Wert was convicted of simple assault after a two-day trial; he was sentenced to 15 days in jail and five years of probation. An appeals court upheld his conviction.

Yet Wert then lived with other Carmelites in Sarasota County and had access to a new Ford Mustang and the Internet, Widman said.

"They knew that and they had him on probation, and they had him on a house here in Venice and he was using that house to perpetrate abuse on one child and maybe others," Widman said.

Wert remains in the Sarasota County jail on $190,000 bond for 11 charges of sexual abuse against the Nokomis boy.

The boy is in the process of getting evaluation and treatment, Widman saidWelch said he sent Wert to the church-owned retirement home in Venice because it had "no proximity" to a school, mission or any other Carmelite-run ministry.

Welch did not notify the Catholic Diocese of Venice about Wert's presence or about his conviction. Welch said that was not necessary because Wert was not authorized to perform ministry for the diocese. The diocese is not named in the suit.

Widman said the case was somewhat unusual because there is an entire 2007 criminal case with accusations of sexual conduct by Wert that put the religious order on notice of his dangerous behavior.

That year, a 14-year-old boy at a transit station in Washington complained to police that Wert had followed him, asked for his name and touched his thigh after suggesting they "hide" somewhere. Originally charged with a misdemeanor sex offense, Wert was convicted of simple assault after a two-day trial; he was sentenced to 15 days in jail and five years of probation. An appeals court upheld his conviction.

Yet Wert then lived with other Carmelites in Sarasota County and had access to a new Ford Mustang and the Internet, Widman said.

"They knew that and they had him on probation, and they had him on a house here in Venice and he was using that house to perpetrate abuse on one child and maybe others," Widman said.

Wert remains in the Sarasota County jail on $190,000 bond for 11 charges of sexual abuse against the Nokomis boy.

The boy is in the process of getting evaluation and treatment, Widman said.

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110318/article/110319457


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
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