Vatican- Cardinal Burke to be ousted by Pope? Abuse victims respond
For immediate release: Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, firstname.lastname@example.org)
In what a noted Vatican journalist calls a “decapitation,” and “a move without precedent,” Cardinal Raymond Burke – who had a very sorry tenure running the St. Louis archdiocese (2003-2008), “is on the verge of being demoted” from head of the church's highest court to a “purely honorary role” and an “ecclesiastically very modest title” at “the behest of Pope Francis.”
Even a staunch Burke defender says this demotion is “likely”.
“If confirmed,” writes veteran church observer Sandro Magister, “Burke would be completely removed from the curia and employed in a purely honorary position without any influence on the governance of the universal Church.”
Magister also wrote “On December 16, in effect, Pope Francis humiliated Burke by crossing him off from among the members of the congregation” and now “seems right at the point of giving the go-ahead for Burke's second and more grave demotion.”
We are reminded of Martin Luther King's remark that “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” It is just that Burke's long troubling rise within the Catholic hierarchy has come to an end. The church will be safer and healthier as a result. Children will be better protected. And dozens of child sex abuse victims – in LaCrosse and St. Louis and elsewhere – will be comforted by the fact that such a cold-hearted prelate will have less influence.
We were sad when Pope Benedict promoted Burke to his post in Rome, one of a long string of bishops who ignored and concealed child sex crimes yet were rewarded by Vatican officials.
While in St. Louis, Burke was often reckless, deceptive and callous regarding predator priests, vulnerable kids and wounded victims. He expanded the troubling practice of importing sexually troubled priests from across the US, letting some of them work in local parishes and letting others stay in church facilities that are secretive and careless about public safety.
Several years ago, here's what we wrote about Burke's track record in St. Louis.
(At least two of these credibly accused predator priests – Fr. Alex Anderson and Fr. Vincent Bryce – are still on the job today.)
St. Louis Archdiocese Importing Predatory Priests
Under Archbishop Raymond Burke, dozens of proven, admitted, and credibly accused predator priests have been sent to St. Louis. Some live in church facilities, others don't. At least three worked recently in city parishes and one works now at a local Catholic college. None of them, SNAP feels, are adequately supervised and in virtually no case did church officials notify parishioners or the public about these potentially dangerous clerics.
(The following information is far from comprehensive. It is almost strictly based on public documents: police records, litigation, news accounts, etc.)
1) Proven, admitted or credibly accused priests sent here to work or disclosed as working here in recent years.
Even now, Fr. Vincent W. Bryce works and lives on the campus of (or directly across the street from) St. Louis University, despite the fact that he admitted molesting a child.
In December 2007, a Chicago area newspaper disclosed that he works in the library at the Aquinas Institute. (SNAP has and has shared with local news media copies of a 2002 letter from his supervisor confirming that Bryce admitted the abuse.)
In 2002, Bryce resigned from two parishes in the Grand Rapids Michigan Diocese.
This took place after Bryce was confronted about his crimes by church authorities who had learned of it through St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson. A settlement was paid to the victim.
Besides his library job, Bryce has also been listed as “guest master” at the St. Louis Dominican Priory (3601 Lindell Blvd., 633-4400). (At least two other predatory clerics, Fr. Chester E. Gaiter and Fr. Gerhardt B. Lehmkuhl, live there too. Lehmkuhl pled guilty to child porn. Child sex abuse lawsuits against Gaiter have been settled.)
Both the priory’s website and the library’s website have photos and e mail addresses of other staff but not of Bryce. Some information about Bryce was removed after SNAP publicly exposed him in 2007.
As recently as July 2005, Fr. Nicholas Voelker worked at St. Ambrose Catholic church in St. Louis city.
The summer before, he twice sexually assaulted a parishioner, Peggy Warren, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Wichita, KS. In August 2004, to protect herself, Warren got a 'Protection From Abuse' Order against Voelker from the Sedgwick County Sheriff.
After reporting Voelker’s crimes to Wichita Catholic officials, Voelker was sent to St. Louis. His Kansas parishioners were told he was sent to Missouri for health reasons. Voelker’s St. Louis parishioners were told he was here to go to school. Church officials in neither diocese warned parishioners or the public about him.
In June 2005, Warren received a substantial settlement from church authorities because of the assaults. She was represented by attorneys Denis Ventriglia (910-256-0040) and Mike Hepperly (316-267-5330). She has also reported the crimes to Detective Scott Wiswell (316-268-4156) of the Wichita police.
As recently as 2007, Fr. Darell Mitchell of Yakima worked at St. Ambrose, a city parish with an elementary school, even though photos of nude boys had been discovered on his computer in Washington.
The Yakima (Washington) Herald Republican printed other allegations involving Mitchell’s sexual misconduct that hadn’t been made public before, including charges that Mitchell had:
- admitted that he had gone to other websites that showed naked boys, and had explained to a church employee ‘why he had downloaded the pictures’
- given beer and numerous gifts to one minor, held boys-only dinners and game nights at his home, let young men spend the night at the rectory, took a minor on a European trip, and let one minor live at the rectory with the priest for weeks one summer
- introduced the minor to others as his "godson" and himself as his "godfather,"
- urged at least two Catholics to remain quiet about the whole situation
The allegations come from testimony given in December 2005 to a church panel by the individual who discovered the nude boy photos on Mitchell's computer in 2003.
(See 11 more news accounts about Mitchell at BishopAccountability.org)
As recently as Sept. 2005, Fr. Joseph R. Monahan worked at St. Raphael the Archangel parish in south St. Louis instructing altar servers. This was three years after an accuser of his first came forward to church officials in Philadelphia. Monahan first came to St. Louis to get treatment, allegedly for alcohol dependency.
As recently as April 2008, Fr. Fred Lenczycki was deemed so dangerous by an Illinois jury that he is being held behind bars indefinitely under the state's "sexually violent predators" act. In 2004, Lenczycki was convicted of molesting three boys. Joliet's now-retired bishop has publicly said he sent Lenczycki to treatment in St. Louis because of abuse allegations.
Lenczycki worked at DePaul and Deaconess (now Forest Park) hospitals as a chaplain, and at three area parishes: St. Blaise Parish in Maryland Heights, North American Martyrs in Florissant and St. George’s in south St. Louis County.
2) Proven, admitted or credibly accused priests sent here or disclosed as living here in recent years.
In June 2008, Brother David Nickerson made his first court appearance in Milwaukee. He's admitted molesting a boy in the 1980s and faces criminal charges. Nickerson now lives in Franklin County MO at a church center for pedophile priests called RECON.
In June 2008, Wisconsin's highest court approved the pending prosecution of Fr. Bruce D. MacArthur, another Wisconsin predator priest. He too lives at RECON. MacArthur is accused of molesting several girls and (according to one newspaper) “was indicted in the attempted rape of a 54-year-old patient at the Four Seasons Nursing Home (in El Paso). The victim could not speak or control her motor skills because of a congenital disease.”
At least one of MacArthur’s sex abuse victims has sued and received a settlement.
As recently as 2005, a third Wisconsin cleric, Fr. David J. Malsh, was arrested by the FBI and pled guilty to getting child porn in the mail while living at RECON. (It's also known as Wounded Brothers or Evergreen Hills Homes.)
As recently as September 2004, Brother Gerald Chumik was accepted by a center here after parishioners in California demanded he be removed for the safety of their children. He is wanted on felony child molestation charges in Canada. Press accounts describe him as a fugitive.
As recently as spring 2004, Father William Wiebler allegedly walked away from the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer and lived unsupervised less than 750 feet from Delmar Harvard Grade School and Julia Epstein Preschool in University City. He’s an admitted child molester from Davenport Iowa, and perhaps Iowa’s most prolific and notorious predator. Wiebler had a long white beard and wearing red “long johns” trying to give candy to children. Neighbors reported that he often sat on his porch wearing nothing but a bathrobe, yelling at passing school kids inviting them into his apartment. Wiebler is now deceased.
As recently as August 2004, Father Mark Roberts was given permission to live in St. Louis. He was charged with assaulted 11 boys in Las Vegas, convicted and sent here over the objections of the Missouri Probation Department. One of his victims lives less than 20 miles from the center.
– Roberts, Ken
Fr. Kenneth Roberts was suspended by his home diocese, Dallas, for credible child sex abuse allegations. He then came here and molested a boy in Belleville. Roberts is now believed to be living in Ohio.
In 2005, church officials admitted that Fr. John Degnan of the Jefferson City was credibly accused of child molestation. He was sent to RECON and is believed to be living there now. Degnan faces at least 17 accusers.
3) In 2002, the Post Dispatch reported that the following proven criminal clerics from out of state were living in the area.
“Eight registered sex offenders who live at the Vianney Center and Wounded Brothers include priests and religious brothers (who) were removed from active ministry by their religious superiors.”
“Officials of the two centers declined to identify anyone who lives there or to say where they are from. But eight names on the county register’s listed addresses that match the centers', and the names also match with news reports of criminal convictions and information from prosecutors and probation officers:
– Ronald Sam Gilardi, 54, a priest who pleaded guilty last year of molesting a boy at the Catholic high school in Hays, Kansas
– Leonard B. Nienaber, 95, formerly a monsignor in Lexington, Ky., who pleaded guilty in 1994 of molesting children in his parish
– Robert Brouillette, 60, a former member of the Christian Brothers, who had been an administrator at a boy's high school in Chicago. Brouillette was found guilty in 2000 of indecent solicitation of a child and of disseminating child pornography over the Internet.
– Thomas S. Schaefer, 76, and Alphonsus Smith, 77, both priests from Washington. They were among four priests who were indicted in Prince George's County, Md., in 1995 on charges of sexually abusing nine boys in the 1970s and 1980s. Schaefer and Smith pleaded guilty in 1996.
– John Moniz, 80, formerly a Jesuit brother in San Jose, Calif., who was found guilty in 1995 of having a girl, 4, fondle him. His probation ended in 1998.
– David J. Malsch, 62, a priest in Tomahawk, Wis., who was convicted in 1993 of fondling a boy, 14, in a swimming pool. In 2000, after Malsch's sentence was completed, a court in Wisconsin ordered him to remain indefinitely at Wounded Brothers.
– Donald Stavinoha, 66, a priest in Houston who was sentenced in 1988 to almost 10 years for a sex act with a 9-year-old boy he was counseling at his parish. A parishioner who also was a police officer discovered the encounter. Stavinoha served three years in a Texas prison and was released from parole in 1997.
4) Other out-of-state accused pedophile priests who live/lived and/or work/worked here but we don’t have conclusive proof they came here for ‘treatment’ or housing related to abuse:
– Nicholas “Brother Vic” Bendillo (Alabama)
– James McGreal (Seattle)
– Joseph Fertal (California)
– Joseph E. Shannon (from New Jersey)
– Robert J. Wells (from Alaska)
– Joseph L. Welsh (Boston)
– Jean Baptiste Ormechea (Illinois, Kentucky)
– Juan Carlos Duran (Tennessee)
Why is all of this troubling? Because a change of location doesn’t cure a serial pedophile or a sex offender. Many of these men are considered so dangerous by their own bishops that they remove them from their dioceses.
At least three other priests - Father Victor Frobas, Father Romano Ferraro and Father Ken Roberts - molested children in St. Louis. They were sent here from their home dioceses after molesting kids. (Lawsuits have been filed against the latter two. Ferraro was sentenced to prison for abusing.)
It’s also troubling because almost nothing about these men and their presence or work in the St. Louis archdiocese was disclosed by church officials. In almost every case, this crucial information surfaced because of brave victims, determined journalists, concerned whistleblowers or diligent law enforcement professionals.
In fairness to Archbishop Burke, this pattern of sending pedophile priests to St. Louis escalated but did not begin with him. It’s been going on for years. (In the 1990s, the Post Dispatch reported that one of America’s most prolific and notorious predator priests, Fr. James Porter of Massachusetts, was sent here.)
Burke could have stopped, slowed, or reversed this trend. He could have at least been ‘open and transparent’ about this and other sex abuse cases, as he and his brother bishops have repeatedly pledged to be since 2002. Instead, he expanded this recklessness and secrecy.
Burke could have also been more prudent and honest regarding the assignments and housing of local predator priests.
Besides Bryce, there are at least three other local archdiocesan priests still working in parishes today despite child sex abuse allegations against them. They are Fr. Alex Anderson, Fr. Robert Osborne (now deceased), and Fr. Bruce Foreman.
– In June 2008, Anderson was named a pastor in DeSoto, Missouri. He is accused of molesting three boys, none of whom know each other. The archdiocese paid one of his victims $22,500. Anderson sued one of his accusers for slander, and vowed to take his victim to court unless a number of concessions were met (a written retraction of the allegation, the removing Anderson’s name from the SNAP website, etc.) None of those conditions were met.
– Osborne worked in a Kirkwood parish even though he was accused of molesting boys, admitting giving liquor to kids, and left his post at Vianney High School because of the allegations. His supervisors, the Marianists, won’t re-assign him to any of their schools or facilities across the country. Osborne was sued and his victim received a substantial settlement.
– Even now, Fr. Bruce Forman is pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul, a city parish. He’s also in charge of the Young Catholic Musicians. Both the New York Times and St. Louis Post Dispatch have mentioned him in articles as an accused molester. At least one civil lawsuit was filed against him.
Regarding the housing of local predator priests, consider Regina Cleri in Shrewsbury. In 2005, SNAP publicly disclosed that eight or nine proven, admitted or credibly accused archdiocesan priests were living there. Burke told the Post Dispatch the nun overseeing the sex offenders “is very strict - their comings and goings, everything is monitored. She is right on top of things."
However, the nun in charge told the Post Dispatch that the priests in question serve as the facility's "volunteer employees" doing everything from driving older priests to the hospital or drugstore to fixing computers. She admitted “she does not monitor the men if they go to a movie or for a walk. ‘I don't police them like that. I would trust them all. I would.’
Remember – this is a partial list, culled almost exclusively from what’s already in the public record. We know of and suspect there are other predatory clergy – both local and out-of-state – who live/lived and/or work/worked here in St. Louis but who have never been publicly exposed or ‘caught.’
For a list of publicly accused, admitted, proven and credibly accused St. Louis area clerics (priests, seminarians, brothers, nuns), go to BishopAccountability.org and click on the map of Missouri.
(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 25 years and have more than 20,000 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)