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In midst of sex assault suit, Knoxville diocese seeks to shield papers

Knoxville News Sentinel USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEEFebruary 6, 2023–The Catholic Diocese of Knoxville is asking a judge to grantgreater secrecy as the church continues to defend itself in an explosive sexual abuselawsuit. The effort is in large part due to the reporting of Knox News. The CatholicDiocese of Knoxville has asked a judge to allow it to keep secret internal documents asit defends itself in an explosive sexual abuse lawsuit.The diocese, citing ongoing coverage by Knox News, requested the protection ofmaterials related to the church’s sexual abuse review board and from “privatemeetings of priests of the Diocese.” The diocese also refiled a request to protectinvestigative documents related to complaints filed against Bishop Richard Stika.The lawsuit was filed by a former church employee who says he was raped by a churchseminarian. The man says the diocese, led by Stika, interfered with the investigationand worked to discredit him. Knox News is not naming the man because he says hewas the victim of a sexual assault.The diocese argues it needs protection specifically because of the “continued publicitythat this litigation has garnered over the past year – most recently exhibited by themultitude of articles published by the Knoxville News Sentinel over the past month.”

Deacon Under Investigation in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

  (For Immediate Release February 8, 2023)  A Catholic deacon from the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee is being investigated by the Florida Department of Children and Families. SNAP urges the Diocese to be completely open and transparent about the nature of the complaints against the deacon. Michele Kenaga, principal of Little Flower Catholic School in Pensacola, recently posted a letter notifying the parents and guardians of children at the school of this development.  She wrote, "On Thursday, February 2, Little Flower Catholic School received a complaint from three students regarding Deacon Tom Gordon. It is currently being investigated, and we will let you know when more information is available. At this time, Deacon Gordon is not serving in ministry until we receive the outcome of the investigation. The protection and safety of our children are of the utmost importance to all our families at Little Flower Catholic School and Parish." The Diocese also provided a statement to WKRG News 5 saying, “Sexual misconduct by church clergy, employees and volunteers violates human dignity and the mission of the Catholic Church. The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the Church.” We consider it a great sign when affected students report their concerns to people that they trust, and those people act on those concerns. However, we call on Church officials from the Diocese and administrators at the church and school to be completely transparent with parishioners and the public as to the nature of the three complaints. We also encourage anyone who may have seen, suffered, or suspected wrongdoing by Deacon Gordon or any other staffer in the Diocese to come forward and report to law enforcement. Speaking out is the first step on the road to healing. CONTACT: Gene Rosenquest , SNAP Leader Florida (407-668-1801 [email protected]) Sally Zakhari , SNAP Leader Florida (407-758-4874 [email protected]) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manage,( [email protected], 267-261-0578)  Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

Pennsylvania Acting Attorney General Announces Charges Against Men in Jehovah's Witnesses Congregation

(For Immediate Release February 7, 2023)  We applaud Pennsylvania Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry who announced today the arrests and criminal charges in multiple child Sex Abuse cases across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The charges were returned to the Office of Attorney General by the 49th investigative grand jury. Five men, all of whom were involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were charged with sexual assault offenses involving minors, some of their own families. The charges were filed against Marc Brown of Allegheny County, Raymond Shultz of Beaver County, Abimael Valentin-Matos of Lancaster County, Kevin Isovitsch of Butler County, and Normal Aviles of Lancaster County. We know that pursuing justice against these perpetrators would not be possible if it were not for the strength and courage of the brave victims who stepped forward by calling the Office of Attorney General to report these crimes. We understand it’s hard for victims to speak up, but that’s what it takes to see justice, safeguard others, expose predators, and prevent crimes. This case reads like so many others that have been heard for the past several decades, abuse facilitated within a faith-based community. Abusive men who used the faith community to prey upon their victims. We’ve seen this before. Yet just because this is nothing new doesn’t mean that the actions aren’t just as horrific. How can it be that leaders of a faith group could acknowledge relationships involving children? How could it happen that, even with the media attention paid to sexual abuse scandals since 2002, that faith leaders and abusers alike would continue to follow the same old playbook? We believe this is the tip of the iceberg and hope that further charges will be brought against others complicit in these crimes. To us, these tragedies serve as an example that abuse should be reported to law enforcement only. We sincerely hope that anyone else who may have been harmed or has knowledge involving these crimes or others within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, call the Office of Attorney General hotline at 888-538-8541. These cases are being prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones at 717-787-3391. CONTACT:  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386 [email protected])   (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

SNAP is appalled at 'Nameless List' by the Diocese of Worcester

(For Immediate Release February 7, 2023) The Diocese of Worcester announced this past Friday that it had found 173 accusations of child sexual abuse "credible," after reviewing 209 abuse reports from 1950, when the Diocese was founded, and 2022. The report does not include information about clergy who abused within the territory of the Diocese before 1950, thus automatically providing an incomplete count of the number of perpetrators who worked in the schools and parishes now under the control of Bishop Robert McManus.  Moreover, unlike similar reports released by other dioceses, the names of the clergy who were found to have committed these crimes were not included. SNAP is appalled at this blatant lack of concern for survivors, the faithful, and the public which is shown by this omission. The lists released by other dioceses and religious orders, particularly those that are easy to find and access, provide a simple method for people to check to see if a cleric has been accused, and if the accusation has been deemed "credible" by the diocese. Contrary to Bishop McManus' suggestion, it would be next to impossible for most victims to know where to look for this information on his website. The simple act of "official" validation a list provides can be extremely healing for victims. It may also give answers to family members who lost someone to suicide or drug addiction. In addition, a list provides the means to check for missing names. Survivors or the relatives of victims will easily know if they need to make a report to the Diocese, thereby increasing information about the true extent of abuse. Finally, if a cleric is too dangerous to work in a parish or school, then he is also too dangerous to have living among unsuspecting neighbors. Lists provide a warning for the general public as well.        

Survivors and Advocates in DRC call for Zero Tolerance for Clergy Sex Abuse

  MEDIA ALERT (page 4 en français) [For Immediate Release, January 25, 2023; http://bit.ly/3vSuVnq ]   Current Clergy Sex Abuse Cases in DRC Exposed   Historic Press Conference to be held on Eve of Pope’s visit to the DRC on Clergy Sex Abuse   Clergy sex abuse victims in Kinshasa call on Pope to help   Survivors and Advocates in DRC call for Zero Tolerance for Clergy Sex Abuse   For the first time in Africa, international activists will join with Congolese survivors and advocates in a press conference to highlight the failure of the Catholic Church to protect survivors and whistleblowers.    Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo the week of January 31 to February 3, 2023. On Monday January 30, survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their advocates from the Congo, U.S. and Europe will be in Kinshasa to hold a press conference in order to:   Share information regarding a current case of clergy sex abuse and cover-up in the DRC, including details on how the victim and her family have been silenced and the harm done to her advocates.  The victim and a witness are scheduled to testify by Zoom during the press conference. Expose corruption within the DRC judicial system that has benefitted church officials and perpetrators at the expense of the abused;  Insist Pope Francis enforce his recently enacted "apostolic letter"  by immediately removing and sanctioning abusive priests and their bishop enablers to send an important message to the continent of Africa that there is zero tolerance for clergy sex abuse and coverup.   Press conference details:  WHEN: Monday January 30, 2 PM, West Africa Standard Time (and CET/Paris); 1PM London,  8AM US Eastern Time (New York),  5AM US Pacific Time (Los Angeles). Midnight, Sydney Time.   WHERE: Hotel Leon, 41 avenue Luambo Makiadi, Gombe, Kinshasa (“Délices” room) HOW:  In person and by Zoom (open to all) , link to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Bj731M10TXqUVi2EK2IfkA  (contact Marc Artzrouni (address below) for any question).    WHO:    Tim Law Founding/Board Member, ECA [email protected],    Tel: +1-206-412-0165   Denise Buchanan Survivor, Founding/Board Member, ECA [email protected], Tel: +1-310-980-2770 Benjamin Kitobo  Survivor, Founding Member, ECA [email protected], Tel: +1-314-482-0861 Come Musuluku Victims’ lawyer, President, COME, Kinshasa [email protected],  Tel: +243-817779450 Marc Artzrouni (Zoom) SNAP Europe Representative [email protected],  Tel: + 33 - 6 95 73 65 92 LANGUAGE: French with interpretation in English    MORE INFO: In July 2022, the Washington Post published an extensive exposé  of an ongoing case in the DRC of clergy rape of a 14yr-old girl and the retaliation against whistleblowing nuns and a priest. The article shows how Catholic Church officials worked together in violation of recently enacted Church law to protect the accused rapist at the expense of his young victim and of the whistleblowers who are now in hiding in a nearby country in fear of their safety.   BIOS: Tim Law is the co-founder of Ending Clergy Abuse and an attorney in Seattle, Washington, USA. He is a Catholic, and in 2014, he became active at the local level to confront his archdiocese on the issue of clergy abuse. In 2015, he met Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, and was introduced to the national and international dimensions of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church. In 2017, Barbara Blaine, Tim and others conceived what became ECA in Geneva, Switzerland in 2018. ECA is an international association of survivors and advocates from 20+ countries and 6 continents whose mission is to compel the Vatican/Roman Catholic Church to protect children from clergy abuse and to promote justice for survivors. ECA played an important role in Rome at the 2019 Pope’s Summit on Clergy Abuse coordinating the voices of the international survivor/activists before the bishops and the world press promoting Zero Tolerance as an universal law of the Church.   Denise Buchanan Denise Buchanan who is a Jamaican survivor of clergy sexual abuse, is a founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse and a board member.  She is a Psychoneurologist, University Professor, Child Protection Advocate, Sacred Garden Designer, International Speaker and Author. Denise has presented her case before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture and was one of a few individuals who met with the Pope’s top Cardinals on the Clergy Sexual Abuse Issue. She is also the co-founder of the Get Business Smart Foundation in Jamaica which was created to train young people to develop a holistic approach to life through integrating mind-body-spirit.   Benjamin Kitobo was born and raised in Likasi, Zaire (now, the DRC). In 1980, at age 13, he began attending the minor seminary in the diocese of Kolwezi, with the hope of becoming a priest. He was raped and sexually assaulted there for four years by his teacher, Fr. Omer Verbeke, a Belgian missionary. In the 1990s, Kitobo emigrated to the USA and became a nurse. In 2002, he discovered that Verbeke, who had been sent back to Belgium, was still working with children. Kitobo filed a lawsuit, the priest admitted to the abuse, and the Belgian diocese of Ghent paid Kitobo a settlement of $25,000. Kitobo lives today with his wife and family in  St. Louis, Missouri.   Come Musuluku is a lawyer in Kinshasa, who defends victims of sexual violence and their families in the DRC.  He is the founder of "Club des Orateurs Majeurs Excellentissimes" ("Club of Major and Outstanding Orators"). COME is a newly established Congolese NGO whose goal is to provide legal and other assistance to victims of sexual abuse regardless of the setting: family, civil society, churches, etc.  Musuluku is working  with  ECA and SNAP  to bring up with the UN Human Rights Commission the case of victims of sexual abuse in the DRC.   Marc Artzrouni is SNAP’s Europe Representative,  based in France. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is the largest, oldest and most active US support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others). Marc is a French-American university professor emeritus who works closely with French and Swiss survivors organizations. He is particularly interested in improving the flow of information between such associations in Europe and those in America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. 

Survivors and Advocates urge others to step forward as New California law has opened a window to justice for those sexually assaulted as adults

    Media Advisory (For Immediate Release January 25, 2023)      New California law has opened a window to justice for those sexually assaulted as adults Survivors and advocates will gather at the State Capitol today to call attention to AB 2777 Whether the abuse occurred in a religious institution or elsewhere, SNAP urges victims to take advantage of this opportunity WHAT: At a sidewalk news conference, abuse survivors and advocates who are part of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, will gather to draw public attention to The Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act (Assembly Bill 2777), which went into effect on January 1st. SNAP will urge those who were the victims of sexual assault as adults to consider filing civil lawsuits for damages against those who abused them and the institutions that covered up for the perpetrators. WHEN: January 26, 2023, at 1 PM WHERE: California State Capitol, 1315 10th St (between L and N Streets), Sacramento. We will gather on the lawn to the left of the steps.

'Victims back reform bill & seek predators' names'

(For Immediate Release January 19, 2023)    Victims back reform bill & seek predators' names They blast ex-Kansas AG for 'weak, vague' report Group files "Open Records Act" request to publicly ID abusers Survivors want more time to 'seek justice & expose molesters.’   WHAT Holding signs at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will ask the Kansas attorney general to protect kids by: --publicly naming dozens of unknown child molesting clerics recently investigated by the KBI, and--releasing the full abuse report, not just a 21-page summary. They will also give out copies of an Open Records Act request they're sending to the new AG to learn the identities of those 'who committed or concealed child sex crimes' and blast his predecessor for issuing a "weak, vague and short abuse report" that "protects wrongdoers, not children." WHEN Friday, Jan. 20 at 1:15 p.m. WHERE On the sidewalk outside the Johnson County Courthouse on Santa Fe Street (north of the administration building and west of city hall) in Olathe Kansas WHO One-two Kansas state legislators, a former Kansas cleric, a Kansas abuse survivor who testified before a panel in Topeka, and three-four abuse survivors (some who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) WHY 1) Earlier this month, then-AG Derek Schmidt refused to publicly name even one proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesting Catholic cleric when he released what SNAP calls a "short, weak and vague" report into the church's ongoing abuse crisis. (Other state AGs across the country have done far more thorough reports and disclosed names of abusers.) SNAP is asking Schmidt's successor Kris Kobach to voluntarily reveal the names of dozens of Kansas Catholic clergy who have perpetrated, ignored, or hid child sex crimes and release a longer, more detailed report that 'will deter other institutions from similar cover-ups.'And the group is filing a formal Open Records Act request for the names. 2) The victims strongly support a measure, now pending in the Kansas legislature, that would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to "expose those who commit or conceal crimes against kids" in civil courts. It is sponsored by Sen. Cindy Holscher (D-Overland Park) and Rep. Bob Lewis (R-Garden City) and relaxes the state's "archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly" statute of limitations, SNAP says, which both "helps protect vulnerable children and heal wounded adults." CONTACT: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, [email protected], Tom White  913 927 2859, [email protected] (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)  

SNAP Virtual Mini Conferences

These virtual mini conferences are free to all and will feature opportunities for survivors and advocates to learn about topics like healing, advocacy, and self-care from a variety of different speakers throughout the year. Our next mini conference will be on October 8, 2022 and will feature Kathryn Robb of CHILD USAdvocacy and Mark Crawford of SNAP New Jersey.

We are especially grateful to the Ribera Law Firm of San Francisco, California for being a Gold-level Sponsor for our mini-conferences. Their support is critical to our ability to hold these free events and we are grateful to them for their support. Learn more about the Ribera Law Firm here.

 

Additionally, SNAP is very grateful for the generous support of our 2022 mini conferences that has been provided through a grant from Oak Foundation Children First Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation.

 

Take Action and Stop Child Sexual Abuse

If you see child sexual abuse, or have a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse or your child has been sexually abused, call 911 or your local police immediately. 

If you suspect abuse, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or visit the Child Help Hotline. Trained crisis operators staff the lines 24/7 to answer your questions. If necessary, they will show you how to report in your local area.

Child pornography is a federal crime. If you see or suspect images that may be child pornography, report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTip Line

 

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