News Story of the Day

Amy Coney Barrett urged to step away from gay rights case because of faith affiliation

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The US supreme court justice’s history with the People of Praise raises questions about her impartiality in upcoming case

Former members of Amy Coney Barrett’s secretive faith group, the People of Praise, are calling on the US supreme court justice to recuse herself from an upcoming case involving gay rights, saying Barrett’s continued affiliation with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

The former members are part of a network of “survivors” of the controversial charismatic group who say Barrett’s “lifelong and continued” membership in the People of Praise make her too biased to fairly adjudicate an upcoming case that will decide whether private business owners have a right to decline services to potential clients based on their sexual orientation.


New lawsuits filed against Hanna Boys Center as CA clergy sexual abuse law deadline approaches

ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Saturday, November 19, 2022 11:24AM

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- More than a dozen new lawsuits have been filed against Hanna Boys Center of Sonoma by men who say they were abused by Catholic priests and staff there when they were children. We've been speaking to survivors, former staff, and officials now running the residential treatment center.

A state law that allows survivors of clergy sexual abuse to file lawsuits -- no matter how long ago it happened -- expires at the end of next month. As a result, there has been a rush of new complaints.

No question, Hanna Boys Center has done some good over the years, helping kids struggling with school or family life.

Paul Keschke reported in 1998, "The boys who range in age from 9 to 17 are treated firmly, but with respect."

VIDEO: Survivor of priest sex abuse speaks out as new CA law leads to many lawsuits

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A survivor of Camp St. Michael speaks to I-Team's Dan Noyes as California law now allows victims to sue priests for sex abuse, even decades later.

ABC7 News has covered the residential treatment center run by the Catholic Church, including a report from 1998 featuring Hanna's director at the time, Father John Crews, who said, "I tell the guys 'You're not a man yet, but you're gonna be.'"

But, the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa just paid a large settlement to a man who says Father Crews and Hanna Boys Center staff sexually assaulted him over the course of three years, starting when he was 11. David Love tells the I-Team he still struggles with the memories: "I was in town and someone that looked like Father Crews was standing in line. I wet myself, and I couldn't move, and I left."

In 25 years of covering the clergy abuse crisis, I-Team has never heard an account of such horrific, depraved abuse. Love says to this day, he can't sleep because his attackers often came at night.

MORE: Report names 263 Catholic clergy accused of sexual misconduct in Bay Area

"You don't know what the nightmares are like waking up, not knowing where you're at. Thinking you're back there. I go through this every night, Dan. Every night," he said.


Widow says she was groped by Catholic priest during grief counseling session

NBC NEWS
The Honduran exile also claims in a federal lawsuit that the Diocese of Knoxville tried to protect the priest by tarring her reputation.
Nov. 16, 2022, 3:37 PM EST

A Honduran asylum-seeker living in Tennessee alleges in a federal lawsuit that the Diocese of Knoxville tried to sabotage a police investigation after she accused a priest of groping her during a grief counseling session following her husband’s death. 

Identified in court papers as Jane Doe, the mother of three alleges in the lawsuit filed on Nov. 10  that the diocese “obstructed law enforcement” and tried to intimidate her into “abandoning her cooperation with the criminal prosecution” of the Rev. Antony Devassey Punnackal.

The lawsuit also states that Punnackal hired a private investigator to dig up the widow’s employment records, and she became a pariah in the Hispanic community of Gatlinburg after “agents” of the diocese began spreading false rumors about her.

“The complaint speaks for itself,” the widow’s lawyer, Andrew Fels, told NBC News, when asked to elaborate. He is seeking $5 million in damages for his client. 

Punnackal, who was the pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Gatlinburg, was indicted in January by a Sevier County grand jury on two counts of sexual battery against the Honduran woman. That case is ongoing.

Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
St. Mary's Catholic Church in Gatlinburg, Tenn.Google

His lawyer, Travis McCarter, said in an email that Punnackal “maintains his innocence, as he has from the beginning of this process.”

“The Plaintiff’s Complaint is riddled with misrepresentations as to the character and conduct of Father Punnackal that we look forward to challenging in open court,” McCarter said. 

In an earlier interview with Knox News, McCarter’s associate, Michael Green, said that “we’ve found nothing to suggest the diocese interfered with the investigation.”

“The diocese was made aware of the filing Monday morning,” diocesan spokesman Jim Wogan said in an email to NBC News. “We have always maintained that the proper way to address the claims is through the courts, which we will do. We trust the process and will not comment while this case is being litigated.”

As for Punnackal, Wogan said the priest was “taken out of active ministry in the diocese on Jan. 6, 2022.”

This is not the first time that the Diocese of Knoxville, led by Bishop Rick Stika, has been accused of trying to cover up alleged sex misconduct by a priest. In February, a former church organist claimed in an ongoing lawsuit that he was raped by a seminarian in 2019 and that Stika and his allies in the diocese tried to intimidate the accuser “into silence.”

Richard Stika, bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 8, 2019.
Bishop Richard Stika at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 8, 2019.Calvin Mattheis / USA Today Network

“Bishop Stika was notified of the filing,” Wogan said in February. “The diocese expects the process to be fair and thorough and looks forward to the opportunity to vigorously defend itself if this matter moves forward.”

The Knoxville bishop is not named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Tennessee, but the diocese is and so is the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the religious congregation to which Punnackal belongs. 

Stika has not commented on the allegations and attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful. The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stika’s alleged abuse of his authority has sparked a rebellion by some members of his flock and drawn criticism from prominent lay Roman Catholics like Jeannie Gaffigan, a comedy writer best known for producing the shows of her husband, the comedian Jim Gaffigan. She also co-hosts a podcast called “Field Hospital” that has been examining the wider Catholic priest sex abuse scandal.


New allegations in Agape lawsuits include sexual abuse, ‘pandemic’ of suicide attempts

New allegations in Agape lawsuits include sexual abuse, ‘pandemic’ of suicide attempts

STOCKTON (MO)
Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

November 15, 2022

By Judy L. Thomas and Laura Bauer

 

New court filings reveal some of the most brutal allegations of abuse at Agape Boarding School so far, including one former student’s account that two staffers sexually assaulted him.

Those details were outlined in motions filed Monday in 19 civil lawsuits requesting that the Cedar County judge overseeing those cases allow attorneys to seek punitive damages. The new allegations cover a period from 2007 to 2021 with many — including the sexual assault claim — from the past three years.

Changes to Missouri law in 2020 require attorneys to file an amended petition if they are seeking punitive damages on behalf of their clients. The law also allows the filing of an amended petition if new information arises that was overlooked or unknown at the time the case started.

In a separate case, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office filed an injunction in September to close the school, saying current students’ safety was in jeopardy. The case has been tied up in court ever since.

The new motion in the civil lawsuits contains seven pages of detailed allegations that describe broken noses, attempted suicides that were a “pandemic among students,” and intense physical assaults that resulted in outside medical treatment.

A former student, identified as M.N., was at the school from 2017 to 2019 and alleged that a staff member punched him in the testicles and he “had to be taken to the hospital where he underwent an ultrasound, and it was determined that he suffered a traumatic groin injury.”

Some alleged the abuse began during their transport to the Christian school near Stockton, Missouri, or soon after their arrival. One said he was groped during his intake process, and others described excruciating physical restraints that left them with bruises and damaged nerves.

“These are aggravating circumstances that Plaintiff should be permitted to introduce to the jury at trial so they can decide if punitive damages are appropriate in this case,” the motion for leave said in the lawsuit regarding R.B., a student at Agape from 2007 to 2012. “Plaintiff has clearly carried his burden.”

That lawsuit is among the 19.

Robert Bucklin, 28, who is identified in the motion and lawsuit as R.B. but has gone public in the past year with his identity, declined to comment Tuesday. The motion describes him being “strangled” by a staff member with the cord of a hair trimmer until he nearly lost consciousness. He also alleges he attempted suicide 15 to 20 times during his nearly six years at the school and drank chemicals to do so.

Ryan Frazier, whose law firm is representing Bucklin and the other 18 former students, said Agape “misled parents to believe that it is a school with a heart, a place that can get rebellious boys back on track, with love and care.”

“However, many former students of Agape Boarding School tell a different story,” Frazier said. “These individuals were mentally and physically abused under the disguise of discipline, some reporting they experienced sexual abuse as well.”

The lawsuits, Frazier said, were filed to allow former students to “pursue justice for the trauma they endured and to give them an opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Agape attorney John Schultz said the school has provided more than 6,000 boys over three decades an opportunity to “get their life back on track and toward a bright future.”

“We are disappointed to learn of the sensational allegations that some of our former boys are making now …,” Schultz said in a comment Tuesday, which he also provided for an earlier story. “We have read many specific allegations that we know could not have happened given the 24/7 supervision that extends to the sleeping quarter, shower bays, classroom, dining hall and all outdoor activities.

“We intend to file a response, denying the allegations and look forward to a trial where evidence can be presented to refute these allegations.”

After M.N., who said he was punched in the testicles, returned home for a brief time in May 2018, he was transported back to the school. He said he was picked up in the middle of the night by Robert Graves and former dean of students Brent Jackson, the motion said. Graves, a former Agape student himself, is the son-in-law of the late Agape founder James Clemensen and until recently was a Cedar County Sheriff’s deputy.

The boy testified in a deposition that Graves and Jackson came into his room and woke him up. Parents often pay a transport company to pick up and deliver their children to boarding schools like Agape.

M.N. begged them not to take him back to Agape, the motion said. When the boy yelled for help, he said Jackson grabbed him, punched him in the stomach and then slammed him to the ground.

“Graves then put M.N. in handcuffs and dragged him outside to their car,” the motion said. “M.N. recalls uncontrollably vomiting in the car from the trauma.”

The former deputy was mentioned in the motion several times. One of those times was regarding an incident with a student identified as C.M. who within two weeks of arriving tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom, according to the motion.

C.M. was at the school in 2017 and 2018.

Graves “grabbed C.M. by the collar and drug him across the floor into the intake room and told C.M. that if he ever tried to commit suicide again while at Agape, Graves would ‘put him in hell himself,’” the motion said.

The documents name numerous other Agape staff members, three of whom are among the five currently charged in Cedar County with physically abusing students. Those men — Seth Duncan, Agape medical coordinator Scott Dumar and Trent Hartman — all have pleaded not guilty and have court hearings on those felonies scheduled next month.

Duncan and Dumar, along with staffer Dan Goldsmith — a former corrections officer in Pennsylvania — and Bryan Clemensen, Agape director and son of its late founder, have been found by the state Department of Social Services to have abused or neglected students, according to the court motion. All except Duncan still work at the Christian boarding school while they appeal the findings.

A former student identified as W.H. attended the school from 2019 to 2020, according to the motion. He said he was physically restrained on multiple occasions and later sought treatment for injuries sustained in those incidents.

“Before and during the restraints initiated by Duncan, W.H. was in control, and not a threat of harm to himself or others,” the motion said. “Rather, W.H. testified that Duncan initiated the restraint, for example, because W.H. stopped doing workouts because he was having trouble breathing.”

The motion also describes another incident involving the former student and two other staff members.

“W.H. was also escorted alone from the shower bay to the gym where he was isolated, pinned down, and restrained by staff,” it said. “During the restraint, W.H. testified that his shorts were pulled to his knees and he (said) something was forced up his anus by the staff, causing him to pass out.”

In June 2021, The Star reported allegations by two former students who said they were gang raped by staff at Agape in 2009 and 2010. The two men were not at the school at the same time and did not know each other. Both said they were sexually assaulted by five staff members, with one staffer named in both alleged attacks. He still works at the school.

The recent sexual assault allegation by W.H. described a similar assault by two staffers. One of those two staffers who W.H. said attacked him also was identified in the 2010 gang rape allegation. The Star reached out to that staff member last year and received no response.

The new motion said Agape’s Ministry Staff handbook “expressly prohibits” any child abuse or neglect at any time. That includes physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse, medical neglect, mental abuse, bizarre discipline and corporal punishment, the motion said. “

Agape admits that the only circumstances under which a student should be physically touched or restrained by staff is ‘where it is reasonably necessary to prevent an individual from physically harming himself or another individual,’” the filing said.

According to the motion, Goldsmith said that Agape staff began “physically restraining students with handcuffs based on the loose advice/recommendation of a Cedar County Sheriff’s deputy and the direction of Bryan Clemensen.” Goldsmith said that he keeps a pair of handcuffs at his house and “has personally handcuffed Agape students on more than one occasion and for continuous days.”

The motion said Goldsmith still works at Agape.


The rebel priest standing up to the Catholic Church

For 62 years, Peter Murnane has been a Dominican priest.

He remained so through the storm after he poured blood on the floor of the US Consul’s office. When he provided a safe house for the asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui. When he broke into the Waihopai spy base, was prosecuted and acquitted. Even when he gave a sermon explaining why he thought Australia’s top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, was not a good bloke.

Only now, at 82 years old, have the Dominicans seemingly had enough of their rebel priest after Murnane refused instructions to pulp his new book, Clerical Errors, which clinically examines the Catholic Church’s dismal sexual abuse record, lays out a long treatise on Pell and argues the entire church should be dismantled.


‘Slap in the face.’ Sex abuse victims outraged over priest’s return to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY (MO)
Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

October 5, 2022

By Judy L. Thomas

Read original article

 

[Photo above: Ed Gavagan, Michael Sandridge and Dan Laurine in a scene from Procession, a documentary that follows six men, all survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests and clergy, who come together to direct a drama therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma – Courtesy of Netflix]

A former Kansas City priest and retired Wyoming bishop whose numerous sexual abuse allegations were dismissed by the Vatican but deemed credible by two current U.S. bishops is moving back to the metro area.

Joseph Hart, who left Kansas City more than four decades ago to become Bishop of Cheyenne, will be residing in a senior living facility, The Star has learned. Hart, who turned 91 last month, has a brother — also a priest — who lives in Kansas City.

One of Hart’s victims told The Star that he was contacted last week by Bishop…


SNAP Shares Letter to Archbishop Cordileone and list of 312 accused clergymen, brothers and laity with connections to the Archdiocese of San Francisco

September 29, 2022

SNAP Communication Manager- Mike McDonnell

SNAP's researched list of accused-

***Click here to view the list of 312 clergymen, brothers, and laity accused of abuse and who have a connection to the Archdiocese of San Francisco***

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, will be hand delivering a letter to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, again urging him to release a list of those accused of sexual abuse in his archdiocese -- including those names still concealed in the Archdioceses' secret archives -- as most of his peers have done. At the same time, the gathered survivors and advocates will hand him their own list of 312 clergymen, brothers, and laity who have been publicly accused of abuse and who have a connection to the Archdiocese.  

Archbishop Cordileone never responded to earlier suggestions from the survivors' group for him to release his own list. For example, in early 2021, SNAP wrote concerning the lack of a San Francisco list, "Archbishop Cordileone has affirmed that victims need compassion and that the San Francisco Archdiocese stands willing to help them, but he has consistently refused to take this simple step that will both help survivors and their families heal as well as keep today's children safe."

SNAP did extensive research to identify the 312 perpetrators on their list through information from media reports, civil lawsuits, criminal proceedings, and the Catholic Church itself. This task could have been completed with greater ease and with more detail by Archdiocesan officials. However, while the Dallas Charter promised the faithful openness and transparency, the survivors' group maintains that it has seen little of either from the Archdiocese, which is why they embarked on this project.

SNAP hopes that their list of accused will spur Archbishop Cordileone to release his own list. The group also hopes that the Archdiocesan effort will include work histories and photos of the accused, as well as details on when each and every allegation was received and what actions Church officials took in response. SNAP believes that such a list would truly be a step towards openness and transparency.

But whether or not the Archbishop finally takes action, SNAP wants survivors of abuse in the Archdiocese to find comfort in their list, and perhaps even be inspired to come forward and report their own assaults directly to law enforcement.

At the press conference, the survivors and advocates will also address why these lists are important to survivor healing and public safety, the closing California civil window for child sex abuse victims, the California civil window opening in 2023 for survivors of abuse as adults, as well as sharing the insights discerned through the development of their own list. In addition, SNAP will have a Catholic whistle-blower priest who was recently defrocked for supporting survivors to address those gathered.

CONTACT:  Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California ([email protected], 925-262-3699), Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

                                                                                              ###


Bill eliminating statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil suits heads to Biden’s desk

POLITICS FROM THE HILL 

Posted: Sep 13, 2022 / 03:54 PM PDT

Updated: Sep 13, 2022 / 11:51 PM PDT

Read original story here-

The House on Tuesday passed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse who seek to file civil claims, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk for final approval.

The chamber cleared the bill, titled the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, by voice vote, a strategy reserved for non-controversial, popular measures. The Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent in March.

The measure calls for removing the statute of limitations for minors filing civil claims relating to a number of sex abuse crimes, including force labor, sex trafficking, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

Under current law, minors who experience sexual abuse are able to file federal civil claims until they turn 28 years old, or until 10 years after the violation or injury is discovered. The bill Congress passed seeks to eliminate those time restraints.

There is no statute of limitations in place for criminal offenses involving child sex abuse.

During debate on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said survivors of child sex abuse often delay reporting their situations, which could put them at risk of not seeking damages because of the statute of limitations.

“Also common is delayed disclosure, with the tendency of survivors of child sexual abuse to wait many years before disclosing abuse to others,” Nadler said. “This is because survivors of sexual abuse often take a long time to process their trauma and many survivors who were abused as a child may not even recognize the abuse they suffered until much later in life.”

“Unfortunately, because survivors of child sexual abuse often delay reporting, any statute of limitations may prevent survivors accessing justice and seeking damages in civil court,” he added.

The New York Democrat argued that statutes of limitations in place for civil claims of child sex abuse “can serve to protect abusers and enable them to continue to exploit their power by allowing victims’ claims to expire.”

“This bill will enable survivors who are victims of federal child sex abuse offenses, including aggravated sexual abuse, sex trafficking, human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation, to seek civil damages in federal court regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the abuse,” he added.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on the House floor Tuesday said the bill “would allow victims of human trafficking or sex offenses to seek civil remedies regardless of when the crime took place.”


Abuse survivors say, Providence Diocese hasn’t done enough

PROVIDENCE (RI)
Boston Globe

September 8, 2022

By Amanda Mikovits

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[Photo above: Claude Leboeuf, left, and Dr. Ann Hagan Webb speak candidly with Globe Rhode Island’s Amanda Milkovits on the Rhode Island Report podcast this week, about their own experiences with abuse, its impact on their lives, and what helps survivors heal. – Carlos Muñoz]

On this week’s Rhode Island Report podcast, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb and Claude Leboeuf talk about starting the first support group in Rhode Island for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Since 2019, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has published a list of clergy who’ve been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, and says it encourages victims to come forward.

The two leaders of a new support group for abuse survivors in Rhode Island say the diocese hasn’t done enough. Some parts of this discussion may be upsetting for some listeners:

“No. The simple answer is, no,” Dr. Ann Hagan…

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Families of clergy abuse victims’ new legal precedent paves way for litigation

Families of clergy abuse victims’ new legal precedent paves way for litigation

(AUSTRALIA)
Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

August 26, 2022

By Laura Mayers

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[Photo above: Ballarat lawyer Ingrid Irwin attends a rally outside Victorian Parliament earlier this year. Supplied: Twitter]

A Supreme Court ruling in relation to a lawsuit levelled against the Catholic Church has been heralded as a potential new precedent for loved ones of alleged victims of clergy abuse.

Key points:

  • Court this week ruled the Catholic Church cannot use “Ellis defence” in a Melbourne lawsuit
  • The Catholic Archdiocese has acknowledged the ruling as the lawsuit proceeds
  • Lawyers across the state say it will “pave the way” for a legal precedent

The court this week ruled the Catholic Church could not use a legal argument pertaining to the so-called Ellis defence.

The defence was named for choirboy John Ellis and prevented abuse survivors from suing unincorporated organisations such as the church.

The ruling came after a lawsuit levelled at the Church and Cardinal George Pell by a father of one of Pell’s accusers, who…


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