News Story of the Day

EXCLUSIVE: Sex offender allowed to help lead CLE Catholic church masses; News 5 Investigation leads to change

Photo by: source: St. Thomas More, Brooklyn, OH

By: Jonathan Walsh

May 09, 2024

Offender was part of service lead by Bishop Malesic

CLEVELAND — Groups that assist sexual abuse victims are outraged that the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland allows a convicted sex offender to help lead masses for months. The advocacy groups question how this can happen in light of the church’s documented history with pedophile priests.

“I will praise you Lord,” could be heard in song on video of a mass from April 28 of this year. It was the voice of Keith Kozak, 44, from Brooklyn. News 5 Investigators found he has been on the alter at St. Thomas More Church, leading the congregation in prayer and song. “I shall not die but live...,” he sang during a mass there on April 21.


“I thought that this had to be a mistake. There’s no way. There just couldn’t be any way,” said Claudia Vercellotti from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. She told us she doesn’t have an issue with Kodak’s right to worship, but Kozak has been doing this for a while now. “Week after week, normalizing a convicted sex offender…” said Vercellotti. “Normalizing him as a church leader.”

‘It wasn’t a big deal’: secret deposition reveals how a child molester priest was shielded by his church

A black and white photo of a priest

Ramon Antonio Vargas in New Orleans and David Hammer of WWL Louisiana

Thu 9 May 2024

Lawrence Hecker pleaded the fifth 117 times as he detailed how the Catholic church protected him for more than two decades after he admitted to molesting children

Longtime New Orleans Catholic priest Lawrence Hecker received a special honor from the Vatican nearly 25 years ago despite having confessed to molesting children. Then, for another two decades, church leaders in the city strategically shielded him from law enforcement and media exposure – while also providing him with financial support ranging from paid limousine rides and therapeutic massages to full retirement benefits, according to his own, previously unreported testimony.

A sworn deposition Hecker gave in private in 2020 shows exactly how high-placed Catholic church officials in New Orleans let him keep his elevated position for years, even after they had been advised to oust him from the clergy and – much later – publicly acknowledged that he was a child predator.

“It wasn’t a big deal in those days,” Hecker said at the deposition about how his archdiocese coddled him despite his acknowledged abuse of children.

The scale of the cover-up shocks the conscience. As Hecker walked into New Orleans’ historic St Louis Cathedral in early January 2000 to receive the honorary, Vatican-bestowed title of monsignor, he had already confessed to molesting children he met through his ministry.

Candidate for SBC president stirs a storm by saying sexual abuse cases are a ‘distraction’

Mark Wingfield | May 7, 2024

In a six-man race for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency, one candidate made headlines over the weekend for his stance on the 42 sexual abuse lawsuits reportedly pending against the denomination.

Critics pounced when David Allen, a seminary preaching professor, called those lawsuits a “distraction” from the gospel imperative.

This set off a chain of social media posts, mainly on X, with Allen’s supporters and critics parsing what he did or didn’t say.

Sexual abuse survivor advocate Tiffany Thigpen shot back on X: “Actually, we ARE distractions because unlike you all, we refused to sit in the pit of despair. We believe in God’s justice and mercy We are reaching back despite our suffering to keep it from happening to others We ARE ministry. We ARE distracting the show. THAT is your problem.”

Clergy sexual abuse survivor David Pittman tweeted: “Thank you for exposing your heart by referring to us as distractions.”

Dallas Diocese priest arrested for indecency with a child

Credit: Garland Police Department

Ricardo Reyes Mata, 34, was arrested Monday by Garland police. 

2:20 PM CDT May 7, 2024


GARLAND, Texas — Garland police arrested a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on two felony counts of indecency with a child, police said in a release Tuesday. 

Ricardo Reyes Mata, who is also a Dallas resident, was arrested based on reports of inappropriate contact with juvenile victims at a residence in Garland. Garland detectives are communicating with the Diocese of Dallas about the case.

Why Is Pope Protecting a Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse and Using His Crude Art at the Vatican?

Catholics erupted with indignation after Rupnik’s artwork, printed on the cover of the Book of the Gospels, was held aloft in procession at the installation of US papal nuncio Cardinal Christoph Pierre to his titular church of St. Benedict Outside St. Paul's Gate, Rome, on April 21. Michael Haynes via X

Marko Rupnik is credibly accused of molesting 25 nuns, some in blasphemous occult rituals.

By Jules Gomes Published on May 1, 2024

Editor’s Note: This story contains sexually graphic information and descriptions of shocking blasphemies.

Pope Francis is facing an avalanche of pressure to defrock Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, a celebrity priest and personal friend of the pope, after the ex-Jesuit’s artwork was prominently displayed at a Mass for the installation of the papal ambassador to the US on April 21.

Rupnik, a world-famous mosaic artist, has been credibly accused of sexually, physically, emotionally, and psychologically abusing at least 25 nuns — sometimes in groups, and sometimes forcing them to drink his bodily fluids from a consecrated chalice.

While global outrage over the allegations forced Francis last October to lift the statute of limitations preventing Rupnik from facing a church trial, the Vatican has thus far failed to reveal if it has begun judicial procedures against him.

After 20 years, North Jersey memorial to clergy abuse victims still stirs strong emotions

A Millstone memorial to victims of church sex abuse outside St. Joseph Church in Mendham, the 400-pound memorial honors victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including victims at the parish itself. July 26, 2018. Mendham, NJ Bob Karp/Staff Photographer

By William Westhoven, Morristown Daily Record

April 29, 2024

Twenty years ago this month, what's thought to be the nation's first memorial to victims of clergy sexual abuse was unveiled at a church in a quiet corner of Morris County.

Today, two of the men who achieved that milestone at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Mendham are still challenging church leaders to acknowledge that "a lot of work still needs to be done."

"They still don't get it," said Monsignor Kenneth Lasch of his fellow clergy.

Lasch, now retired, was pastor at St. Joseph's in 1994 when victims of long-rumored sexual abuse at the church finally went public.

After the first of those survivors, Mark Serrano, came forward, "my life changed forever at that point," Lasch said in an interview, as the U.S. marked National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

A local tragedy gained national attention

Serrano would later became a national advocate for clergy abuse victims through the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). He took his story to the New York Times in 2002. The resulting front-page article brought national attention to a shocking local scandal.

More victims would soon come forward, including William Crane Jr., who with his twin brother was abused by clergy both at St. Joseph's and the nearby Delbarton School, where he lived on campus while his father served as assistant headmaster.

A priest at St. Joseph's, the Rev. James Hanley, was eventually defrocked after admitting he molested at least a dozen children and claiming Crane was the last.

Exclusive: US archdiocese must submit clergy-abuse documents to police

The Guardian

By: in New Orleans and David Hammer of WWL Louisiana

Date: April 24, 2024

In criminal investigation, New Orleans judge demands paper trail from archbishop Gregory Aymond all the way to the Vatican

The criminal investigation into child sexual abuse in New Orleans’ Roman Catholic archdiocese has entered a major new phase, after a judge ordered the church to turn over records to Louisiana state police showing how it responded to abuse allegations over the last several decades.

The order signed on Monday seeks files that would identify every priest and deacon accused of abusing children while working in the US’s second-oldest archdiocese; when those complaints were first made; and whether the church turned those cases over to police, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Significantly, police are also demanding copies of all communications among New Orleans’ current archbishop, Gregory Aymond, his aides and their superiors at the Vatican, those sources said.

Advocates call for change after sexual misconduct allegations made against two Valley priests

By: Sarah Cervera, Channel 5, Rio Grande Valley, Texas

April 23, 2024 10:34 AM

Half a dozen advocates gathered in front of the San Juan Basilica on Monday to call for change.

As Channel 5 News has reported, in the last two months, two Catholic priests were accused of sexual misconduct.

"We wanted to give voice to the survivors that are here and make sure people understand why it's so hard for them to come forward," Patricia Koo said.

Koo is the SNAP San Antonio Chapter Leader. SNAP stands for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Cameron County DA’s office investigating McAllen priest accused of sexual misconduct

By Mark Reagan

Posted: April 20, 2024

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into a McAllen priest who resigned after the Diocese of Brownsville on April 3 issued a statement that it had received an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor against the priest.

In a Friday afternoon statement, the DA’s office said that on April 4, another person contacted that office and also raised an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor against Monsignor Gustavo Barrera.

“The allegation is under investigation by the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office,” the statement reads.

This is the DA’s office’s first public comment on the allegations against Barrera, who formerly served at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in McAllen.

Catholic Church in Kalamazoo releases list of people no longer allowed to work with children

By: Zac Harmon

Posted: April 18, 2024

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo is working on sweeping changes to its policy to protect children and youth with the first action being made Thursday, in the middle of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Bishop Edward Lohse announced a list of people being removed from eligibility of working with children in the catholic churches in the diocese. The people named in the list were accused of a number of different violations, including breaking the child-protection policy, failing to report allegations of abuse of minors, failing to prevent abuse they knew was happening, providing pornography to children, possession of child pornography, physical abuse of children, and sexually assaulting a child.

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