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Alleged victims of Malka Leifer give evidence in Melbourne court

Hearing for the accused child abuser will determine whether there is enough evidence against her for a trial to proceed in a higher court


The alleged victims of accused child abuser Malka Leifer have started to give evidence against her in her committal hearing in a Melbourne court.

Leifer, the 55-year-old former principal of a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls school, is charged with 74 offences against three sisters between 2004 and 2008.

On Monday, she appeared before the Melbourne magistrates court via video link from custody for the first day of her committal hearing. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence against her for a trial to occur in a higher court.

Israeli minister orders extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia
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The court was closed for most of the day while the first of her three alleged victims gave evidence. The alleged victims, Dassi Erlich, Elly Saper and Nicole Meyer, have given permission to be identified, but the court will still be closed during their evidence.

In the short period before the court was closed, Leifer only spoke to confirm she could hear the proceedings. She sat with her head bowed, with only her white head covering, worn as a sign of modesty, and blue jumper visible on screen.

Leifer faces multiple counts of rape, indecent assault and other serious sexual offences relating to her time as principal of the Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls school, in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick. The offences are alleged to have occurred in the same suburb at the school and in three regional settings.

Leifer moved to Israel in 2008 after allegations of the abuse surfaced. She was charged with criminal offences in 2012, but a long battle for her extradition only ended earlier this year when she returned to Melbourne.

The other witnesses due to give evidence during her committal are Dr Vicki Gordon, a clinical psychologist who has described herself as a “whistleblower” in regard to the sexual abuse allegations, Esther Spiegelmen and Sharon Bromberg, who were teachers at the school at the time of the alleged abuse, and Chana Rabinowitz, a former counsellor at the school, who will give evidence from Israel.

Ian Hill QC, for Leifer, was granted permission for her to not attend the hearing on Thursday, which marks the sacred day of Yom Kippur. Other Jewish witnesses will also be excused from giving evidence.

The court also heard that Leifer’s accusers would not request to give evidence without being able to see her. Alleged victims of sexual abuse can request not to see the accused during their evidence in Victorian court hearings.

The committal is expected to last a week.

Former North Adams priest added to list of those credibly accused of sexual abuse

The late Rev. James Paul Menge has been added to the list of priests associated with the Springfield Diocese against whom a credible accusation of sexual abuse of a minor has been made. He was added to the list Sept. 1. 

NORTH ADAMS — A priest who began his career in North Adams is the first to join the list of those “credibly accused” of sexual abuse since that roster expanded in June to include clergy who died before a survivor came forward.

An official with the Springfield Diocese said Wednesday that the Rev. James Paul Menge, who died in 2010, was added to the roster Sept. 1. More than one person provided a credible report that he engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor.

'There's no escape': Memories of being raped by Catholic priest haunt Columbus man

Chris Graham shares his story of being sexually abused by a Catholic priest when he was 14, and how the memories of it have impacted his life.

Published 6:02 AM EDT Sep. 8, 2021 Updated 10:47 AM EDT Sep. 8, 2021
The metal clink of a belt being unbuckled.

The room coming in and out of focus.

The pressure with which the older man pinned him to the floor.

These are a few of the memories that come back to Chris Graham in snapshots from years ago, when he was raped by a Catholic priest at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Powell.

He was 14 years old.

'I'm going to change these laws': How Chris Graham is seeking legal reform in Ohio

Graham was a dedicated altar server at the time who looked up to priests at the parish so much that he considered becoming one.

First communion photos of Chris Graham, now 39, who was raped by a priest in Columbus when he was 14-years-old.
First communion photos of Chris Graham, now 39, who was raped by a priest in Columbus when he was 14-years-old.

Today, the 39-year-old podcaster and business coach from Westerville is working through flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the childhood trauma he blocked out for more than two decades.

Psychotherapy, which he began last year and is ongoing, helped him remember the March 1997 rape at the hands of the late Rev. Raymond Lavelle, a priest named in 2019 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus as being credibly accused of sexually abusing multiple minors. Lavelle died in late 2015.

Graham reported what happened to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and the Diocese of Columbus earlier this year. Both entities declared the allegation to be credible.

But that alone didn't fix anything.

"Those wounds were so deep ... I was broken," Graham said. "Trauma echoes throughout your life until you begin to heal."

Read the full story here -

Why the Catholic Church can’t put the clergy sex abuse scandal behind it It probably never will, at least under the current generation of church leaders.

By Joan Vennochi Globe Columnist,Updated September 7, 2021, 3:00 a.m.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 91, passes protesters as he leaves the Dedham courthouse after pleading not guilty during his first appearance for sexual assault charges, on Sept. 3 in Dedham.
Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 91, passes protesters as he leaves the Dedham courthouse after pleading not guilty during his first appearance for sexual assault charges, on Sept. 3 in Dedham.SCOTT EISEN/GETTY

A day of reckoning for a once powerful prince of the Roman Catholic Church had finally come.

Frail and 91, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was arraigned last week on charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy at Wellesley College in the 1970s.

As startling and historic as that event may be, it’s years too late for those he’s accused of having abused — and for a church that still struggles to put the clergy sex abuse scandal behind it. It probably never will, at least under the current generation of church leaders — not until there are no more victims, and no more clerics to hold accountable.

Defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick pleads not guilty to sexually assaulting teen 50+ years ago

 By Stephanie Pagones , Marta Dhanis | Fox News

McCarrick, who was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse, wore a dark gray suit jacking and tan-colored pants as he pushed a walker into  suburban Boston’s Dedham District Court, hunched over and white-haired. "Shame on you!" a protester shouted as he entered the courthouse. 

Camden diocese faces wave of clergy sex-abuse claims

Jim Walsh
Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Published September 1, 2021

CAMDEN - The Diocese of Camden faces 345 new claims of alleged clergy sex abuse as part of its ongoing bankruptcy case, according to attorneys involved in the dispute.

The claims are currently in the early stage of a mediation process while the two sides also battle in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, said lawyers for clergy accusers.

"An accurate accounting and inventory of all cases will be required before any meaningful settlement discussions can be undertaken," said John Baldante, a Haddonfield attorney who filed 70 of the claims.

Among other factors, the parties in mediation need to identify "insurance coverage from past decades applicable to these sexual abuses," Baldante said.

"There is still significant work to ascertain the assets of the diocese, as well as its numerous parishes, churches, schools and entities," he noted.

Sharon rabbi: ‘Hundreds’ may have been abused by USY adviser

From Jewish Journal - 

(Editor’s note: This article con­­tains explicit sexual content.)

Amid a flurry of lawsuits and allegations that as many as hundreds of former members of United Synagogue Youth may have been abused by a longtime adviser, a prominent Sharon rabbi has become the first to publicly detail the alleged abuse.

Rabbi Jordan Soffer, the head of school at Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, has alleged that Ed Ward – who worked with Jewish children for decades as an educator, adviser and camp counselor for USY and its umbrella organization, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism – sexually assaulted him during morning prayer services at a USY convention when Soffer was 15.

What's next for the Catholic church? Devoted parishioners, veteran priest share thoughts after Child Victim's Act

What’s next for the Catholic church? Devoted parishioners, veteran priest share thoughts after Child Victims Act.

Rosary beads

Parishioners clutch rosary beads at a church on Staten Island in this file photo. (Staten Island Advance)

A WINDOW CLOSED. AN ISLAND CHANGED. This story is the second in a four-part series examining the impact of the Child Victims Act.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Scores of priests who served many different Catholic churches on Staten Island over the years have been named in either substantiated complaints of sex abuse or allegations being played out in civil court.

So how do parishioners feel about the controversy? What about a monsignor ordained in the early ‘60s? Has it shaken their faith? And what would they like to see come next?


One plaintiff who recently filed a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act alleges he was victimized by a priest at St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills, then later a Great Kills Babe Ruth League coach.

The suit names in part former priest Ralph LaBelle, who served at St. Clare’s from 1979 to 1985. It is one of about a half dozen lawsuits alleging LaBelle abused victims while he was assigned to the parish.

A man attending a recent service at the church said he plans to continue attending, though changes within the church are needed — especially when it comes to marriage.

“Maybe it’s a problem with the church not letting priests have marital relationships,” said Francesco Sciortino, 34, of Great Kills. “The Church of Christ is one thing... but the church that’s been built by man gets corrupt and there’s issues, so it’s not perfect.”

Judi Mondone, who was outside St. Margaret Mary’s in Midland Beach on a recent Sunday, suggested changes to the “hiring process” of priests.

“Why does it have to be men?” she said. “They’re able to have girls be altar servers, so why can’t women [be priests]?


After 60 years of delivering Mass on Staten Island, Monsignor Thomas Bergin says he knew many of the priests on some level who have been accused of misconduct or forced out of the church, but wasn’t aware at the time of any sexual misconduct.

“Hindsight is worth a lot, so when you hear that about somebody you think, ‘well maybe I should have... there should have been a caution light with this guy,’” Monsignor Bergin said. “It’s a horror; I throw my hands up and say ‘why.’”

He said he doesn’t think allowing priests to get married is the answer, based on the fact married men also are arrested for pedophilia.

“My experiences with guys over the years is they come in with the best intentions... but somewhere along the line — and I don’t think it’s because they’re single or unmarried — maybe they lose the perspective they had when they entered and get involved in some of these horrible things.”

One part of the process that has changed in recent years is the age at which men are becoming ordained priests. While at one time entering the seminary after high school or even grammar school, a 2013 survey found the median age of ordinands that year was 32.

Monsignor Bergin said he’s also noticed a shift in some parishioners’ reverence for priests at Sunday Mass, where in some cases he said parishioners now prefer the title “sir” instead of “father.”

“There’s a general sense of ‘we’re all equal, nobody’s on a pedestal anymore, and we’re all God’s children.”

Sacred Heart R.C. Church

Sacred Heart R.C. Church in West Brighton.


A former altar boy at Sacred Heart R.C. Church in West Brighton recently levied shocking claims of sexual and verbal abuse perpetrated decades ago by a priest.

According to the lawsuit, the victim was 11 years old when he was first abused by Rev. Thomas Curley. The alleged incidents occurred on church property, except for one time on a parish-sponsored bus trip to an amusement park. Some happened on or near the altar, the filing alleges.

A 19-year-old woman attending a recent Mass at the church said the onslaught of lawsuits over the past two years haven’t impacted her practice of worship.

“I’ve just always been faithful throughout my life since I was a kid,” said Julia C. of Willowbrook. “I’ve just never really changed because I’ve grown up in the Catholic schools and always felt pretty safe I guess.”


Our Lady Star of the Sea was one of several parishes named in recent accusations of sexual abuse over the years by local priests. (Google Maps)


In July, Rev. Thomas Devery penned a letter to parishioners at Our Lady Star of the Sea R.C. Church in Huguenot announcing he’d be leaving his post while an accusation of sex abuse is investigated.

He referenced in his message a previous allegation of sex abuse that he claimed was found to be unsubstantiated.

“Now, a second lawsuit has been filed against me, again alleging sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago,” the pastor’s letter said. “As with the earlier allegation, I steadfastly deny this new allegation, and trust that it, too, will be found to be unsubstantiated.

Outside the church on a recent Sunday, one parishioner said that, while she believes many of the allegations of sex abuse within the Catholic church are legitimate, she questioned those levied against Father Devery, as well as a second priest at the parish, Rev. Basil Akut.

“I’m sure there are absolutely people who have been abused... but I don’t believe that [they] did anything,” said Diane Patton, 63, of Tottenville.

Another parishioner in her 70s said she feels several things could be changed in how the hierarchy of the Catholic church is structured to help prevent future acts of sex abuse.

“It goes all the way to the top,” said the Prince’s Bay woman, who asked only her initials A.K. be published. “Things have to change and it needs to be done pretty soon, because the more these scandals come out the more people that are losing not their faith, but their trust.”


“I’m sure some people have left and don’t come anymore because of the scandals, which have killed us, of course,” Monsignor Bergin said. “But my perspective has been...they still value [priests], they still cherish us.”

He spoke about one of the things he cherishes about Sundays, saying it’s the conversations with parishioners on the steps of the church after Mass that keep him going.

“It’s a great booster, because your morale can get shot when you hear case after case after case,” the Monsignor said.

“From my perspective as a guy who’s been on the Island for so many years, the people are still faithful.”

As an investigative reporter, Jason Berry exposed the church’s systematic cover-up of sexual abuse. Somehow, it wasn’t enough.

The First Report
By Ben Proudfoot•August 24, 2021
As an investigative reporter, Jason Berry

Catholic Officials on Edge After Reports of Priests Using Grindr

A conservative Catholic media organization, The Pillar, has published several reports claiming the use of dating apps at several churches and the Vatican.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. One report made claims about the use of Grindr by unnamed people in unspecified rectories in the Archdiocese of Newark.
The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. One report made claims about the use of Grindr by unnamed people in unspecified rectories in the Archdiocese of Newark. Credit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Aug. 20, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

The reports hit the Roman Catholic Church in rapid succession: Analyses of cellphone data obtained by a conservative Catholic blog seemed to show priests at multiple levels of the Catholic hierarchy in both the United States and the Vatican using the gay hookup app Grindr.

The first report, published late last month, led to the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, the former general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference. The second, posted online days later, made claims about the use of Grindr by unnamed people in unspecified rectories in the Archdiocese of Newark. The third, published days after that, claimed that in 2018 at least 32 mobile devices emitted dating app data signals from within areas of Vatican City that are off-limits to tourists.

The reports by the blog, The Pillar, have unnerved the leadership of the American Catholic Church and have introduced a potentially powerful new weapon into the culture war between supporters of Pope Francis and his conservative critics: cellphone data, which many users assume to be unavailable to the general public.

“When there is reporting out there that claims to expose activity like this in parishes around the country and also on Vatican grounds, that is a five-alarm fire for church officials, there is no doubt about it,” said John Gehring, the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a progressive advocacy grou


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