An independent commission investigating sexual abuse in Portugal's Catholic Church urged more victims to submit testimonies, especially during summer home visits by citizens living abroad.
"In our work as a voice in the silence, we continue appealing to all adults who may have been victims as children," said the commission's chairman, Pedro Strecht.
"We make the same request to all members of the church who can spread this message as they consider appropriate, such as in homilies or on parish door notices."
The child psychiatrist spoke at a Lisbon media conference Aug. 17, nine months after the six-member commission was set up by Portugal's Catholic bishops.
He said he was concerned to reach the 2.3 million Portuguese, 20% of the population, currently living outside the country, a "significant number" of whom visited during summer, especially from Europe.
The commission also asked public figures to submit messages encouraging victims to "give voice to their silence" and said it counted on Portuguese media to publicize its work, added Strecht, whose appeal was reported by Portugal's Catholic Ecclesia news agency.
In July, a former attorney general, José Souto de Moura, reiterated all abuse complaints should be referred to prosecutors. De Moura has been appointed to coordinate child protection committees in Portugal's 21 Catholic dioceses.
Presenting data July 28, Strecht said his commission had received 356 reports of abuse by clergy since starting work in January; 17 had been passed to the public prosecutor's office.
Addressing a Lisbon conference May 10, Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho of Leiria-Fatima, president of the bishops' conference, begged forgiveness from victims of abuse of clergy and said their "liberating courage" in coming forward could help create "a new culture, and a dignified, fair and welcoming future."
In a July 29 open letter, Cardinal Manuel do Nascimento Clemente of Lisbon reaffirmed the church's commitment to a "zero tolerance" policy and denied media claims his office had failed to act against a priest accused of abuse in 1999.
"From the very beginning at Lisbon Patriarchate, I gave instructions for zero tolerance and total transparency to be a rule known to all," Cardinal Clemente added.
"Care and concern for the victims is what should chiefly move us in this matter, and I regret all the suffering the situation may have caused to this victim --- and to all others we know or do not know."
Kenneth Lanning, who was a special agent with the FBI for more than 30 years and has worked as a consultant in the area of crimes against children, said that while some behaviors of adults interacting with children might not rise to the level of criminality, there are steps parents can take if they believe their child is potentially being “groomed” for abuse.
“Many effective parental responses to suspected sexual victimization are easy to say but hard to do. The most important thing parents can do is, starting when they are young, establish open communication on diverse topics with their children. Communicate love and caring,” Lanning told GoLocal.
“Openly and honestly communicate with their child without inferring blame. Parents know their children well but often are not objective. Their own religious belief may even get in the way with a priest,” Lanning continued. “Depending on why their child is in close contact with the priest, the best approach may be to find ways to limit their alone contact. A child has a right to respectfully express discomfort with behavior that is not a crime. Start soft, move to hard if necessary.”
According to parents, Silva asked male children if they were gay and accused them of lying if they said no.
And, Silva reportedly asked females were asked if they were sexually active and, according to reports, similarly accused of lying if they answered in the negative. He made the comments when he was offering confession.
Tobin said at the time, “I have asked Fr. Silva to take this period of leave as an opportunity to reflect on these priestly responsibilities and to engage in additional formation.”
Silva has now been removed from three parishes -- and Tobin has refused to say what Silva's future is in the church.
Lanning -- who was the 1996 recipient of the Outstanding Professional Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, the 1997 recipient of the FBI Director’s Annual Award for Special Achievement for his career accomplishments in connection with missing and exploited children, and the 2009 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Service from the National Children’s Advocacy Center --- said if parents do not believe the organization’s response is sufficient enough, there are steps they should take.
“When institutions that are designed to protect your children don't actually do so, parents need to try to be objective and find creative ways to limit contact. In order to be involved in simultaneous sexual relations with multiple victims, a pedophile must know how to manipulate and control children,” said Lanning. “The pedophile uses seduction techniques, competition, peer pressure, child and group psychology, motivation techniques, threats, and blackmail. The pedophile must continuously recruit children into and move children out of the ring without his activity being disclosed. Part of the manipulation process is lowering the inhibitions of the children. A skilled pedophile who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay with him overnight will almost always succeed in seducing them.”
Lanning also discussed what organizations that work with children need to do when allegations arise.
The four most important protection practices for organizations are screening; management, and supervision; response to suspicions, allegations, and complaints; and prevention and awareness programs, wrote Lanning in the 2014 publication, “Acquaintance molestation and youth-serving organizations.”
One problematic area, said Lanning, is when organizations utilized their own “experts” to determine whether an adult who has been accused of inappropriate behavior can remain in the organization.
“These organizations need to have rules and monitoring,” Lanning told GoLocal. “The other big problem is they decide to go out and get their own opinion. They might get a sexual abuse expert — but oftentimes those ‘experts’ don’t really understand these cases involving an acquaintance molester, someone who the child knows who they are.”
“How is the offender able to access the child — that’s what grooming is all about,” says Lanning. “It starts young, and they get better and better.”
David Lorenz, head of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, speaks to reporters outside the attorney general’s office in Baltimore. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.
Over a two-year period, investigators working for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro uncovered evidence of “pervasive” child sexual abuse by clergy — including “detailed” accounts of more than 1,000 victims by 31 “predator priests.”
In Maryland, victims of clergy sex abuse look to the work of Shapiro (D) with a mix of admiration and envy.
It took Shapiro’s investigators two years to investigate and put together an884-page reportthatwas described asa “bombshell” and led to a global push for reform and prosecution of those who committed or covered up crimes against children.
But three years after Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) announced an investigation into such abuse in Maryland, victims are still waiting for results.
And they are frustrated by what they see as foot-dragging by Frosh.
In 2019he hired veteran prosecutor Elizabeth M. Embry to spearhead a probe of predators and church higher-ups who knew of abuse and did nothing. If Embry’s team has made progress, it has not become public.
“They’ve been telling us that there will be a report soon, but soon never comes,” said Teresa Lancaster, an Anne Arundel County resident who said she was abused by a priest. “It’s hard to sit and wait. It’s hard not to see any action.”
Lancaster is a member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an organization of sex abuse victims and victim advocates. SNAP held a press conference outside Frosh’s office on Tuesday to complain about the slow progress of Maryland’s investigation.
David Lorenz, the group’s leader, told reporters that efforts to get information about Maryland’s clergy sex abuse probe have not yielded any information. Other members said they go so long without updates, they will send emails to investigators asking, “Are you still there?”
In a email, Frosh spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said the investigation is “ongoing.”
“Like most law enforcement agencies, our office does not comment on ongoing investigations,” she wrote.
Frosh, 75, is set to retire in January, at the conclusion of his second term. He announced last fall that he would not seek a third.
Coombs declined to say whether Frosh expects to seek indictments or issue a report before leaving office. She also declined to describe the resources the office has deployed or whether it is receiving pro bono assistance from outside firms.
Lorenz said the difference between Maryland’s handling of the issue and Pennsylvania’s is “night and day.”
“They clearly took it as a priority, and they gave it a lot of attention,” he said. “And they put a lot of resources into it.”
Officials in Pennsylvania subpoenaed church records as part of their investigation. Lorenz said he’s unaware of any church files being seized by the Maryland A.G.’s office.
Members of an organization that advocates for clergy sex abuse victims hold signs outside Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office in Baltimore. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.
Lorenz said his group hears regularly from Maryland residents who have been abused by priests here. Maryland is a heavily Catholic state that is served by two large archdioceses, one in Baltimore (the nation’s first) and one in Washington, D.C.
Cardinal William Keeler served as Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007 following a six-year stint as a bishop in Harrisburg, Pa., during the 1980s. According toShapiro’s report, Keeler knew that at least two of his priests were guilty of abuse. When Keeler moved to Baltimore, he granted one of those priests permission to follow him, knowing what he had been accused of.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, a former bishop in Pittsburgh, after decisions he made surfaced in the Shapiro report and drew criticism.
“We’re dragging our feet when we know that people who served in Maryland were part of the same thing that was exposed in Pennsylvania,” said Lorenz. “It’s unbelievable.”
“Two of the most powerful dioceses in the country are right here in the state of Maryland,” he added. “Are they pulling strings? I don’t know. But when you’re silent for four years, that’s where my mind goes.”
Unofficial results indicate Embry has won nomination in the Democratic primary for a seat in the House of Delegates and she is expected to leave the attorney general’s office soon. Her departure, coupled with Frosh’s, has sex abuse survivors worried that the probe will end with no report or other action. “Abusers do not stop unless they’re put in jail,” Lorenz said.
Clergy sex abuse victims and advocates hope Frosh’s successor will put more energy into the probe. Voters in November will choose between Rep. Anthony Brown (D) and neo-Confederate activist Michael Peroutka.
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, Va. He’s a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.
A man is suing the new Archdiocese of Detroit auxiliary bishop amid claims the religious official sexually assaulted him more than 30 years ago in Massachusetts.
Paul F. Russell, then a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, is accused of abusing the 12-year-old an estimated 25 times in 1989-90, according to the civil lawsuit filed Monday in Boston’s Suffolk County Superior Court.
The alleged victim, listed as a John Doe, “has been seriously and permanently injured, and, at the present, continues to suffer from a psychological disease that impairs and affects all aspects of his life,” the court filing said.
Now in his 40s and living outside Massachusetts, the man “still has nightmares about this stuff,” his attorney, Carmen Durso, told The Detroit News.
Reached Monday night, Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said Russell "is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made, and states that his conscience is perfectly clear. He holds in prayer all those who have ever been victimized by a member of the clergy."
According to the lawsuit, Russell met the plaintiff through the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he had been assigned.
The youth volunteered at a food bank there and Russell lived in the rectory, where the priest “began to groom him and then sexually assaulted him,” Durso wrote.
The complaint also alleges the abuse occurred due to the negligent supervision of the parish supervisor. Archdiocese of Boston officials, who are also named in the suit, “should have known that defendant Russell was not fit to be retained in a position in which he would have access to young children.”
The lawsuit accuses the Boston archdiocese of having “hid the existence of acts of sexual abuse by priests” for decades.
In 2002, the Boston Globe launched a series of reports that used church records to reveal that abusive clergy had long been transferred among parish assignments for years without alerting parents or police. The scandal, recounted in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” led to a U.S. clergy sex abuse crisis.
Archdiocese of Boston representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case Monday night.
Russell serves Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who leads the archdiocese and its more than 1 million Catholics in southeast Michigan.
He spent part of his youth in Michigan and was appointed Apostolic Nuncio, a Vatican diplomat, to Turkey and Turkmenistan in 2016.
The plaintiff in the Massachusetts lawsuit “did not have a clue” about Russell’s status and only reached out for legal help in recent years, Durso said. “Male victims of sexual abuse find it the most difficult to come forward and say these things.”
In a statement Monday, officials with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, orSNAP, said they hoped the lawsuit would “help provide hope and healing to this victim and that it will also inspire others who have been hurt to come forward and make a report.”
The group added: “Given Bishop Russell’s high position in the Catholic Church … we believe true transparency and accountability will only come when the files on the clergyman held by the church are publicly disclosed.”
he United States in May acknowledged the damage inflicted on generations of children at federal Indian boarding schools, a system built to assimilate indigenous kids into white society by cutting them off from their parents and tribes.
The septuagenarian has waged a so-far fruitless effort to seek restitution for the rapes and other abuses she says she, her eight sisters and scores of other Native American children endured for years at the former St. Paul's Indian Mission School in Marty, South Dakota.
A 2010 state law barred victims of alleged sexual abuse aged 40 or older from filing civil lawsuits against any institution that knew or should have known about it. That legislation, which amended an earlier state law on sexual abuse, effectively shortened the statute of limitations for victims to seek damages. It was aimed largely at protecting the Catholic Church, whose priests and nuns ran St. Paul's and at least four similar schools in South Dakota - a motive acknowledged by the attorney who crafted the amendment.
Dubourt and other Native Americans want the legislation overturned. They say it penalizes sexual abuse survivors for enduring trauma that often renders them unable to speak out until late in life. For more than a decade, they have held rallies in the capital of Pierre and purchased billboard ads aimed at shaming South Dakota lawmakers into action, to no avail.
At the center of the battle is the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, whose jurisdiction includes the eastern half of South Dakota, where the old St. Paul's boarding school is located. The diocese has apologized publicly for child sexual abuses it said were committed by some of its priests decades ago. But it has been largely silent on allegations lodged by Native Americans who attended St. Paul's: At least 108 former students have sued the diocese since 2003.
The diocese for years has contended in court proceedings that it's not responsible for any alleged harm done there because it didn't operate the school or have direct oversight of the priests and nuns who staffed it.
It's an argument that has found favor with South Dakota's Supreme Court. Plaintiffs' attorneys and advocates, however, say it's a common legal tactic embraced by Catholic authorities to avoid accountability for allegedly criminal actions of its priests and nuns.
"Bishops and archbishops have ultimate authority over who operates in their jurisdiction," said Zach Hiner, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which claims 25,000 members worldwide. "All this is a diffusion of responsibility to protect the diocese."
Time is running out for Dubourt and her elderly sisters, known across Indian Country as the 9 Little Girls. Three of the siblings have died in the past year. Those still living are in their 70s and 80s. Dubourt no longer lives in South Dakota full time, spending part of the year in Pennsylvania, where her daughters live.
South Dakota legislators are "waiting for the rest of us to die," Dubourt, 73, says matter-of-factly. She vows to keep fighting.
‘STEPPING OVER THE BOUNDARIES’
Dubourt last year traveled by car with a Reuters reporter to provide a glimpse of her past at St. Paul's, which she attended from 1955 to 1967.
She said the abuse began as inappropriate touching by priests and nuns shortly after she arrived as a six-year-old, then escalated. As the SUV descended into a verdant valley of corn and bean fields a towering white steeple came into view. Dubourt's face tightened.
"It's the first damn thing you can see - look at it!" she said.
The steeple is part of the Church of St. Paul Apostle of the Nations, situated on the Yankton Indian Reservation. Local residents refer to it simply as St. Paul's Catholic Church. Services are still held there. But adjacent buildings belonging to what was once the Catholic boarding school, founded in the early 1920s, are weathered and rotting.
It was in the church basement that Dubourt says she was raped multiple times at age 16 by a priest and forced to undergo an abortion, according to her deposition for a 2008 civil suit seeking damages. She and her sisters sued four priests, six nuns and two school workers - all now deceased - whom they alleged took part in the abuse. Also named as defendants were the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls and three religious groups whose nuns and priests staffed the school.
The diocese and the religious organizations - Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Blue Cloud Abbey - all denied wrongdoing in court filings. Blue Cloud Abbey was a former Benedictine monastery in South Dakota that organized a nonprofit entity to take over operation of the boarding school from another Catholic group in the 1950s, court documents and state incorporation records show.
To establish that the diocese had some authority over the school, the sisters' lawyers filed hundreds of pages of internal documents from the 1940s to 1960s related to the institution. They included records showing that St. Paul's provided the diocese with an annual count of its students and teachers and information about its finances. There was also correspondence from the Oblate Sisters order to then-Bishop Lambert Hoch, now deceased, reporting on the comportment of nuns at the school and seeking his assistance with personnel matters.
Actor Gabriel Byrne has said he has “not completely healed “ from growing up in Dublin despite leaving Ireland as a young man.
The Hollywood star, 72, added that he is still coming to terms with sexual abuse, a repressive Ireland and a tough working-class background.
The father-of-three said: “They [the Church] dealt in fear and humiliation. Some of that goes deep inside you and takes a long time to get rid of – the fear of the world, the uncertainty of life and your place with it.”
Born in 1950 in Walkinstown, Co Dublin, the performer is best known for his role in The Usual Suspects. In 2010, he revealed had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child, and then by another cleric in the seminary he attended in Liverpool aged 11.
In an interview with the Observer newspaper yesterday, he said he still relives his trauma. Byrne added: “The priest’s breath was sour and hot as he moved towards me. Then there was blackness.”
He has previously spoken about his battle with alcoholism describing it as “a major national and cultural problem”.
The star, who found fame in Irish drama The Riordans, said: “It’s only lately that I have begun to reconcile myself to Ireland and to myself when I left there. That has not been completely healed.”
Tim Stier figured it was only a matter of time. Since 2005 he’s refused parish assignments as an Oakland Diocese priest over its handling of clerical sex abuse claims and spent more than a decade outside its cathedral on Sundays calling for church accountability and justice for the victims.
He had no plans to end his self-imposed exile and resume work as a parish priest. But when the Vatican finally came for his collar a few months ago, removing him from the Roman Catholic priesthood, Stier said it still felt like a blow.
“It hit me harder than I’d expected,” said Stier, 73, whose removal was disclosed this week. “I felt sad and angry. If I’d been raping kids, I wouldn’t be thrown out of the club.”
The Diocese of Oakland said in a statement Friday only that “we wish Mr. Stier all the best in this new chapter of his life.”
[Tim Stier served for decades as a priest in the diocese of Oakland CA. He sent this letter on May 31, 2022.]
Dear No-Longer-Fellow Priests,
This will likely be my farewell letter to most of you, which may be glad tidings to those of you who do not enjoy hearing from me.
Last week, I learned from David Staal, a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Oakland, that the Vatican had officially laicized me as of March 19th. The grounds for my ouster from the priesthood was my persistent refusal of an assignment in 2005 after I told Allen Vigneron, then Oakland’s bishop, that I could not in good conscience accept another assignment until he was willing to open a public dialog throughout the diocese on three issues roiling the Church: the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and their cronies, the refusal of the Church to recognize the full equality of women and to admit them to ordained ministry, and the cruel treatment of sexual minorities based on an outdated theory of human sexuality. Vigneron refused such a dialog and I refused an assignment.
A months-long NBC Bay Area investigation into a wave of new clergy abuse lawsuits has uncovered a series of allegations against dozens of Northern California priests and church employees accused for the first time of sexually abusing children. Some of them continue to work here.
Two Bay Area Catholic dioceses are allowing priests they employ to remain in ministry despite lawsuits now accusing the men of sexually abusing children earlier in their careers, NBC Bay Area has confirmed.
The findings come amid an ongoing NBC Bay Area investigation into a flood of new child sex abuse claims hitting Catholic institutions across the state. The civil lawsuits are the result of a 2019 California law that opened a three-year “lookback” window allowing new child sex abuse lawsuits based on claims typically barred by the statute of limitations.
Click hereto watch Part 1 of NBC Bay Area's investigation.
Among the hundreds of new Northern California legal filings are startling accusations against four Bay Area priests who still work in the region. The dioceses they serve told NBC Bay Area internal reviews did not substantiate the claims against the men, and it would be unjust to keep them out of ministry.
Dan McNevin, a local leader for the victim advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), said he's skeptical of such internal diocesan reviews.
“The bishops have an obligation to sideline these people,” McNevin said. “Not only for the victim, who is courageous, but because the bishop is on notice that this priest might be dangerous.”
Three of the accused priests – Fr. David Ghiorso, Msgr. Michael Harriman, and Fr. Michael Mahoney – work under the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Either directly or through their attorneys, all three priests refuted the allegations against them.
The other priest – Rev. James Pulskamp – is the pastor of Santa Rosa’s Star of the Valley Catholic Church. Pulskamp did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s request for comment, but Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa said in a statement he finds it difficult to give the allegation any credence given the priest’s stellar reputation over the past 50 years.
With one exception, the allegations against the priests are linked to two centers founded as homes for vulnerable children who were removed from troubled households: St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael and the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma.
The claims relate to events occurring across nearly two decades, from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s. If true, the decades-old accusations expand what we know about Northern California’s clergy abuse scandal and suggest that internal lists of “credibly accused” priests released by most Bay Area dioceses in recent years are still incomplete.
The plaintiffs making the accusations have so-far declined to be interviewed, but the lawsuits, and in some cases, their attorneys, detail the allegations.
Rev. James Pulskamp & Hanna Boys Center
The oldest accusation targets Rev. Pulskamp during his time as a priest at the Hanna Boys Center. The school and residential treatment center for vulnerable children has been a hotspot for child sexual abuse accusations in recent years.
Pulskamp is accused in a new lawsuit of molesting a child there in the 1970s.
“Because [the children there] are more vulnerable, they become prey for priests and people who work there,” said Mary Alexander, a Bay Area attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff. “So, it is something that we see all the time.”
While Pulskamp now serves as the pastor of his Santa Rosa church, he’s listed as a Regent Emeritus on the Hanna Boys Center’s website.
Bishop Vasa said Pulskamp remains in ministry after an internal review board recommended no action be taken against the priest. However, the Bishop said the diocese will continue to investigate any new details that emerge.
Alexander said Pulskamp and any other priests facing new abuse accusations shouldn’t be working until more information comes out through the legal process.
“I think that any priest who is still active and is accused, that he should be put on administrative leave, that there should be no access to children,” Alexander said.