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Helping other survivors

‘Behind Sacred Walls’ tells one man’s story of being raped by priests

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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Michael Roberts comes from a religious Catholic family that never missed Sunday mass. And like hundreds of other boys who have come forward, he was abused by the priest at his church.

But Roberts’ story of abuse by Catholic priests is a little different from others. He was a little older than most victims we’ve heard about; he was 17 when he was first raped. But, Roberts explains, he was a young and naïve 17 with no sexual experience.

The purpose of Roberts’ book, Behind Sacred Walls, is to help other victims of abuse by religious figures, not to expose or punish those who hurt him. In fact, Roberts changes the names of his tormentors and never reveals the parish that protected his rapists.

Father Gregory, as Roberts calls him, began inviting himself to dinner with the family every week. Then he invited Michael on day trips. His parents were delighted that their favorite priest was taking such an interest in their son. They couldn’t imagine he was grooming Michael for years of abuse.

When Roberts at first tried to get Father Gregory to stop, the priest told him, “Your family will never find out.” And rather than distance himself from the family, the priest continued to ingratiate himself to them.
And Roberts thought his family would never believe that this kindly priest, who showed such rage in private, was capable of rape.

Survivor advocacy group delivers Catholic Church whistleblower documents for state investigation into faith leader abuse

The group claims the 'thousands of pages' of documents include evidence of diocese policies meant to destroy evidence of abuse, fraud
By Hope Kirwan
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 3:20pm Wisconsin Public Radio
A survivor advocacy group says they’re turning over "thousands of pages" of documents to the state attorney general’s office related to the cover up of sexual abuse by leaders of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin.

Oversight panel to carry out church sex abuse reforms in Springfield Diocese

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2022 5:05:24 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 5:04:31 PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has named a nine-member committee tasked with overseeing reforms to how the church addresses sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, Springfield Bishop William Byrne announced that the new Implementation and Oversight Committee will lead the implementation of recommendations put forward by an independent task force that assessed the diocese’s response to sexual abuse.

Last September, the task force recommended changes to the process of responding to allegations of sexual abuse. Among its findings were that law enforcement should first investigate such accusations, not solely the diocese. The task force also nominated the slate of candidates who will now become members of the oversight committee.

'I was scared' — Women say they were beaten, mistreated by nuns at Parma children's home in 1960s

News5 Cleveland -Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 11, 2022 and last updated 6:44 PM, Jan 11, 2022

PARMA, Ohio — Local women are breaking their silence about what they say really happened inside a Cleveland area home for children. They claim physical abuse by nuns at the former Parmadale home was well-beyond normal discipline handed out during the 1960s, and it’s all taken a drastic emotional toll.

(View the full news report in the link below)

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CSU Library Special Collection
Historic image of the former Parmadale children's home building.

Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent DePaul in Parma started accepting orphaned children in 1925. In 1964, a 4-year-old Carolyn Foland, now Carolyn Mason, started what she called a living nightmare at the village.

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News 5
Carolyn Mason

“I was scared. I was scared being in there a lot,” said Mason.

Now in her 60s, she has revisited the former grounds of Parmadale that’s in the process of being demolished, and she’s opening up for the first time publicly about her claims of serious physical abuse at the hands of the nun who was in charge of her.

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News 5
Construction work being done on the former Parmadale site

“Sister Myra was very mean, almost to the point of evil,” said Mason.

She wiped away tears as she described beatings she claims came from Sister Myra Wasikowski.

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Cleveland State University Library Special Collection
Sister Myra Wasikowski

“If I had bruises, which one time she blacked my eye really, really good so, that Sunday I couldn’t see my grandma and grandpa because it was too bruised and black,” said Mason.

She described the physical abuse as brutal and said Sister Myra, at times, would even enlist some help.

“Sometimes she would have another kid beat you up,” Mason told us.

“She had two faces. One was the devil and one was Sister Myra,” said Debbie Demming. She, too, was at Parmadale in the 1960s. She showed us a picture that she said was her wiggling away from Sister Myra’s lap. Demming was just 10 years old.

“Sister Myra would strip you down, bare naked, have the girls hold you down on a bench that was there by the lockers and beat your butt with whatever she could find,” described Demming.

She showed us a scar that she said she got from the nun. “She cracked me in the back of the head with a hand brush, split my head open,” said Demming.

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News 5
Debbie Demming

She told us kneeling on rice and hairbrushes for extended periods of time was all too common. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, she and Mason described even more.

“If you didn’t eat your food or you got sick at the dining table, she would make you eat your vomit,” said Demming.

“Spoon it back (to you),” said Mason.

“She would feed you your own vomit?” we asked.

“Yes,” said Mason.

“My God! How can anybody do anything like this?” questioned Sharon Ponomarenko during a recent interview with News 5 Investigators. She told us she has vivid memories of a different nun at Parmadale when she was there in the early 60s. She said she watched that nun beat her brother there.

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News 5
Sharon Ponomarenko

“She hit him so hard his knuckles were bleeding to the point where he passed out,” said Ponomarenko.

In fact, we found an online message board through a national group called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. There are numerous posts claiming abuse by nuns happened frequently at Parmadale.

“I can recall some awful beatings…” wrote one person.

There are many references to Sister Myra including “I was pushed down the basement stairs got 7 stitches in my chin…”, “terribly abusive…”, and “Sr. Myra, A.K.A. the Antichrist…”

SNAP disputes assessment of Dallas charter at its 20th anniversary

An essay by Kathleen McChesney on the impact of the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People drew a sharp rebuke by the executive director of the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Zach Hiner, the group's director, said the steps outlined in the charter "needed to be taken," but he likened McChesney's essay to "patting oneself for winning the marathon when you're only a mile in."

Hiner, in a Jan. 10 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said "delayed disclosure" of abuse is "a fact." He noted that "most people in the United States do not come forward until their 50s," so anyone abused in the past 20 years "would not likely be coming forward until 2030, 2040."

The essay by McChesney, the first person to head the U.S. bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection, was published Jan. 5 by America Media, one day before the 20th anniversary of the first in a series of Boston Globe reports on clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Canada Pledges $31.5 Billion to Settle Fight Over Indigenous Child Welfare System

New York Times

January 4, 2022

By Catherine Porter and Vjosa Isai

The government agreed to a landmark settlement to repair the system and compensate those families harmed by it. It potentially ends many years of litigation.

The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had reached what it called the largest settlement in Canada’s history, paying $31.5 billion to fix the nation’s discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the Indigenous people harmed by it.

The agreement in principle forms the basis for a final settlement of several lawsuits brought by First Nations groups against the Canadian government. Of the overall settlement, 40 billion in Canadian dollars, half will go toward compensating both children who were unnecessarily removed, and their families and caregivers, over the past three decades.

The rest of the money will go toward repairing the child welfare system for First Nations children — who are statistically far more likely to be removed from their families — over the next five years to ensure families are able to stay together.

“First Nations from across Canada have had to work very hard for this day to provide redress for monumental wrongs against First Nation children, wrongs fueled by an inherently biased system,” said Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, the largest Indigenous organization in Canada.

“This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s in fact about poverty,” she said at a news conference, adding that more than 200,000 children and Indigenous families are affected by the agreement.

The deal is an acknowledgment that the child welfare system was better resourced to remove children than to support them in place. The system was the product of discriminatory policies put in place and enforced over generations against Indigenous communities.

Of those eligible for compensation, experts hired during the litigation have estimated that 115,000 children were separated from their families since 1991, said Robert Kugler, a lawyer who represented First Nations complainants on two different lawsuits, during the news conference.

While less than 8 percent of children under 14 in Canada are Indigenous, they make up more than 52 percent of those in foster care, according to 2016 census data.

20 years after Boston Globe's 'Spotlight,' we need a national database of accused clergy

NCR  by Barbara Thorpe

January 4, 2022

In the United States, the terrible truth that Catholic clergy have sexually violated children has been known publicly now for at least 36 years. For this truth-telling, we are indebted to journalists such as Jason Berry. In stark and unsparing detail he documented in May 1985, writing for the Times of Acadiana (and NCR), the predations of admitted serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.

Over the decades others followed Berry's groundbreaking truth-telling, often against and despite enormous pressure to remain silent. Led by many courageous survivors and their families, of notable mention are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Bishop Accountability, the Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and several state attorneys general.

In January 2019, ProPublica published an interactive national directory of credibly accused clergy drawing on the published disclosures of dioceses and religious orders.


Clerics get away with child abuse in the Philippines

Published: December 21, 2021 03:57 AM GMT


There are serious and profound changes taking place in the Catholic Church to acknowledge and prevent child sexual abuse by clerics and laypeople. The number of priests convicted in the Philippines is zero. Clerical child abuse has become a crisis for the Church as an institution.

We celebrate this December Pope Francis’ historic decree that approved a new law, Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi, to protect child victims and prosecute any clergy accused of child abuse. It covers bishops who cover up acts of abuse by priests or laypeople. Every complaint of child abuse must be reported and investigated immediately and reported to the Church and the civil authorities.

At least 200 people were enslaved by the Jesuits in St. Louis. Descendants are now telling their stories

By Gabrielle Hays  Dec 8, 2021 6:02 PM EST

ST. LOUIS – Against their wills, Thomas and Mary Brown, Moses and Nancy Queen, and Isaac and Susan Hawkins were taken from a White Marsh, Maryland, plantation in 1823, forced to leave their families and children 800 miles behind to help the Jesuits in their founding of the Missouri Mission.

Enslaved people were essential to what Jesuit institutions in St. Louis would become. The Jesuits moved another 16 to 18 enslaved people to St. Louis from Maryland in 1829, the same year the Society of Jesus took over St. Louis College, known today as St. Louis University.

Nearly 200 years later, descendants of people the Jesuits enslaved are learning and reclaiming the stories of their ancestors and pushing the institutions around them to tell a complete story, one that includes their families and the harm that was done.

“I believe souls can’t rest until fundamental wrongs are done right,” said Rashonda Alexander, one of the descendants.

(Read the Full Story Here) 

Survivors urge Sacramento diocese to expand accused priest list, including adult sex abuse

UPDATED DECEMBER 08, 2021 6:18 PM 

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is calling for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento to expand its list of credibly abused clergy by about two dozen, providing a list consisting largely of priests who served an assignment at some point in the Sacramento area and then had accusations acknowledged by other dioceses. The organization is also urging the diocese to begin listing those credibly accused of sexually abusing adults older than 25. SNAP Sacramento alleges there are at least 25 priests who should be added on these grounds to the local list, currently composed of 45 priests and two deacons. The diocese’s list and SNAP’s proposed list each span several decades.


SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant