THE AUSTRALIAN INQUIRY – A Catholic Reporter Article

THE AUSTRALIAN INQUIRY – A Catholic Reporter Article

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

The report heard the testimonies of more than 8,000 survivors of child sex abuse. Of those who were abused in religious institutions, 62 percent were Catholics. “We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said. Recommendations include that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference request that the Vatican consider introducing voluntary celibacy for clergy. It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse. The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged. The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

Pope Francis’s former finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, testified in a video link from the Vatican in 2016 about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. Pell this year became the most senior Catholic official to face sex offense charges. Through his lawyers, Pell has vowed to fight the charges of sexual assault.

The commission found that the church’s responses to complaints and concerns about clerics in Australia were “remarkably and disturbingly similar.” The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said many of the commission’s recommendations “would have significant impact on the way the Catholic Church and others operate in Australia.” He said the Vatican is already giving “serious consideration” to questions raised by the commission about the extent of the seal of the confession and whether child molesters who did not confess to police could be absolved. “I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

He said the Australian bishops would put the celibacy recommendations to the Vatican, but added, “I believe that there are real values in celibacy.” The commission found that celibacy was not a direct cause of child sexual abuse, but was a contributing factor, especially when combined with other risk factors. “We conclude that there is an elevated risk of child sex abuse where compulsorily celibate male clergy or religious have privileged access to children in certain types of Catholic institutions, including schools, residential institutions and parishes,” the report said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, recommended all Australians read the report. “What that commission has done is exposed a national tragedy. It’s an outstanding exercise in love and I thank the commissioners and those who had the courage to tell their stories,” Turnbull said.


Australian Bishop Urges End To Clericalism – Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen says Church Culture Contributed To The Sex Abuse Crisis

Australian Bishop Urges End To Clericalism

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen says Church Culture Contributed
To The Sex Abuse Crisis

Article by Peter Feuerherd – Correspondent for National Catholic Reporter’s
Field Hospital series on Parish Life

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen of Parramatta, Australia, speaking to the National Council of Priests of Australia, urged an end to clericalism in the church and expressed hope that a newly revitalized Catholic clergy would emerge from the sex abuse crisis that has wracked the Catholic Church in Australia. He spoke Aug. 30 to the National Council of Priests in Australia, which reprinted his remarks in the December edition of ‘The Swag’, its quarterly magazine.

Van Nguyen, 55, a Conventual Franciscan who became bishop of Parramatta last year, declared in a message to a Royal Commission investigating sex abuse in the Catholic Church that he, himself, had been abused by church members as an adult. He told the priests’ group that “we are in a big mess” as priests “bear the brunt of public anger and distrust in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. It is one of the hardest times to be a priest.”

He suggested they look to the example of Pope Francis as a vision of priesthood based on a servant, not an authoritarian, model. After Francis was elected, he eschewed the usual papal trappings and asked for the gathered crowd to pray for him at St. Peter’s Square. That gesture, said Long, “was truly the prophetic sign of the century. The ground under our feet has shifted,” There needs to be an attitudinal change at every level, a conversion of mind and heart that conforms us to the spirit of the Gospel, a new wine in new wineskins, not a merely cosmetic change or worse, a retreat into restorationism.”

In Australia, he said, “the priesthood no longer enjoys the prestige and the power it once had. For a lot of young people, it is no longer surrounded with the aura of mystique and fascination.” In response, he urged priests to embrace what he called a model of servant-leader. The sex abuse crisis was more than the evil acts of individuals. Van Nguyen said the culture of the church contributed to the crisis in Australia. “Unless we have the courage to see how far we have drifted from the vision of Jesus, unless we are prepared to go beyond the symptoms and explore the deeper issues that lurk behind the surface, unless we genuinely repent of our sins and face up to the task of reclaiming the innocence and powerlessness of the servant-leader, we will have failed the test of our integrity, discipleship and mission,” he said.

Van Nguyen added, “When privilege, power and dominance are more evident than love, humility and servanthood in the church, then the very Gospel of the servant Jesus is at risk.” He urged priests to see their ministry as a counterweight to the human lust for power and domination, to stand, like Jesus, with the outcast and the vulnerable. “If one can detect the direction of Pope Francis’
pontificate, it has something to do with the movement from security to boldness, from being inward looking to looking outward, from preoccupation with the present status and safeguarding our privileges to learning to be vulnerable, and learning to convey God’s compassion to those who are on the edges of society and the church,” said Van Nguyen. He asked that priests be willing to “bridge the yawning gap between the ideal and the real, between what the church teaches and how the people respond. The new wine of God’s unconditional love, boundless mercy, radical inclusivity and equality needs to be poured into new wineskins of humility, mutuality, compassion and powerlessness. The old wineskins of triumphalism, authoritarianism and supremacy, abetted by clerical power, superiority, and rigidity, are breaking. It is a vocation of the Christian leader to be with his people in their hopes and struggles, anxieties and fears. It is not easy to be in the middle, and to be loyal to both ends of the spectrum, to belong to the church of orthodoxy and yet also to minister in the world of the unorthodox. It truly involves being, as the saying goes, between a rock and the hard place.”

Van Nguyen, who came to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee with his family, said he had a particular interest in the biblical experience of the exile. “My personal story of being a refugee, my struggle for a new life in Australia, coupled with my Franciscan heritage have all contributed to the sense of hope which was the legacy of the exile of old and which should inform and enlighten our present exile experience,” he said. “Like the prophets who accompanied their people into exile, who interpreted the signs of the times and led them in the direction of the kingdom — the arc of salvation history if you like — we must do the same for our people in the context of this new millennium.”

He cautioned against focusing on increased vocation numbers as an indication of a healthy priesthood. “The strength of our mission does not depend on a cast of thousands. Quality, not quantity, marks our presence. It is substance and not the size of the group that makes the difference. Hence, this time of diminishment can be a blessing in disguise as it makes us reliant less on ourselves, but rather on the power of God,” Van Nguyen said. He argued that one of the key insights of the Second Vatican Council is that “the church is not the church of the ordained but of all the baptized.” Van Nguyen urged a rethinking of clerical titles, privileges and customs in the church. “Furthermore, it is my conviction that the priesthood ‘pedestalized’ is the priesthood dehumanized. It is bound to lead us into the illusion of a messiah complex and an inability to claim our wounded humanity and to minister in partnership. What we need to do is to humanize the priesthood so as best to equip ourselves with relational power for authentic Gospel living and service.”

The church, he said, needs to dismantle the pyramid model of church which “promotes the superiority of the ordained and the excessive emphasis on the role of the clergy at the expense of non-ordained” and is the root cause of clericalism. “It is to acknowledge and to have the courage to die to the old ways of being church that no longer convey effectively the message of the Gospel to the culture in which we live,” said Van Nguyen. Those who predict the death of the priesthood see the sex abuse crisis as the final nail in the coffin.

They are half-right, said Van Nguyen. “They fail to see the other side of the equation. The Catholic priesthood is only dying to that which is not of Christ. It is dying to worldly trappings, triumphalism, and clericalism; it is rising again to the power of vulnerability, servant-leadership, discipleship of humble service and radical love,” he said. Van Nguyen concluded, “that model of the exalted, separated and elitist priesthood is drawing its last breaths — at least in many parts of the world, including Australia. There is a better wine that the good Lord has prepared for us.”

Catholic Ex-priest Gets Life In Prison For 1960 Parishioner Murder – with comments by Brian Mark Hennessy, a member of the Comboni Survivor Group

Catholic Ex-priest Gets Life In Prison For 1960
Parishioner Murder

A National Catholic Reporter Article dated Dec 11, 2017 – From The Associated Press, Religion News Service

At Edinburg, Texas, USA, a jury on Friday sentenced an 85-year-old former priest to life in prison for the 1960 killing of a schoolteacher and former beauty queen who was a member of the parish he served. The same jurors found John Bernard Feit guilty of murder on Thursday night. Prosecutors asked jurors Friday for a 57-year prison term – one year for each year he had walked free since killing Irene Garza after she went to him for confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. The 25-year-old Irene Garza disappeared on April 16th 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious, and beaten and suffocated.

The Prosecutor had asked the jury not to view the now elderly and weak Feit as he is today, but to try to imagine him as a 28-year-old man capable of subduing the woman. The jury deliberated just over four hours on Friday before deciding on the maximum sentence. Afterward, the Prosecutor said at a news conference that he wished that he could take credit for the conviction and sentence, “but it was God-driven”.
Feit, then a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, came under suspicion in the investigation early on. He told police that he heard Garza’s confession in the church rectory rather than in the confessional, but denied he had killed her. Among the evidence that pointed to Feit as a suspect over the years was that two priests told authorities that Feit had confessed to them. One of them said he saw scratches on Feit soon after Garza’s disappearance. His portable photographic slide viewer was found near Garza’s body.

Feit had also been accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby town just weeks before Garza’s death. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500.

Prosecutors presented evidence earlier in the week that church and elected officials suspected Feit, but didn’t want to prosecute him. They feared it could harm the reputations of the Church and Hidalgo County elected officials, most of whom were Catholic. This was partly due to the fact that Senator. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president that year.

Feit was sent to a treatment center for troubled priests in New Mexico, later becoming a supervisor with responsibility in the clearing of priests for parish assignments. Among the men Feit helped keep in ministry was the child molester, James Porter, who assaulted more than 100 victims before he was defrocked and sent to prison. Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married and went on to work at the Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, training and recruiting volunteers and helping oversee the charity’s network of food kitchens. Garza’s family members and friends had long pushed authorities to reopen the case, and it became an issue in the 2014 district attorney’s race. Ricardo Rodriguez had promised that if elected, he would re-examine the case.

Comment by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group
It is curious that Feit was convicted because two Catholic Priests, who were witnesses in the case, revealed that Feit had confessed his crime of murder to them in the Confessional. Revealing the secrets of confession, however, are contrary to Catholic Church Canon Law and the Motu Proprio of Pope John-Paul II, “Sacramentorum Sanctitatus Tutela”. The Catholic Priest, Feit, went free for 57 years until he was found guilty of a ruthless crime – because for all that time he was protected by the ‘seal of confession’. Presumably, in normal circumstances, the priests who heard Feit’s confession and later revealed the truth of the murder committed by Feit, could now be defrocked and excommunicated from the Catrholic Church by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith*.

This very day, Dom Richard Yeo, Abbot President of the British Benedictine Congregation, stated clearly during a Hearing at the United Kingdom Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, that confessions of ‘delicta graviora’, heinous crimes of child sexual abuse, cannot be revealed on pain of excommunication. The consequence of that is that Paedophile clerics of the Roman Catholic Church can continue to roam free – ‘all sins forgiven’ – within parishes and Religious Orders, because they are protected by Canon Law and the same Motu Proprio that allowed Feit to escape conviction for the greater part of his life. It is somewhat incredible that Feit, himself, whilst still a priest within the Catholic structure, helped keep in ministry a child molester, James Porter, who assaulted more than 100 victims before he was defrocked and sent to prison.

The Catholic Church must re-examine the subject of Confession. It cannot be considered to be ‘moral’ that these most serious of crimes against third parties can go unpunished and yet more victims are placed in danger of harm. There is a ‘moral’ way out and it is not complicated. Simply, absolution for confessions of ‘delicta graviora’ – redefined as ‘a serious injury against another person that causes physical or psychological harm (or both)’ – does not become effective until ‘after’ the crime has been admitted to the institutional authorities (religious, scholastic, work-place etc) within which the crime was committed – and – the civil authorities who administer the justice system within the jurisdiction of the crime.

*( I note here that I am not aware of the circumstances of the two priests who revealed the crime of murder confessed to them and nor any Canonical consequences of their revelations).

New Mexico Judge Orders Release Of Clergy Sex Abuse Records (The Associated Press, Religion News Service)

New Mexico Judge Orders Release Of

Clergy Sex Abuse Records


(The Associated PressReligion News Service)


The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has released hundreds of pages of court records related to sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in response to an order from a New Mexico judge, marking the largest disclosure of such records since alleged victims began suing the archdiocese nearly three decades ago.

Church officials said in a statement issued after release that they hope the disclosure along with the recent publication of a list of clergy accused of sexual misconduct will serve as an additional step in healing for survivors, their families and parishioners. The documents include letters showing church leaders knew of sexual abuse allegations that had been leveled against three priests from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Judge Alan Malott’s order stems from a request by KOB-TV, which intervened in several abuse cases for the purpose of obtaining the records. The Albuquerque station had argued that much of the information should no longer be guarded by a court-protected confidentiality order. “I think it’s important because it gives people who have been abused the concrete validation of their claims,” said Levi Monagle, an attorney for some of the victims. “It’s one thing to know your own truth, but it’s another thing to see that truth acknowledged by people in the highest positions of power within an institution like the church.”

The records paint a picture of a diocese that repeatedly assigned priests accused of sexually abusing children to posts where they could abuse again, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The records include letters and reports from psychologists to church leaders that detail allegations against the three priests. Former priests Jason Sigler and Sabine Griego still live in New Mexico, while Arthur Perrault fled the country.

Perrault, who is alleged to have sexually abused at least 38 boys in New Mexico, was recommended for a teaching post at St. Pius X High School in 1966 by a psychologist under contract with the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order that ran a treatment center for pedophile priests in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Records show Perrault was sent to Jemez Springs in 1965 after he was accused of molesting young men while serving in Connecticut.

Perrault ignited the clerical abuse scandal in New Mexico when he vanished from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging Perrault had sexually assaulted seven children at his parish. Perrault turned up last year in Morocco, working at an English-language school for children, where he was subsequently fired. It is not clear where he is now.

In the court documents amassed on Sigler, attorney Brad Hall counts at least 63 young male victims. Hall has filed more than 70 lawsuits since 2011 on behalf of alleged clerical abuse victims. The Journal reported that Sigler was never reprimanded by the church and was instead thanked for his service when he decided to leave the priesthood to get married. Sigler was the only one to be convicted and is on the state’s sex offender registry. He did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

According to Hall’s records, Griego is accused of assaulting 32 children at New Mexico parishes. Griego declined to comment when reached by phone. Former Archbishop Michael Sheehan wrote in a 2004 memorandum that Griego’s case is extraordinary because of the “sheer volume and heinous nature of the accusations.” Payments to seventeen of Griego’s victims approached $3 million, he wrote.



This is posted by Mark Murray – it is not written by him


While many Priests may not be guilty of the crimes or bad behavior they are accused of many are as guilty as sin. While some of these abuse matters may not fall into the category of “a crime” its still abuse when it is from the start done with ill intent on the fragile person. Recent articles have been published, relating to certain Priests who abuse the young as well as those who sexually abuse adults.


Such behavior can never be justified.

There are Priests who “reach” out to emotionally fragile woman, using their position as a cover, to gain the trust of the emotionally fragile woman, showing compassion and care but in reality they are looking at the woman right from the start, through eyes filled with lust or intentions to gain, rather than through eyes of empathy.

While it can never be disputed that there are woman, who pursue Priests, doing all in their power to gain the Priest favor and tempt him, as they view it as some type of trophy to do so, these are not the woman, I am giving reference to.

The fragile woman places trust in him, seeing him as a person who shows compassion and understanding of her situation. Almost immediately, the Priest tells her that he feels close to her, telling her “it is nice to be able to talk so freely and be so close.”
Slowly he draws her into his web, advising her to keep to self and just confide in him. The woman is blindsided by this talk and starts to bare her soul to him.

Once he has gained her confidence, he then starts to make advances in words, actions and deeds, saying after each time he does, it is how he feels, knowing that a person in her position is craving love and affection in whatever form and will never disregard him. Eventually after each “fall” he relies on the woman, who is in desperate need of a understanding friend, to look past his transgressions and say, that the behavior he displayed is perfectly natural, and both then state “such feelings are there but they need to be controlled” only for him without any prompting from the woman side to make these advances again and do all in his power to try to tempt the woman, through sexting, when he sees her, using her to fulfill a need, but not going the whole way, by engaging in behavior of kissing her until her is aroused and then exposing himself and reaching climax in front of her, video calls where he cannot see the woman but he is once again working himself up in the video until he reaches climax, telephonic sex, making out to the woman that what they share is special and there is also talk of a future life together. long conversations, telling her of his unhappiness in the Priesthood, his dissatisfaction at been used by others to do all tasks, making sure he never ever leaves her alone, making all the advances and always tempting the woman who is single.

The woman tells him that she places more value in him as a friend above all else, even if it means that they would only be able to interact over social media and keep all correspondence “formal but friendly”. He agrees. His track record would be evidence enough to show, that he continues to pursue the woman, knowing that she will accept him back each time because she is lost and alone, as much as the woman would say she takes responsibility for any part she played. A lot of his talk is, friendly and shows care and promises of a life together in the future, thereby confusing the woman even more. He keeps their relationship well hidden. He sends her over three hundred photographs of his “erect” penis, photo’s of himself, where clearly in the background in most of the photos one can see his Priest cloak, he then starts to ask the woman for photos of her most intimate self, as much as she tells him she has never engaged in such behavior over social media before, eventually because of his hot and cold behavior and out of fear of losing him as her only friend she gives in, only for him to say, the photo is OK and needs stronger light, it is evident he is trying to get later “dirt” on the woman not realising she has kept every single chat they ever had, ever single conversation, every single show of call, every photo ever sent.

Such Priests, when they do eventually express an “apology” will maintain, that their Priestly calling is more important?? even though that was never disputed or questioned by the woman, as she regarded him as a close friend, who was unable at times to control his feelings and expressed them often in a “suggestive” way without any prompting from her side and then adds to his “apology” that it he had never engaged in such behavior before, trying to shift blame onto the woman that she is responsible for his behavior throughout, yet his lengthy record with just that woman alone, is evidence is enough that he has engaged in this behavior for a long time and what is apparent is that he is very experienced in this regard.

No mention is given again to the “friendship” at all. All emphasis is placed only on him. A real apologizer is one who is solely motivated by concern for the one he has wronged not self.
If his Priesthood was so important why did he wait so long before saying that??

All the Priest is doing is using his “priesthood” as an excuse to get rid of the woman as he is done using her and to free himself possibly from any guilt he may feel at violating his Priestly vows.

He knows he would never be suspected of such behavior, as he “hides” behind his position, years served, age, shows a compassionate and affectionate side, often introverted, serious, quietly spoken, held in high regard by many, although there are signs that he is full of his own self importance and evidence suggests that he certainly does not keep his distance from other woman and is often seen in their company socially and also very worryingly through doing ministry with them from time to time. It is evident that many of these woman enjoy his attention and are very young.

Priests are humans. When feelings expressed by the Priest are sincere, and are NOT done with ill intention, even towards an emotionally fragile woman and develop over time, it can be understood and a solution can be sought to his inability to control himself and his emotions.

To expect that fragile woman you have mislead for so long, to be accepting of your cowardly written apology and accepting of your dismissal of her, is like taking a delicate flower, that had started to bloom again, as she felt she had a friend and support system, squashing it into the ground with his foot, then picking it up later fully expecting that it can be put together again the way it was before. The woman is left with even deeper wounds to her already fractured soul.

It can be argued by those who are biased, that the fragile woman knew he is a Priest, and say she is not the victim but the victimizer, and why did she allow it continue for so long. Why did he allow it to continue for so long?? He knew his a Priest and he knew she was emotionally fragile as well and in desperate need of a friend, why did he mislead her into believing she was the close friend?? Also as said, countless times there was talk of a future together, giving the woman false hope, and also talk that he would be able to still perform his Priestly duties. The Catholic Church is telling the Priest it is ok, to use the woman for a need but it is not ok to love or commit to that woman. Who knows what he is telling others, where he would get support, as this Priest has now gone off to REST, after his apparent ordeal at been tempted at the hands of a woman, but all evidence shows that he is the guilty one, who never left the woman alone, tempted her all of the time, exposed himself all the time at every single opportunity, trying to arouse the woman by doing so, made countless video calls, telephone calls, the evidence is all there, also secret trips to visit her and then still did the same while the woman was fully clothed and in no way tempted him. To just dismiss, and cut a woman, who you have for months brought under a wrong impression, knowing her state, saying to her I WAS VERY SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO YOU FROM THE START BECAUSE YOU ARE AND WERE SO FRAGILE and woman the woman starts to cry, he then changes it saying NO I MEAN I FEEL A NEED TO PROTECT YOU. She sees him as her true friend, a person who falls from time to time and tells him many times she would rather he never expressed such feelings ever again or engaged in such talk, kept his distance but kept regular correspondence from time to time with her, keeping all talk above board than not have him in her life, he simply ignores this, it goes about him, what he stands to lose, how its affected him, because he sees the catholic church and the priesthood as his “wife” and the girlfriend as his “mistress” so in the end he must decide, does he stay with his “wife” the priesthood or go with his “mistress” girlfriend, he chooses more often than not the Priesthood because he realises he is at a age he will never get work, he has nothing if he leaves, she has little to offer in the way of financial support, he is fake. If his Priesthood was so important, why wait for so long before expressing these feelings of apparent disgust, why try to shift blame onto the woman after the apology by saying, he has never engaged in such matters before where it is apparent he is an expert, in view of the fact he entered the Priesthood at about sixteen and has been a Priest for over thirty something years and in his sixties.
To take advantage of a situation where the only intention was to try to benefit in whatever way right from the start and then disregard and dismiss the fragile person after you are done using them, is abuse, not as in the form of a crime but its abuse.
Reality, it is happening and Priests who are guilty are bargaining on the loyal victim, to protect them.


A Tribute To Barbara Blaine, Founder of SNAP National Catholic Reporter Article by Bill Frogameni – 25th September 2017

A Tribute To Barbara Blaine,
Founder of SNAP

National Catholic Reporter Article by Bill Frogameni – 25th September 2017

Barbara Blaine, the founder and former longtime president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has passed away at age 61 in Utah, where she was vacationing with her husband. According to a Sept. 24 statement from Blaine’s family, the renowned advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy died after falling ill from a sudden, unexpected cardiac condition Sept. 18. By many accounts, Blaine was known to keep herself in excellent physical shape, a fact that made the loss that much heavier for family, friends and fellow survivors.
“I’m just shocked and have profound sadness,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s current managing director. “The world has lost a very wonderful woman. I’m sad. That’s all we can be. She was way too young, wasn’t sick. The only word is ‘sad.’ ”
In a written statement, Blaine’s family said that “she was truly a remarkable human being, and her spirit will remain with us, shaping our choices for the better, steering us away from petty concerns and encouraging us to lean in towards compassion, that we might honor her memory.” Dorris, who has led SNAP since Blaine resigned last February, recalled Blaine’s seemingly boundless energy for exposing sexual perpetrators and calling the Catholic Church to task for its long history of protecting them. When travelling with Blaine in Europe sometime in the 2000s, SNAP scheduled a media event that was poorly attended, Dorris said. But Blaine hit the pavement and knocked on doors of any media outlet willing to hear the stories of clergy abuse victims. “We were going to the radio and TV stations and newspapers and she was saying ‘You need to listen to me, to what’s happening in your country.’ She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Dorris said.

From its beginnings as a small, loose collection of survivors of Catholic clergy abuse, the movement exploded with wave after wave of revelations detailing systemic sexual abuse by priests, bishops, deacons, brothers, nuns and other church functionaries who perpetrated horrors — mainly on children. Blaine and her fellow survivors helped expose thousands of predators and, very often, the equally shocking truth that those predators were protected at every level of the institutional church. The movement reached critical mass in 2002 when The Boston Globe published its exhaustive, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into decades of crimes at the expense of the unsuspecting faithful of the region. The series led to similar investigations by media and government bodies across the U.S. and the world, as well as thousands of legal cases resulting in billions of dollars in payouts by the church and even some criminal convictions.

The Boston Globe’s series inspired “Spotlight,” the dramatic enactment of the Globe’s investigation which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2016. “I don’t think any of us had any clue that the victims’ movement was going to turn into this,” Dorris said. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams.” Phil Saviano, who founded SNAP’s New England chapter and played a key role in the Boston revelations, said he was inspired after seeing Blaine on Phil Donahue’s talk show in the early 1990s. He reached out to Blaine for support and found healing, but also the courage to advocate for change. “I felt like I was stumbling into some huge secret no one was talking about,” Saviano said. “That was her great gift in life: She was able to relate to many survivors and convince them to be able to start talking about this.” The movement continued to snowball, Saviano said, eventually leading Blaine to testify in front of multiple state legislatures in attempts (often successful) to change laws in favor of victims. Blaine’s advocacy even took her and SNAP to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands where they tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the ICC to investigate the Vatican and then Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity. Though that effort failed, Saviano noted that the church was ultimately excoriated by the United Nations which faulted it for failing to protect children.

Jason Berry, who met Blaine through his seminal reporting on church malfeasance, expressed great sadness at Blaine’s passing. Berry credited her as one of the main catalysts in the sea of change that swept the church. “She was obsessed and her obsession was with justice. That’s a lonely road,” Berry said. “I’ve known very few people who had that kind of steely tenacity and commitment.” Blaine’s advocacy put her largely at odds with the institutional church, said Detroit’s retired auxiliary bishop, Thomas Gumbleton, a longtime friend. With Blaine standing by his side, Gumbleton in 2005 went public with claims that he, too, had been sexually abused as a 15-year-old seminarian. “I had bishops tell me she was practically a devil against the church,” Gumbleton said. “And also — it was so cruel — that she and many other survivors were only in it for the money.” Gumbleton went on to say that most bishops failed miserably in responding to the abuse claims and Blaine took that hurt very personally. “Instead of getting a pastoral response the survivors got an adversarial response,” he said. Even so, Gumbleton said, “SNAP was one of the most important things that happened in bringing the sex abuse crisis to the forefront and it caused the bishops to do much more than they were doing and it helped stop the cover up.”

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, an inaugural member of the bishops’ National Review Board (2002-04), said it was Blaine “at the forefront” of ensuring that victims were the focus of the board’s work in overseeing the implementation of the Dallas Charter. “Without Barbara, SNAP and the other survivors in that organization, I don’t think we would be where we are today in our Catholic Church or in society about transparency on these issues,” Burke said.

Blaine was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, as part of a large, devout Catholic family. In a 2004 interview, Blaine said she was first sexually abused by a priest when she was a 13-year-old between seventh and eighth grade at West Toledo’s St. Pius X school. The year was 1969, and the priest was a 42-year-old member of the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales. Chet Warren, subsequently named a defendant in multiple sex abuse lawsuits and a priest identified by the Diocese of Toledo as a serial offender, preyed on Blaine’s veneration of priests. “I was part of a group of junior high girls called ‘The Deaconettes’ that helped clean up after mass. One Sunday, Father Warren invited me to stay and have dinner with the priests. It was a special honor,” Blaine recalled.”It was really confusing. He started saying things like he knew I had feelings for him like he had for me,” and “He started telling me things like how I was holier than other kids and that I was closer to Jesus than other kids.” Then, Blaine said, the priest started to touch her. Blaine said Warren warned her not to tell afterward: “He said nobody would understand because none of them were as holy and close to Jesus as we were, and somehow, this was blessed by Jesus … I felt very guilty, ashamed, dirty and embarrassed. He almost didn’t have to warn me because I wasn’t going to tell anyone.” To add to her fear, Blaine said Warren relied on a common trick of child abusers — he told her no one would believe her. Blaine said the priest continued to abuse her until she was a senior at her Catholic high school. Her grades suffered, she slept poorly, grew apart from her family and avoided males her own age. Blaine graduated high school in 1974 and went on to St. Louis University two years later. She eventually earned a master’s degree in social work and went to live in a Catholic Worker house in south Chicago where she ran a homeless shelter. She threw herself into the shelter’s long hours and heartbreaks until June 1985 when she read a story by Jason Berry in National Catholic Reporter about a priest sexually abusing altar boys that she later recalled made her physically sick.

“I didn’t, at that point, understand that what had happened to me was really abuse. I just knew that whatever had happened between me and Warren was obviously causing this response … it was post-traumatic stress disorder.” Blaine sought out other victims of clerical abuse. Still living a near ascetic lifestyle with her Catholic worker community, Blaine would organize small meetings in the homeless shelter where she lived or connect with victims by phone. And so SNAP was born in the late 1980s. SNAP grew slowly at first, but the survivors drew strength from their common bond. “We’d spent so many years thinking we were the only ones — it was really affirming and consoling once we found other people,” Blaine remembered.

Somewhere in those early years Blaine began reaching out to media to tell her story and the stories she heard from other survivors. She wanted to connect with others, expose predators and counter the church’s tendency to secrecy. Repeatedly — Blaine would recall in later years — victims told of church officials who minimized the abuse or made promises to contain the predators without ever doing so. Blaine’s experience confronting the church started in 1985 — that same year she read the article about the priest abusing altar boys. Then 29, she remembered approaching her tightly-knit Catholic family with her story and receiving full support. Blaine’s family went to the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales (her abuser’s religious order) as well as Toledo’s bishop to ensure her abuser didn’t harm other kids. Speaking for a 2004 interview, Blaine’s then 83-year-old mother, Rita Blaine, choked up recalling the family’s feelings of betrayal on approaching Church leaders.

“I was so convinced that all I had to do was go over and speak to the Oblates. I had every confidence in the world I’d be received. They weren’t belligerent — they listened — but they were very aloof. Then they’d say they’d contact us, but weeks and months would go by without us hearing anything,” Rita Blaine said. “The ordeal — it sticks with you even after years. It’s not something that ever really goes away.” A subsequent meeting with Toledo’s bishop was similarly unsatisfactory, Rita Blaine recalled. Warren stayed in ministry until being put on leave in September 1992, shortly before Blaine’s story was mentioned on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

As was so often the case with predators, Blaine said church leaders told her she was the priest’s only victim when, in fact, they had known he was abusing kids for years. Eventually, the Oblates kicked Warren out of the order, but he continued to identify himself publicly as “Father” Warren for years — a ruse more easily perpetrated thanks to the church’s reluctance to publicly name him as a pedophile no longer in ministry, Blaine lamented. After years of trying to work quietly with church leaders to right the wrongs of clergy sexual abuse, Blaine and her fellow SNAP survivors came to believe that full public disclosure was the best way to effect change. And so she became a frequent media presence, staging protests at churches and diocesan headquarters the world over — even at the Vatican.

By multiple accounts, Blaine worked for SNAP on a volunteer basis for years prior to the Boston Globe revelations. Between starting SNAP in the 1980s and 2002, Blaine got a law degree and worked in Chicago as an advocate for abused children. After Boston opened the floodgates of revelation, Blaine gave up law and went to work full-time as one of a few paid SNAP employees. “I remember I was answering the helpline at that point and I’d have 25 messages in the morning and, before I could answer 3 of them, I’d have 25 more,” SNAP’s Barbara Dorris said. “The Globe broke the story but SNAP provided victims a place to go and get help.”



A Priest Administered Sadistic Beatings

A Priest Administered Sadistic Beatings
To Boys at a London School
An abbot who fled to Kosovo to escape justice has been convicted of abusing 10 boys at an elite Catholic school in London in the 1970s and 1980s. Andrew Soper, 74, formerly known as Father Laurence Soper, pleaded not guilty of 19 charges of rape and other sexual offences at the Old Bailey. Soper sexually abused pupils while he was a master at St Benedict’s school in Ealing. He abused them after administering punishments with a cane.
The first victim contacted police in 2004 after Soper left his role as abbot of Ealing Abbey and moved to the Benedictine order’s headquarters in Rome. The former pupil was told originally by the Police that there was insufficient evidence to achieve a conviction. Soper fled to Kosovo while on police bail, but was arrested in 2016 after being from Kosovo.

A senior Crown Prosecution lawyer involved in the case, said: “Soper used his position as a teacher to abuse children for his own sexual gratification. A statement by the school authorities said: “St Benedict’s school is deeply concerned for the suffering of the victims of Soper and apologised sincerely for their past errors. They acknowledged that the fact that these matters took place a long time ago did not mitigate the pain and injustice endured by the boys and that the school now supervised their pupils in accordance with strict child safety guidelines.

The QC leading the case for the prosecution, told the court that victims were subjected to sadistic beatings by Soper for a series of minor errors that led to a caning and sexual assault which were entirely inappropriate and clearly demonstrated a sexual motive. In later years many of his victims have experienced flashbacks and nightmares. Soper denied caning the boys. The judge remanded Soper in custody and he was convicted later of two counts of buggery, two counts of indecency with a child and 15 counts of indecent assault. The offence was subsequently changed from buggery to rape.

(The Comboni Survivors Blog, “Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands” –
has recently tweeted the link to a ‘GUARDIAN’ article on this story by Owen Bowcott).