written by Dianne Post, Attorney, Secular AZ Legal Committee Chair

Every issue of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) newsletter has at least two pages of “Black Collar Crime” that is a smattering of criminal and civil activity across the country against those of a religious order.  An example is one issue in November 2020 that revealed fifteen cases of pastors and church officials who were arrested and charged with crimes ranging from sexual assault of girls from 7 to 14, to the beating of a one-year-old, to shooting a wife in the head, to meth, to child pornography, and to embezzlement up to $22 million. 

In the “pleaded/convicted” section one 62-year-old man pled out to sexual penetration with an object to children 14 and 15.  Eight other cases were sentenced by a court.  One man got life for rape and three counts of sexual imposition of 10 women ages 18-81.  One got 10 years for sexual abuse of a 12-year-old.  One got 6 years for child pornography.  Another one got 200 years for making that child pornography including with a 6-month-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.  Two Amish brothers who were having sex with their sister when she was 12 and 13 got 15 years suspended after the 13-year-old had a baby by one of the brothers.  In addition, they got 5 year’s probation, 100 hours of community service, and a letter of apology.  I don’t even want to think of the hell her life will be and that of the baby while the two brothers walk free.

One got five years for four counts of molestation of children 15 and younger.  One woman who solicited sex with young boys got 12 years.  Another man got 5 years for 3 counts of molestation.  And another who was a volunteer at the church got 3 years for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child younger than 14.  

In a child abuse case tried only by the church judicial court, a priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance (I thought that was what they already had signed up for?) and cannot function as a priest.  So he gets early retirement to do what he agreed to do.

Eleven civil suits were also outlined.  Arizona features in a few.  The Diocese of Lafayette, IN and Diocese of Phoenix was sued by a Navajo plaintiff against a priest from Indiana who was transferred to Chinle after allegations of abuse in Indiana. 

Other lawsuits included those against the Diocese of Worchester, MA and a priest Mahoney;

The Diocese of Savannah, GA and a bishop Parkes; the De La Salle High School, Catholic Charities, Christian Brothers, Gandara, and estate of Langenstein; and the Diocese of Sendai, Bishop Hiraga in Japan.  In this case, the plaintiff was a victim of violence by her husband and had gone for counseling.  The defense attorney argued that the bishop should not be prosecuted because of the passage of time (1977) and the then priest might have thought sex was consensual.  Regardless of the passage of time, the rape will negatively impact the victim for the rest of her life.  Further, one cannot obtain consent when the positions of power (priest/penitent) are so divergent.  Consensual or not, aren’t priests supposed to be celibate? 

All Saints Catholic School and Diocese of Palm Beach was sued for failure to protect an ll-year- old.  And in Phoenix again, Brophy College Prep, Sinnerud,  Phoenix Catholic Diocese, and Western U.S. Jesuits were all sued.  After the teacher was thrown out of Brophy, he went on to teach in Omaha giving him further access to victims. 

Other civil suits included Atkins, Presbytery of NY and the French Evangelical Church, (a little variety from the catholics),  the Diocese of Haifax-Yarmouth, and the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ and two clergy there.

Four civil suits were settled.  The Diocese of Kamloops, BC had two different cases, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and St James parish.  The Diocese of Boston settled for three priests. 

The Diocese of St. Catherines in Ontario settled for a priest raping two sisters.  The younger one turned him in finally but only after her 14-year-old sister had an abortion due to his rape.  What did they do to him?  He was transferred to another parish of course. 

The Diocese of Rockville Center has had 223 lawsuits of priest abuse that resulted in them filing for bankruptcy.  At least 3,677 people were abused from 1946-2014, more than half of them were 13 and younger, one-third were altar boys.  Payments per person thus far are averaging around $6,000. 

Many of course still seek to avoid paying for their crimes.  Malka Leifer was accused of 74 counts of abusing children at the Jewish Adass Yisroel School in Melbourne, Australia.  She fled to Israel and is fighting extradition to Australia.  

Paul West was found guilty in a class action in MS and each victim got $263, 000.  But he had tricked two impoverished Black men into taking only $15,000 each.  Their brother refused and got the full amount.  So now the other two are suing.  West was extradited from WI to MS to face the music. 

David Haas, a composer in the Catholic church, has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.  Sabine Griego, a former Catholic priest, was awaiting trial in Albuquerque for assaulting 38 children when he died at 82.  Why people continue to put their children directly in harm’s way with serial sexual abusers I cannot fathom. 

An FFRF staff attorney, Ryan D. Jayne, published a report on November 16 called, “Vatican abuse report is far too little, too late.”  The Vatican released a 445-page report about a myriad of sexual assault allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.  The report dates back to the 1980s and shows that church officials ignored the allegations, protected McCarrick, and some joined in the fun themselves.

Pope John Paul II knew at least by 1999 and promoted McCarrick anyhow.  Allegedly the current Pope Francis didn’t know about this until 2017 and then removed McCarrick.  In fact a priest had informed Monsignor in 1985 at the Diocese of Metuchen (NJ – see their name above) when he was assaulted.  Finally the church did an internal process in 2019 and McCarrick was punished by house arrest.  He was 90.  I doubt he planned on going mountain climbing or sky diving anyhow. 

This pattern of coverup continues.  A 2018 grand jury in PA found that two bishops covered up sex abuse by more than 50 priests over 40 years.  Another independent inquiry report found that child sexual abuse was swept under the carpet in the UK.  Jayne says, “No one could rationally deny that the church, for decades, if not centuries, has facilitated and perpetuated sexual abuse at an almost unimaginable scale.”  It almost feels like the church was set up for that very reason. 

What little was done to McCarrick was even resisted internally.  Officials in charge, especially the money people, want to protect reputations and bank accounts of themselves and their friends. Still no order has come down to report abusers to the police though their behavior is clearly criminal.  Governmental authorities collude as well still giving priests and pastors protection from testifying about confessions of abuse, not investigating (e.g. Colorado City where AZ authorities have run scared for decades because of the power of the Mormon church), and limiting the time that victims may sue.

The Boy Scout bankruptcy threatens to reveal a sexual abuse cult rivaling the catholic church.  On Nov. 17, 2020, the window closed for filing claims in the bankruptcy court.  They expected 30,000 claims.  As that number was soon surpassed, they estimated 60,000.  The final claims totaled 92,000.  The lawyer for the men said the abuse runs the gamut from the absolutely worst thing you can think of one human to do to another to “run of the mill” sexual abuse.  The Boy Scouts kept a hidden file of scout leaders they knew were molesters – though they didn’t report them or keep them from being leaders!  But many of those identified in the claims are names that were not in those files so the Scouts have had many more abusers than even they knew.  Still there are those who deny that child sexual abuse is real.  They deny it could be happening in their community.  They deny it could be happening to their child.  Hundreds of parents, teachers, coaches, and school administrator protected Larry Nasser who thus was able to sexual assault more than 250 girls for 30 years.  I am truly unable to understand the psychological conditioning that allows a parent to refuse to believe their own child about abuse and instead, put faith into an institution build solely on fantasy and power relationships – whether that is the church, the Boy Scouts, or their own family members.