New cardinal: Abuse victims should be ‘ashamed' to speak due to their own failings
MEXICO – Reacting to the recent avalanche of reports of clerical sexual abuse around the world, a newly minted Mexican Cardinal has suggested that victims who accuse priests should be “ashamed” because they too have skeletons in their own closets.
Those who “accuse men of the Church should [be careful] because they have long tails that are easily stepped on,” said Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera according to a report in Crux.
“I'm here happy to talk about nice things, not about problematic things, it's an accusation that is made, and in some cases it's true,” said Obeso Rivera.
The cardinal's remarks to journalists came after the release of a sweeping, two-year-long Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests. That report has sent shockwaves around the globe.
The bombshell Pennsylvania report became public while the scandal of homosexual abuse of seminarians and other young men and boys by disgraced, former Cardinal McCarrick was still making headlines.
Obeso Rivera's statement also came on the heels of reports of a Honduran Cardinal's mishandling of a crisis involving rampant homosexual activity at a major seminary in his archdiocese, as well as reports of complicity by Chilean Bishop Juan Barros in covering up a widespread child sex abuse scandal in his country.
Obeso Rivera was made a Cardinal by Pope Francis less than two months ago. He was formerly the Archbishop of Xalapa, in Veracruz, Mexico.
The public education project that targets the ‘taboo' subject of child sexual abuse in China
Project HOPE aims to mobilise the public against a serious issue that parents and authorities ‘often try to sweep under the carpet'
by Laurie Chen
Watching a film rarely had been so disturbing for Wang Xueying.
“I was extremely angry [afterward] and couldn't sleep for the whole night,” the 18-year-old student from the eastern province of Jiangsu recalled of viewing the 2011 Korean film Silenced.
The groundbreaking film, which is based on accounts of real-life systemic child sexual abuse at a deaf school in South Korea, helped raise awareness of a taboo subject in the traditionally conservative country.
Around the same time in 2016, her classmate Yang Xihang, 18, came across numerous news reports of children being sexually assaulted by their teachers and could not stop reading about the victims' ordeals.
Inspired to move others against a serious and prevalent issue that parents and authorities in China often try to sweep under the carpet, Wang and Yang decided to set up an anti-child sexual abuse education programme in their hometown of Changshu.
The pair said they were deeply moved by the testimony of abuse survivors found on Chinese social media.
“I was reminded of the time when, as a child, I felt really scared going home after school, in case a wicked man would jump out at me,” Wang said.
When she first started researching the issue, Wang said she found very few high-profile Chinese experts on the topic. Moreover, there was little reporting on the subject by the news media.
“It almost seemed like child sexual abuse wasn't an issue in China,” she said.
However, such stories have made headlines more frequently in recent years, with a child sexual abuse scandal involving teachers at an upscale Beijing kindergarten last November among the highest-profile cases.
But Wang said she initially faced resistance from parents and teachers who believed that sexual abuse was not widespread. Even her own father was puzzled over her desire to make this issue her cause, she said.
“The scariest part is not that nobody is aware of the problem; it's that nobody thinks it's a social problem,” she said. “So when children seek protection and want to speak up, nobody is willing to listen.”
Luckily, the pair discovered Girls' Protection, an NGO set up by former women journalists that provides lesson plans and other invaluable resources for raising awareness of child sexual abuse and how to prevent it.
“Xueying initially suggested [we] create a website and an official account on WeChat to propagate knowledge on anti-child sexual abuse,” Yang said. “I then recalled that our school's peer counsellor programme had professionals train students to be student counsellors and help other students.
“So we contacted Girls' Protection in order to get trained by them.”
With a group of close friends, the duo organised weekly screenings of Silenced at their school, United World College Changshu China, to raise awareness of their project. They also mass-emailed the student body to recruit new members for their cause.
They have whittled the respondents down to 50 people through interviews, and divided them into five “departments”: volunteer teachers who give anti-sexual abuse classes at local schools, publicity, external relations, finance and lobbying.
“We and our friends took almost half a year to successfully form our organisation, because we encountered a lot of obstacles,” she said, explaining that some members had to leave because they did not share the project's values.
So far, the volunteers have taught thousands of children to be on guard against abusers in the local area.
Wang and Yang hope to expand the project to reach more locations around the country. They are currently training female teachers at a network of rural schools via an online video link, and replicate their organisation's model at other schools. Guidelines from Girls' Protection state that the teachers giving anti-sexual abuse classes using their lesson plans must be female.
Rural areas are where children are the most likely to suffer sexual abuse, Yang said. Left-behind children whose parents have migrated to urban areas in search of work are particularly at risk, according to a 2017 report from Girls' Protection.
In July, a 56-year-old male teacher in rural Yunnan province was detained by police on suspicion of sexually assaulting six children at his primary school.
Wang Xiaorong, a teacher at the Changshu Southeast Experimental Primary School, whose students heard a talk by Wang Xueying in April, said seeing “the effective interactions between Project HOPE teachers and students” was extremely satisfying.
Student Yuan Siyu, 12, said the lecture increased her understanding of “the importance of preventing sexual abuse” and how to guard against it.
Reliable data on child sexual abuse rates is hard to come by in China, owing to a lack of official nationwide surveys.
However, the largest academic study of its kind, which polled over 18,000 teenagers in urban and rural regions, found that around one in 13 school-age adolescents in China had experienced sexual abuse.
A 2017 Girls' Protection study found that 1.04 cases were reported in the media per day on average, but the real number of occurrences was estimated to be up to eight times higher.
“Confucian culture is strong so it's awkward to talk about sex,” Wang said. “Parents and teachers will rarely discuss this knowledge with children from an early age.”
As a result, she said, children remain ignorant as to the real definition of sexual abuse – unwanted sexual contact acted upon one person by another.
“Children don't know how to draw the line between sexual abuse [and other behaviours],” Wang said. “So as a result, if a child experiences sexual abuse, they may not recognise it as serious or as sexual abuse, so they would not tell their teachers or parents.”
Under China's child sexual abuse laws, offenders can be sentenced to between three and 12 years in prison, depending on whether their crimes were classified under rape and trafficking offences affecting girls and women, or indecent assault, which can apply to both genders.
The age of consent in China is 14 years old, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Project HOPE is working with the local government education bureau and the Women's Federation to reform existing child sexual abuse laws, including the proposed release of sex offenders' personal information to the public – similar to the convicted sex offenders' registry in Britain and Ireland.
They are also lobbying the National Congress in Changshu and the nearby city of Suzhou to make compulsory anti-sexual abuse prevention education part of the national curriculum.
Wang is reluctant to discuss the project's links with the global #MeToo movement that is currently sweeping China, since her organisation specialises in child sexual abuse, rather than the issues of rape and sexual consent between adults.
But the two projects share one similarity: both encourage survivors of child sexual abuse to speak out and defend their rights.
“We hope that children will be brave enough to report sexual abuse, when facing it, to their parents and not keep it secret,” she said. “In this way, the reporting rate will rise and more children will become braver and speak out.”
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: project hope lifts the veil on child sexual abuse
Activists Call For Justice And Reform From Catholic Church, Lawmakers
by VIRGINIA ALVINO YOUNG
In the wake of a grand jury report released last week alleging the abuse of more than 1,000 children at the hands of Pennsylvania priests, abuse survivors want justice and reform.
At a news conference on Monday, members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on the church, lawmakers, and law enforcement to do more to prevent childhood sex abuse and to help adult survivors.
Representatives of SNAP said police need to continue to urge the public to come forward with information about abuse and cover-ups. They're asking prosecutors to be more assertive in the pursuit of those who commit or conceal sex crimes.
The group said lawmakers should reform the state's statute of limitations, which prevents many of the accused abuser priests named in the grand jury report from facing charges.
Within the church, SNAP said it's time for Catholics to get angry.
“We want Bishop Zubik to put copies of the grand jury report in the back of churches so that every Catholic has the opportunity to read it and learn how their church officials have been handling child sex crimes,” said Judy Jones of SNAP.
Jones said the church needs to hold accountable those involved in covering up the abuse, including Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik.
Last week SNAP called for a boycott on all donations to the diocese until Zubik steps down.
At the news conference last week, Zubik said there was no effort within the diocese to cover up childhood sex abuse, despite evidence to the contrary. The report accused Zubik of not reporting credible allegations of abuse, and assisting in the relocation of accused priests to other parishes.
After the event Monday, Father Ron Lengwin approached the activists on behalf of the Pittsburgh Diocese.
“I've come out here to welcome you to speak with the Bishop,” said Lengwin.
“We don't need words, we need actions,” said Francis Samber. She said her brother was raped by a priest as a boy, and committed suicide in 2010.
Lengwin's invitation for members of SNAP to speak with Zubik was refused because the media were not allowed to join inside.
Samber said she's disappointed with the lack of transparency.
“And now they stand before us saying it's the Christian thing to do to speak to us. ‘They feel our heartfelt sorrow.' But it's a complete joke, they're empty words,” said Samber. “Are they doing anything about it? No.”
Other members of SNAP told Lengwin they're tired of secrecy, and Zubik should come out and speak for himself.
“I'm disappointed because conversation can be important,” said Lengwin.
“This is so hypocritical, said Francis Samber. “I'm just disgusted. I cannot believe that he has the audacity to stand out here and says he cares.”
In the wake of the report Zubik reiterated that the church has learned from the past, and has implemented training for church staffers and volunteers to prevent abuse.
Sexual abuse victims: It's not too late to heal
by Lebanon Daily News
If there are more victims of sexual assault by a Catholic priest than those known to the grand jury and law enforcement, and if any of those victims live in Lebanon County, know this: It is never too late to get help healing from trauma.
That is the message from the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center of Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties (SARCC).
A survivor of sexual abuse as a child may never have spoken of the abuse for many reasons, and as an adult chose to "remove themselves from it or put it behind them," said Ali Perrotto, president and CEO of SARCC. But something in the present - a certain smell, a date on the calendar, or hearing news about their perpetrator, can bring back the trauma of the experience in their body, mind or emotions. It's called "trauma echoes."
Hearing Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announce the findings of a grand jury report on decades of child sexual abuse by some priests, and what legal experts call a systematic cover-up of the abuse by higher-ranking church officials, could be a tremendous trigger for a victim who may not have discussed their trauma, ever.
News media have published in print, online and on television the names of the priests, many of their pictures, and information about their status, whether laicized or removed from the church, in treatment, or deceased.
The Diocese of Harrisburg pre-empted the Attorney General's announcement by a week, listing its names of accused priests, followed by letters of apology and promise to hold predators accountable that was read at weekend Mass and handed to parishioners in church.
Through this blitz of announcements and news coverage, it's possible a victim is seeing their perpetrator's name or photo for the first time in decades, or are now learning of their perpetrator's death or crimes against others for the first time.
"It's never too late to start healing," Perrotto said. "And that looks different for each person. We offer (counseling and resource) services for days, weeks, months, years and decades after (the trauma). Really at any point in (the survivor's) life.
In the Catholic church scandal in Pennsylvania, many of the known victims who gave information to police or the church were children at the time of the incident. Some endured assaults for years of their childhood, according to the grand jury's findings.
While it is common today for children to be intimidated by an adult abuser for fear of getting in trouble, or not being believed, the status of a parish priest in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s was even more intimidating in the culture of the church.
This was a time before cartoons on television spoke of "good touching and bad touching."
A priest who was hurting a child could very likely be invited to Sunday dinner by that child's parents or grandparents who would treat him as an honored guest. A boy designated by the priest to be a frequently serving altar boy or who take trips with the priest was seen by the Catholic community as favored by the church or that the boy could hopefully one day enter the priesthood himself to serve God and community.
"Thinking that people won't believe you (if you tell) can be seen as more painful than living with abuse," Perrotto said of victims.
If the grand jury report and the list of names - 26 of those names are of priests who served in Lebanon County, and 14 of those 26 were at one parish, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Lebanony - has brought trauma to victims or secondary trauma by exposure to this information, SARCC can help with your healing process.
What to do
1. Call SARCC at 717-272-5308 in Lebanon County. That number will be answered 24 hours per day. The person answering the phone will ask if you need to speak to a counselor. When you answer "yes" you are transferred to a trained counselor - you do not have to explain to the person answering the phone what you need or give reasons why you need to talk to a counselor.
2. Be prepared for SARCC staff to "meet you where you're at," as Perrotto explains it. That means you may want first just to talk on the phone. You may want to come into the office, or meet a counselor where you feel comfortable, like in a coffee shop.
3. With SARCC staff, together you find out what you need and options for healing, whether it's counseling, participation in a share group, or something else.
4. Don't reach for your wallet. SARCC is funded with money paid by people convicted of crimes through fees and fines. You don't have to worry whether you can afford counseling, or if someone in your life will notice money being paid for this service and have questions about what you're doing.
Important to remember
Anyone can reach out for help, whether you are the direct victim of sexual assault, or in the case of a widespread incident like this, you feel trauma by exposure.
Perhaps your family attended a church led by a priest on the list, or you served the church under someone named on the list but were not victimized by them - if you are affected by this it's encouraged you seek a way to heal, Perrotto said.
"In the case of significant cover-up by high-ranking officials like this ... it's OK to be affected. Seek help or support," Perrotto said.
SARCC serves survivors of all genders. There are survivor groups for men and boys who are victims.
"There is a lot of stigma in our culture," Perrotto said, regarding victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault is not limited to women; men and boys can be victims, as can members of the LGBTQ community.
SARCC services include educational programs for groups that work with or around children, from training for mandated reporters of child abuse under the expanded reporting law to a program called "Parents in the Know," that teaches how to identify the signs and symptoms of abuse, including signs of a child being groomed by another adult to be a victim, Perrotto said.
There are also programs for children, which SARCC staff has done in camp settings this summer, about good touch/bad touch and empathy.
"Our goal is to prevent abuse," Perrotto said, and that is on adults to fulfill that goal, she said.
Until there's a day when a person isn't sexually abused by another, those who are victims are encouraged to seek services to heal from their trauma.
Sign causes sex trafficking scare at NDSU
by Tyler Ziegler
FARGO - Tuesday night, Facebook around NDSU blew up with warnings for people to watch out for a sign, promising students work if they called their number.
"I was just scrolling through Facebook and I saw a bunch of my friends were sharing this post," said NDSU Senior Alex Dahlquist.
The post claims the sign isn't actually a business looking for student employees, but rather recruiting people for sex trafficking.
"I've heard that they're scary and not to contact whoever they are and take them down and throw them away," said NDSU Junior Heather Vikre.
That might explain why WDAY News wasn't able to find any signs around campus.
The post had people convinced that this was actually sex trafficking, so WDAY News dug into the claims. NDSU senior, Alexa Dahlquist was also skeptical.
"I looked up the phone number to see if I could trace back to where it came from," Dahlquist said.
With a simple Google search, we found out that number and company on the sign has nothing to do with sex trafficking.
It's actually a multi-level marketing company called Vector that recruits people to sell knives for Cutco.
"They should market that and maybe put their logo out there maybe give more of a description on their signs just so people can be more aware and not say hey that looks a little sketchy maybe I shouldn't contact them," said Vikre.
WDAY News made a phone call to NDSU professor of communications, Dave Westerman, who describes social media as a sort of a double-edged sword.
It's a great way to spread accurate information, but it's also easy for rumors to spread.
Especially if you learn it from someone close to you.
"I think people are so quick to believe something their friend shared or if it was on Facebook rather than on news sources sometimes," said Dahlquist.
When it comes down to it, if you see something fishy on Facebook, a good lesson, just do a little fact checking before you hit that share button.
New York City
Tattoo removal program offers free service to young sex-trafficking survivors
by Lisa Evers
Child and teen sex-trafficking survivors will be able to get a fresh start with help removing a physical stigma that symbolizes deep emotional wounds—the tattoos that their captors put on their bodies.
Administration for Children's Services Commissioner David Hansell said that nearly 3,000 children and young adult trafficking survivors, under ACS supervision, are being offered the free service to erase the ink forced on them as a sign of ownership.
"No young person should be forced to go through life with a permanent mark of exploitation and abuse on their body," Hansell said. "The NYC Child Tattoo Eradication Network will be a completely confidential program designed to limit the trauma inflicted on these children by abusers and gangs."
The initiative is based on the Fresh Start Tattoo Removal Program pioneered more than a decade ago by Dr. David Ores. On Monday, Ores demonstrated how an infrared laser can begin to remove a tattoo in a matter of seconds. But the process takes one visit every six weeks for a period of about a year.
He, Dr. Marie Leger and a third doctor are volunteering their time and are looking for more medical staff to help. They are also seeking funding to buy a high-powered laser that erases all colors of ink, including the off-market ink used by traffickers on their victims.
"We are thankful to the committed medical professionals who have offered pro-bono services to help some of the most vulnerable children in New York City," Hansell said.
Authorities face new challenges as sex trafficking moves to new sites, mobile apps
Police and advocates are scrambling to adapt after Backpage and Craigslist personals were shut down.
by Chao Xiong
Authorities trying to catch suspects buying sex with women or minors have long depended on Craigslist and Backpage, where an online personal ad could be viewed from anywhere in the world and elicit any number of responses at a given time.
But police and advocates across the state and nation are scrambling to adapt to new challenges after both sites' personal ads were shuttered earlier this year, displacing sex trafficking onto mobile apps, obscure websites and foreign-owned sites that aren't beholden to U.S. legal practices.
“It's moving underground and on apps, so it's becoming harder to find, to trace,” said LeVedra Vincent, an advocate at Mission 21, which works with youth in southern Minnesota to combat sex trafficking. “It's becoming harder to identify and locate these victims.”
Authorities in Ramsey and Washington counties charged at least 29 men between late July and early August with a variety of crimes related to underage sex trafficking, from soliciting a child to prostitution. Most undercover stings were carried out in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, before Craigslist and Backpage ads went dark in March and April, respectively. Authorities leaned heavily on Craigslist, posting or responding to ads on the site in 15 of the cases that were charged. Backpage was used in six cases.
Authorities — a mix of the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and various police and sheriffs' offices — used other sites sparingly. The dating site Plenty of Fish and an app called Skout were each used to catch one suspect. The mobile app Grindr was used in three arrests, including that of St. Louis Park Rabbi Aryeh Leiv Cohen.
In three cases, authorities employed a website or app they declined to identify in charging documents.
Social media safety tips
• Only accept friend requests from people you know.
• Privatize your friends list on social media profiles.
• Parents should meet anyone their child direct-messages with on social media.
• Children should not give out any personal information, including home address, phone number and social media handles, to strangers.
• Lock comments on children's social media accounts.
• Turn off social media apps' access to your pictures, location, microphone and contact list. Allow access to photos only when making a post, and turn off access immediately afterward.
• Avoid posting pictures, names and social media handles on school websites.
Craigslist voluntarily removed its personal ads when the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would hold sites criminally and civilly liable for content published by users. The U.S. Department of Justice seized Backpage a month later as part of an investigation, calling the site “the Internet's leading forum for prostitution ads.”
“We are currently looking through two dozen, maybe more, other websites this has moved to,” said Assistant Washington County Attorney Imran Ali, lead prosecutor of the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force. “Is it going to be more difficult for law enforcement and for prosecution on some of these cases? Undoubtedly it is.”
Some investigators predict a temporary drop in the number of cases that will be charged as law enforcement adapts to new trends.
“Going to multiple platforms can create difficulties for us,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “Part of it is just determining which ones to focus on at any given time and where it's being utilized and where we need to go to target those people. People move around to different apps.”
Vincent said there are challenges to finding victims or suspects on mobile apps: Some are largely used to communicate with users within a certain distance from each other; many encourage one-on-one communication instead of mass responses; and apps don't have traceable Internet Protocol addresses like a traditional online ad.
While well-known dating and social media apps and sites have absorbed some of the activity, Brandon Brugger, a Minneapolis police officer and human trafficking investigator, and Susan Webb, a civilian analyst with the department, said many new sites were created to fill the vacuum that was left behind.
“There are a ton of sites” that are new after the closing of Craigslist and Backpage ads, Webb said. “Daily we will find new sites.”
Investigators from multiple agencies declined to name specific sites and apps, saying it would harm their investigative advantage. There are also other concerns. Authorities had working relationships with Craigslist and Backpage, which occasionally removed suspicious ads themselves and responded to court-ordered subpoenas to turn over evidence or testify at trial.
“What we're seeing now is that a lot of these websites are not in the United States,” Ali said. “We would no longer have that jurisdictional authority to request that subpoena. … We wouldn't have the warrant ability to obtain certain information or even obtain banking documents.”
In Rochester, police have been pivoting away from traditional sites for years. Even while Craigslist and Backpage personal ads were active, investigators noticed that perpetrators were migrating to more exclusive sites. Rochester police have budgeted several hundred dollars each year for the past two years to pay for subscription-only websites.
“It used to be you could just pull up Backpage and it's, ‘Oh, I know what we're going to do today,'?” said Rochester police investigator Capt. John Sherwin. “It requires a little more effort now.”
Authorities and advocates agree that closing Craigslist and Backpage ads was an important step in fighting sex trafficking. But advocates like Vincent, of Mission 21, and Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said it's also cause for parents to educate themselves and their children about social media and mobile app safety.
“There's always a new app that's going to be popular with kids,” Dixon said. “Always.”
(video on site)
Has the sex-trafficking law eliminated 90 percent of sex-trafficking ads?
by Glenn Kessler -- The Fact Checker
“We have shut down nearly 90 percent of the online sex-trafficking business and ads.”
— Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), in a video released by the House Judiciary Committee, July 20, 2018
In April, President Trump signed into law a bill, often known under the inelegant name of FOSTA-SESTA, that purportedly aims to cut down on online sex trafficking. (There was a House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and a Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. Rather than try to merge them, Congress simply added much of the SESTA language to FOSTA.)
In a self-congratulatory video posted on July 20 by the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, Wagner, the key sponsor of FOSTA, made a claim that caught our attention: “We have shut down nearly 90 percent of the online sex trafficking business and ads.”
This seems a data point worth exploring, but it's taken some time to come up with the numbers. Let's explore.
Regular readers of the Fact Checker may recall that in 2015 we debunked several faulty or misleading claims about sex trafficking made by members of Congress, including Wagner. Sex trafficking is a horrific crime, but real data is sparse and often exaggerated. Wagner, for instance, had claimed that the Justice Department estimated that 300,000 girls in the United States were at risk of being sex trafficked. But it turned out it was not a Justice Department figure but a number plucked out of a stale, decades-old study that had not been peer-reviewed and was largely discredited.
We were pleased when many lawmakers stopped using such phony statistics — and anti-trafficking organizations scrubbed them from their websites.
A 2016 study funded by the Justice Department concluded that the total number of juveniles in the sex trade in the United States was about 9,000 to 10,000. The study also found that only about 15 percent of the children relied on pimps and that the average age of entry into the sex trade was 15.8 years.
Nevertheless, FOSTA-SESTA swept through Congress with overwhelming support on the basis of concerns that the Internet allows the sex trade to flourish in secret, in contrast to street corners. The law gave federal and state prosecutors new tools to go after websites on which sex is sold and also made it easier for trafficking victims to file lawsuits.
Moreover, the law targeted not just sex trafficking but all consensual sex work by adding an exception to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Before passage of FOSTA-SESTA, platforms and Internet service providers were not held responsible for user-generated content, but the law changed that so that they would be held responsible for ads for sex work.
Previously, sex-work websites such as Backpage would be able to cite Section 230 to get lawsuits dismissed. Most of the ads on Backpage were for consensual sex work, but a Senate investigation turned up evidence that Backpage knowingly facilitated the underage sex business by editing ads posted in its “adult services” section to eliminate terms such as “Lolita” and “Little girl.”
Unrelated to the passage of FOSTA-SESTA, federal prosecutors on April 6 seized Backpage and shut it down, announcing that the chief executive had pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution. At least initially, sex workers such as escorts, sensual-massage therapists and dominatrixes said the closure of Backpage meant a significant loss of income and made the business less safe because it was harder for them to vet potential clients.
Now let's turn to Wagner's quote: “We have shut down nearly 90 percent of the online sex-trafficking business and ads."
When asked for evidence, Wagner's office sent a chart that tracked all sex-related advertising, saying that it showed weekly global ad volume dropped 87 percent from January to April. The chart was generated through a system called Memex, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA Memex has since evolved into Tellfinder, managed by Uncharted Software.
But there are some problems.
The biggest drop in ads came after the shutdown of Backpage, which came even before Trump signed FOSTA-SESTA into law. Wagner's staff noted that a drop also took place after the laws achieved final passage in Congress on March 21, prompting sex-oriented websites such as CityVibe and the Erotic Review to begin to shut down in the United States.
“The DOJ's shutdown of Backpage certainly contributed to these numbers,” a Wagner aide said. “FOSTA also serves as a deterrent to other websites that may consider entering this space.”
Okay, but what happened after April? Wagner's staff refused to share the data, so we asked first DARPA and then Uncharted Software for the information.
Under Tellfinder, all sex-trade ads globally are tracked, counting unique URLs observed by the search engine. Often at the beginning the month there are spikes that indicate when the search engines first observes an ad because many of the websites don't publish the date when an ad is posted.
Well, it turns out that after that initial drop, advertising for the sex trade appears to have rebounded, such as on new websites that mimic Backpage with names like “Bedpage.”
Worldwide ads had a daily average of about 105,000 when FOSTA-SESTA passed on March 21 and had dropped 28 percent by the time Backpage was closed on April 5. It then plunged another 75 percent and reached a low of 19,456 on April 17, for a total decline of about 82 percent.
But on the day the Judiciary Committee posted the video, sex-trade ads were back at about 50 percent of the daily volume before the law had passed; as of Aug. 11, they were at almost 75 percent. (Watch the video above.)
“The volume of ads dropped dramatically after the shutdown of Backpage but has been climbing since,” said Chris Dickson, director of research engineering at Uncharted. “There is now a volume approaching what we observed before.”
However, he added, “it's an open question as to whether the websites now have gotten much better at making it look like they have a lot of content or if the advertising really is back to where it was. It's likely somewhere in between, but it's too soon to definitively answer this.”
There is little doubt that the law has had an impact in other ways. Sites such as Reddit, Craiglist and Skype began to change their terms of service and ban sex workers from their platforms. But other sites, such as Switter, have sprung up for U.S. sex workers, according to USA Today. Switter's website operates from countries where sex work is legal, thus avoiding U.S. restrictions, and as of late June, Switter had more than 100,000 members on its site.
Wagner, in the Judiciary Committee video, celebrated a decline of “sex-trafficking business and ads” but as we noted, the metric she is using is advertising for all sex work. The actual impact on “sex trafficking” is unknown.
In a House floor speech in July, Wagner made it clear she equates sex work with sex trafficking. “Signing FOSTA into law has decimated the online sex trade that fuels human trafficking in America,” she said. “Scores of major websites that promoted sex trafficking and prostitution have shut down.”
The Pinocchio Test
Wagner may be sincere in her belief that sex work in general fuels human trafficking but it's a bit of stretch to say a 90 percent decline in sex-trade ads means there is a 90 percent decline in the sex-trafficking business. There's really no way to be sure, and it's misleading to suggest otherwise.
In any case, the 90 percent drop in sex-work ads was a one-time event, sparked mostly by the demise of Backpage, not the FOSTA-SESTA law. By the time the Judiciary Committee video was released, sex-work advertising had begun to rebound — and it keeps going up, despite the law. Wagner should not seize on a single, stale data point to tout the effectiveness of the law. She earns Three Pinocchios.
(video on site)
In Ireland, Pope Francis meets with Catholic Church sex abuse survivors
During his trip to Ireland, Pope Francis and the Prime Minister of Ireland addressed the outrage over the cover-up of priests committed sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
by Doug Stanglin
Pope Francis, on the first papal visit to Ireland Saturday in almost four decades, expressed "outrage" Saturday over the Catholic Church's cover-up of sex abuse and later met with eight survivors of what the Vatican called "clerical, religious and institutional abuse."
Ireland is ground zero of the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis, with the institution under fire across the globe for its systemic failures to protect children or to punish bishops who hid the crimes.
“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” Pope Francis said, speaking in Italian.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community," he said in a speech to Irish government authorities. "I myself share these sentiments.”
He did not indicate, however, whether he plans to take forceful action to hold bishops accountable for protecting children or to sanction them when they fall short.
The pope did meet later with the eight survivors, including some abused sexually and several who as infants were forcibly separated from their mothers in church-run orphans homes.
Francis referred to the past remarks of Pope Benedict in a letter to Irish Catholics saying that he “spared no words in recognizing both the gravity of the situation” and in demanding that “truly evangelical, just and effective” measures be taken in response “to this betrayal of trust.”
In their meeting with the pope, the group of survivors delivered a letter calling on the pontiff to condemn the forced separations of 100,000 mothers from their children in notorious adoption centers.
“The nuns have never taken responsibility for their willful neglect," the letter said, according to the Irish Times. "We ask you Pope Francis to publicly call on these nuns to acknowledge their actions and issue an open and unqualified apology."
The pope, in turn, agreed to end a mass on Sunday by telling mothers who had given up their children for adoption that there was no sin in now looking for their children, the newspaper reported.
Upon his arrival from Rome, Pope Francis sought to get ahead of the public criticism in his opening remarks to several hundred dignitaries from Irish political, civic and religious life.
“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast a light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he said, according to a transcript published by the Irish Times.
But neither Francis' words nor a new meeting with abuse victims is likely to calm the outrage among rank-and-file Catholics following new revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the United States, an ongoing crisis in Chile and prosecutions of top clerics in Australia and France.
Colm O'Gorman, who is leading a solidarity rally Sunday in Dublin for abuse victims, said Francis' remarks about the shame felt by Catholics were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institutional church.”
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the online resource Bishop Accountability, said Francis “gave little comfort to heartsick victims” since he provided no details on how he would end the problem, since he alone can sanction complicit bishops.
A small group of protesters demonstrated against the pope's visit outside Dublin Castle, with one banner reading: “Pedophile supporters go home.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in remarks in Dublin Castle before the pontiff spoke, set the tone for the visit in saying the time had come to build a "new" and "more mature" relationship between the Catholic Church and the Irish state.
“Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes and responsibilities, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the center of our society, but one in which it continues to have an important place,” he said.
He referred to "dark aspects" of the Catholic Church's history in Ireland, including illegal adoptions and child abuse by the clergy, as “stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church.”
Varadkar called the abuse “unspeakable crimes" that were perpetrated by people within the church "and then obscured to protect the institution."
"It is a story that was all too tragically familiar to people in Ireland," he said, according to the Times.
Addressing the Church's handling of clerical sex abuse, the prime minister said there “can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate the abuse.”
Ireland has had one of the worst records of abuse in the world. Crimes were revealed to the deeply Catholic nation's 4.8 million people through a series of government-mandated inquiries over the past decade. The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped or molested by priests and physically abused in church-run schools while bishops covered up for abusers.
After the Irish church atoned for its past and enacted tough new norms to fight abuse, it had been looking to the first visit by a pope in 40 years to show a different, more caring church that understands the problems of Catholic families today.
More than 37,000 people – most of them young Catholics – signed up to attend a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families that started in Dublin on Tuesday and runs through Sunday, more than twice the number as for the last family rally held in Philadelphia three years ago.
And many faithful were hopeful.
“I see a lot of new life amongst young people who have a deep committed faith, Catholic faith,” said Sean Ascogh, a churchgoer at a recent service in Blessington, southwest of Dublin. “Obviously, they are very disappointed by what has been happening in the church in the last few years, particularly the whole abuse scandals, but I think people can see beyond that.”
But Ireland's tortured history of abuse has left its mark.
In a country where Catholic bishops held such sway that they advised the drafters of the republic's constitution in the 1930s, voters in recent years have turned their backs on core Catholic teachings. They have overturned a constitutional ban on abortion and legalized divorce, contraception and same-sex marriage.
Francis was welcomed on the tarmac of Dublin International Airport by a small delegation mostly composed of clergy.
Irish abuse victims and their supporters were expected to hold a solidarity rally on Sunday in Dublin, at the same time Francis is celebrating his final Mass to close out the family conference.
Separately, survivors of Ireland's wretched “mother and baby homes” – where children were exiled for the shame of having been born to unwed mothers – are holding their own demonstration Sunday. The location is Tuam, site of a mass grave of hundreds of babies who died over the years at a church-run home.
Francis will be nearby, visiting the Marian shrine at Knock, but has no plans to visit the grave site.
On the eve of Francis' arrival in Dublin, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley – the pope's top abuse counselor – said protecting children and vulnerable adults was now the single most crucial issue facing the church.
“All endeavors at evangelization and other great works will be dependent upon our ability to own our crimes and failings and to make the protection of children and vulnerable adults our No. 1 priority,” O'Malley said in a statement.
O'Malley had been expected to headline the panel in person, but he backed out at the last minute, citing a new inquiry he launched into his diocesan seminary amid sexual misconduct allegations – one of three big U.S. seminaries that have launched such investigations in recent weeks.
Irish abuse survivor and advocate Marie Collins, who resigned in frustration from O'Malley's board last year, told the safeguarding panel that if Francis claims to be on the side of victims, the Catholic Church should no longer lobby to block the ability of victims to sue and prosecute abusers after the statute of limitations expires.
She called for “robust structures” and strong sanctions to hold accountable bishops and Vatican officials who fail protect children.
But Francis offered no such structures or sanctions in a letter he penned on the eve of his Irish visit, vowing only to spare no effort to fight the abuse problem. He has pledged “zero tolerance” since the start of his pontificate.
Pope Francis presides over a vigil Saturday evening. On Sunday, after praying at Knock, Francis celebrates the final Mass in Dublin's Phoenix Park before returning to Rome.
When St. John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979, in the first-ever papal visit, some 1.25 million people turned out for his inaugural Mass in Phoenix Park, a third of the country's population and the largest gathering in Irish history at the time.
Pope Francis speaks of failure to address ‘repugnant crimes' of clerical sex abuse
Failure ‘rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community'
by Simon Carswell
Pope Francis, in the first speech of his visit to Ireland, has recognised how the Church's failure to address the “repugnant crimes” of clerical sexual abuse “remains a source of pain and shame” for Irish Catholics.
Speaking at Dublin Castle almost two hours after landing in Ireland, the pontiff in addressing the scandal that has damaged the Church's standing since the last visit of a pope almost four decades ago, said he was “very conscious” of the circumstances of “our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”
Speaking after a speech by the Taoiseach, the pope specifically made reference to “women who in the past have endured particularly difficult situations” - a veiled reference to the treatment of Irish women in the Magdalene Laundries and other Church-run institutions.
“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” Francis, speaking in Italian, told an audience that included Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share these sentiments.”
Francis referred to the past remarks of Pope Benedict in a letter to Irish Catholics saying that he “spared no words in recognising both the gravity of the situation” and in demanding that “truly evangelical, just and effective” measures be taken in response “to this betrayal of trust.”
“His frank and decisive intervention continues to serve as an incentive for the efforts of the Church's leadership both to remedy past mistakes and to adopt stringent norms meant to ensure that they do not happen again,” said Pope Francis.
“Each child is in fact a precious gift of God, to be cherished, encouraged to develop his or her gifts, and guided to spiritual maturity and human flourishing.”
While recognising the Church's failures in the clerical abuse scandal, the Pope noted too that the Church had “past and present, played a role in promoting the welfare of children that cannot be obscured.”
“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he said.
“In this regard, all of us are aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values in their journey to maturity.”
The Vatican was roundly criticised on the eve of the pontiff's visit by clerical sex abuse survivors and campaigners for his failure to follow his words with actions and reforms in the Catholic Church to identify abusers - and the superiors who protected them - and help their victims come forward and find justice.
Three months after Ireland voted to legalise abortion, Pope Francis condemned “a materialistic ‘throwaway culture'” questioning whether it has made people “increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenceless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life.”
Pope Francis spoke about how the international community “followed attentively” the events in Northern Ireland that led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement on Good Friday 20 years ago.
“The Irish Government, in union with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland and the British government, and with the support of other world leaders, created a dynamic context for the peaceful settlement of a conflict that caused untold pain on both sides,” he said at Dublin Castle.
“We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust.”
Irish peace process
Visiting Ireland to conclude the World Meeting of Families, the once-every-three-year conference sponsored by the Vatican, Francis spoke about the importance of recovering “the sense of being a true family of peoples” in every instance of political and social life, referencing the Irish peace process.
Among the members of the audience in attendance was former US senator George Mitchell who brokered the Good Friday Agreement.
He paid tribute to the efforts to build peace, urging the Irish “never to lose hope or the courage to persevere in the moral imperative to be peacemakers, reconcilers and guardians of one another.”
“Here in Ireland, this challenge has a special resonance, in light of the long conflict that separated brothers and sisters of a single family,” he said.
In wide-ranging remarks that touched on relations between the Vatican and Ireland, the pope referred not just to the Holy See being among the first international institutions to recognise the Irish Free State almost a century ago but to the more recent tensions between Irish political figures and the Vatican over the abuse scandal.
The Vatican's recognition of the Irish state “signalled the beginning of many years of dynamic cooperation and harmony, with only an occasional cloud on the horizon.”
“Recently intensive endeavour and goodwill on both sides have contributed significantly to a promising renewal of those friendly relations for the mutual benefit of all,” he said.
He spoke about the Christian tradition in Ireland dating back more than a millennium and a half to Palladius and Patrick and how it “found a home in Ireland and became an integral part of Irish life and culture.”
“Today as in the past, the men and women who live in this country strive to enrich the life of the nation with the wisdom born of their faith,” he said. “Even in Ireland's darkest hours, they found in that faith a source of courage and commitment needed to forge a future of freedom and dignity, justice and solidarity.
“The Christian message has been an integral part of that experience, and has shaped the language, thought and culture of people on this island.”
World's bishops call for action on abuse; English bishop wants synod
by Simon Caldwell
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — A global synod on priests could help the church to end the "terrible" scandals of clerical child abuse, an English bishop told Pope Francis.
He was among bishops from around the world who called for action after Pope Francis published his Aug. 20 letter to Catholics about the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
In an open letter to the pope Aug. 22, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said an "extraordinary synod on the life and ministry of the clergy" would help to combat the scourge of clerical child sex abuse.
Bishop Egan told the pope his letter was prompted by the "terrible abuse of minors by clergy" documented by the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The findings spoke of credible allegations against 301 priests and church workers in cases involving more than 1,000 children over seven decades.
Scandals in the United States, England, Ireland, Australia and Chile, Bishop Egan said, have proven that sex abuse by members of the clergy is "a worldwide phenomenon in the church" that must be addressed.
"The synod might begin with a 'congress,' attended by the bishops but formed of laity and others expert in the clergy abuse scandals and in the safeguarding of children and the vulnerable," he said in his letter, forwarded by email to Catholic News Service Aug. 22.
The conclusions of the congress, he added, "could then be taken forward into a Synod of Bishops proper."
"The synod might begin with a 'congress,' attended by the bishops but formed of laity and others expert in the clergy abuse scandals and in the safeguarding of children and the vulnerable."
"I suggest the synod be devoted to the identity of being a priest/bishop, to devising guidance on lifestyle and supports for celibacy, to proposing a rule of life for priests/bishops and to establishing appropriate forms of priestly/episcopal accountability and supervision," Bishop Egan said.
He also explained that as a former seminary formator, he devised a system of "annual assessments and scrutiny" based on St. John Paul II's apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests "Pastores Dabo Vobis" ("I will give you shepherds").
However, as a bishop, there are few tools available to "facilitate the day-to-day management of clergy" and continual assessments, he said.
"It ought to be possible to devise mechanisms to help bishops in their responsibilities toward clergy and to help clergy realize they are not 'lone operatives' but ministers accountable to the direction and leadership of the diocese," Bishop Egan wrote.
Priests, Bishop Egan suggested, must not serve as "lone operatives" but be accountable to the direction and leadership of the diocese and should be supported by "ongoing assessment or ministerial supervision."
Although the pope's message received praise for its empathetic response to the sufferings of abuse survivors, church leaders and episcopal conferences also called for concrete measures to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
In London, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, echoed the pope's sentiments in an Aug. 22 letter to clergy in which he said he was "utterly ashamed that this evil has, for so long, found a place in our house, our church."
"This evil has particular abhorrence because not only is it a terrible abuse of power, but also because, in its evil, it both employs and destroys the very goodness of faith and trust in God," Cardinal Nichols said.
An Aug. 20 statement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed similar solidarity with the pope and with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in reiterating "the profound sadness that we as bishops feel each time we learn about the harm caused as a result of abuse by church leaders of any rank."
"We hope and pray that the Catholic faithful will assist all of us in every way to create safe and respectful environments for everyone, especially minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society," the statement said.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian bishops' conference, issued a statement Aug. 21 to assure Catholics in Australia that "we share the Holy Father's determination to protect young people and vulnerable adults."
"These are important words from Pope Francis, but words are not enough. Now is the time for action on many levels," Archbishop Coleridge said.
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna told Austria's Kathpress news agency Aug. 21 that the Catholic Church must continue to develop abuse prevention methods "so that abuse does not have a place in the church."
Although the pope's letter is a step forward, the cardinal said, the church "has an urgent need of intensifying its efforts to guarantee the protection of minors and adult in vulnerable situations."
"Our first concern must be the victims, without compromise," he said.
In the pope's native Argentina, bishops thanked Pope Francis for his letter and expressed their sorrow "for the suffering inflicted on minors and vulnerable adults due to sexual abuse, of power and of conscience."
"We adhere and assume your irrevocable commitment so that the protection of minors and adults in vulnerable situations may be ensured," the bishops said in an Aug. 21 letter to the pope.
However, not all reactions to the pope's letter were positive. The Asian church news portal ucanews.com reported that several leading Indian Catholic women were angered by the pope's call for fasting and prayer.
"Making the laity fast and pray is not the solution," theologian Kochurani Abraham told ucanews.com Aug. 23. "Clerical sexual infidelity should be punished and not hidden under the carpet."
The church, she added, must make a clear distinction between sin and crime.
"Making the laity fast and pray is not the solution. Clerical sexual infidelity should be punished and not hidden under the carpet."
--theologian Kochurani Abraham
"Sin is something that you can repent and be absolved of, but crime has to be punished. The sooner the church realizes this, the better," Abraham said
Catholics in the country also are coping with the issue of abuse after an unidentified Catholic nun accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar of raping her four years ago, then sexually abusing her multiple times over the following two years.
Sister Nirmalini, provincial of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel, told ucanews.com that several other allegations of sexual abuse by priests have been reported to local church officials but have often fallen on deaf ears.
"The silence of the church is deafening, and the victim is made to feel guilty for raising her voice," Sister Nirmalini said. "Will the bishops stand up for justice for victims within the church?"
[Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.]
U.S. church's response to sex abuse shows progress, but questions remain
by Catholic News Service
WASHINGON — With the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on priestly sexual abuse of minors, the U.S. Catholic Church again is confronting questions about its response to abuse allegations dating back several decades.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken steps to address abuse claims and prevent abuse, including the 2002 adoption of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and special legal norms. Annual reports have documented compliance with mandated policies and practices to protect children and respond to allegations of clergy abuse. The charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
Here are some key events in the U.S. church's response to allegations of abuse during the past 35 years.
-- The Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, suspends Fr. Gilbert Gauthe after he admits having sexually abused at least three dozen boys and girls. Over the next three years, lawsuits against the diocese and the priest's criminal trial and conviction draw national media attention for the first time to the clergy sexual abuse of children.
-- Several dioceses and state Catholic conferences develop policies for responding to abuse allegations.
-- At their spring meeting, the bishops discuss the abuse problem. A few bishops are given a report by three specialists, labeled confidential, warning that the problem is of crisis proportions and could cost the church billions of dollars.
-- In the fall, Fr. Michael Peterson, one of the report's authors, mails it to bishops who head dioceses. Although the bishops already have started addressing many of the issues at a national level through their own internal procedures and structures, several years later the report is leaked and victims and their lawyers cite its recommendations as evidence that the bishops were given a plan to follow in 1985 but simply ignored it.
-- Many dioceses establish stronger personnel policies and training programs to prevent abuse. In fall 1987, the bishops discuss the issue again, focusing on canonical issues of dealing with accused priests.
-- The conference sends bishops guidelines on developing personnel policies to prevent and respond to abuse. Many bishops re-evaluate decisions whether to return a treated priest to ministry after therapy or what kind of ministry to permit him to do.
-- While the numbers of allegations and lawsuits grow, a new trend develops: As time goes on, more of the new claims concern abuse from the distant past rather than recent misconduct.
-- Following a daylong discussion behind closed doors at the bishops' annual June meeting, the bishops' conference president issues a five-point statement summarizing principles behind the guidelines sent to dioceses four years earlier: Respond promptly to allegations; remove the offender and provide treatment for him if evidence supports an allegation; report incidents as required under civil law and cooperate in any criminal investigation; reach out to victims and their families; and "deal as openly as possible with members of the community about this incident."
-- At their November meeting, the bishops discuss the issue further and a group of bishops meets with adult survivors of abuse. The bishops' Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry forms a subcommittee on sexual abuse to make recommendations to the bishops.
-- The new subcommittee develops proposals for the bishops to discuss and recommends the bishops form a special task group to address the legal, moral, canonical, medical, therapeutic, pastoral, ministerial and administrative issues surrounding sexual abuse and its prevention.
-- Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, resigns following allegations of past sexual impropriety with two teenage girls.
-- At their June meeting, the bishops openly discuss clerical sexual abuse and the conference president appoints an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse to address the issue.
-- Several years of Vatican-U.S. discussions culminate in a meeting of a U.S. bishops delegation with Vatican officials and a letter from Pope John Paul II publicly condemning sexual abuse of minors by U.S. priests.
-- At their November meeting, the bishops petition the Vatican for U.S. exceptions to general church law to make it easier to laicize priests who commit sex crimes against minors.
-- John Paul authorizes special U.S. church laws for five years extending the statute of limitations on church trials and penalties for clerics who sexually abuse minors.
-- A Boston priest, John Geoghan, frequently accused of inappropriate conduct with children during 32 years of priesthood, is quietly removed from all ministry, and four years later is laicized by special papal decree.
-- The ad hoc committee commissions a survey of seminaries to assess their psychological screening of candidates and formation in sexuality issues.
-- The committee gives the bishops and the media the first volume of "Restoring Trust," which includes a detailed evaluation of existing diocesan policies and recommendations for more effective policies. Updated volumes are released in 1995 and 1996.
-- At the committee's request, a video on boundary issues in ministry is developed to help dioceses improve formation of church personnel.
-- The committee is reauthorized for three more years and mandated to focus on issues of healing for victims, education and future options for priest offenders.
-- The Vatican extends the special U.S. legislation on clerical sexual abuse of minors for 10 years.
-- The committee continues working on education and prevention issues and on diocesan policy reviews. It updates "Restoring Trust" resources and meets with victims and victim advisory groups.
-- The pope reserves certain especially serious church crimes, including clerical sexual abuse of minors, to the immediate jurisdiction of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The new legislation also extends the special U.S. legislation, with slight modification, to the entire church.
-- The Boston Globe begins an investigative series in January on decades of Boston archdiocesan mishandling of child abuse allegations and the priests who were accused. Archdiocesan personnel files on Geoghan -- released to the Globe by court order less than two weeks before Geoghan's criminal trial for child molestation -- are the most important evidence for the series.
-- Accused in civil suits of imposing indecent conduct or sexual abuse on at least 130 children, Geoghan is convicted of a single crime Jan. 18 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison.
-- The Globe series quickly sparks dramatic policy changes by the Boston Archdiocese. The story quickly burgeons into a national one as other news media begin similar investigations in their dioceses.
-- By April, the U.S. cardinals are summoned for a Vatican summit. The pope declares there is no place in ministry or religious life for anyone who would harm the young. The Vatican authorizes the U.S. bishops to propose special legislation that would bind all U.S. dioceses to adopt certain policies and practices to prevent and respond to clerical sexual abuse of minors.
-- Meeting in Dallas in June, the bishops adopt a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and special legal norms, subject to Vatican approval, to assure that all dioceses adhere to the charter.
-- A National Review Board is formed to oversee the compliance of dioceses with the charter and to commission two major national studies on the scope of the problem and its causes. A national Office for Child and Youth Protection is formed to help dioceses meet charter requirements and to assess each diocese's compliance.
-- Dioceses across the country begin updating their policies, establishing or modifying diocesan review boards, naming outreach coordinators, developing programs for victims and their families, forming or expanding safe environment programs and requiring background checks on staff and volunteers who work with children.
-- In December, Cardinal Bernard Law, faced with massive loss of confidence after nearly a year of intense scandal and controversy, resigns as archbishop of Boston.
-- The pope approves the norms as law for the U.S. church.
-- The Gavin Group, composed mainly of former FBI agents, is commissioned to conduct the first independent audit of dioceses to assess whether their policies and practices comply with the requirements of the charter and norms.
-- The first annual report on the diocesan compliance audits is released Jan. 6. Annual reports continue to be released.
-- A new Program of Priestly Formation that emphasizes human formation of seminarians, especially on formation for celibacy, is issued for all U.S. seminaries. It explicitly forbids seminary applicants who were involved in sexual abuse of minors.
-- During a U.S. visit, Pope Benedict XVI meets in Washington with victims of priestly sexual abuse after pledging the church's continued efforts to help heal the wounds caused by such acts.
-- The Vatican revises procedures for handling priestly sexual abuse cases, streamlining disciplinary measures, extending the statute of limitations and defining child pornography as an act of sexual abuse.
-- John Jay College of Criminal Justice releases "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," as required by the charter. The report concludes there is "no single identifiable 'cause' of sexually abusive behavior toward minors" and encourages steps to deny abusers "the opportunity to abuse."
-- Msgr. William Lynn, secretary for clergy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, is convicted of conspiracy for failing to properly supervise an abusive priest and ensure the welfare of his victim. He receives a three- to six-year prison term.
-- A Missouri judge convicts Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor. The charge was filed after the bishop learned a priest's computer contained child pornography and failed to report the incident to authorities.
-- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, announces that Cardinal Roger Mahony would not have any administrative or public duties in the archdiocese because of past failures to protect children from clergy sex abuse, although the cardinal remained in "good standing."
-- Pope Francis says the leaders of the world's bishops' conferences and religious orders must do everything possible to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and are offer appropriate care for victims and their families.
-- Francis approves new procedures for the Vatican to investigate and judge claims of "abuse of office" by bishops who allegedly failed to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.
-- Francis accepts the resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Days earlier, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese alleging it failed to protect three boys who were sexually abused from 2008 to 2010 by an archdiocesan priest who was later dismissed from priesthood.
-- Archdiocese of New York receives an allegation that then-Msgr. Theodore McCarrick abused a teenage boy in 1971 and 1972.
-- U.S. bishops approve changes to the charter that Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, said would strengthen protections for young people.
-- New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan announces that McCarrick has been removed from ministry at the Vatican's direction after an investigation by the Archdiocese of New York found credible a charge that he sexually abused a teenager. Later, The New York Times publishes a front-page story detailing alleged abuse of two seminarians who became priests in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, by McCarrick in the 1980s that resulted in settlements to both men.
-- Francis accepts McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from public ministry, ordering him to a "life of prayer and penance until the accusations against him are examined in a canonical trial.
-- A Pennsylvania grand jury releases a report linking more than 300 priests with sexual abuse claims involving more than 1,000 victims in six of the state's eight dioceses, stating the Catholic Church hid allegations of abuse and brushed aside victims. In a joint statement Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, Doherty, committee chairman, said the bishops "are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops" and were "committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen."
24 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt Childhood Trauma Survivors
It took years for me to identify that I grew up in an abusive and invalidating environment. Once I began to talk about it, I was often met with comments like, “I wish you could remember how loving your mom was when you were born,” and, “There are kids out there who are less fortunate than you are.” Sometimes the comments I heard had a more exasperated edge to them, essentially saying, can you please stop talking about this? without actually saying it. Things like, “You need to focus on the positive,” and, “You need to stop living in the past.”
While these comments (mostly) came from good intentions, the reality is they were harmful and invalidating. Just because my mom was loving when I was born doesn't mean she's off the hook for the abuse she inflicted when I was a child and teenager. Just because there are others who “had it worse” than I did doesn't mean what I experienced wasn't painful. And coming to terms with my past trauma doesn't mean I'm “being negative” or “living in the past.”
For some, “harmless” comments like this might seem insignificant, and have little to no effect on adult mental health. But for many childhood trauma survivors (who often struggle with believing their feelings are valid at all), these kind of comments are actually damaging and can set them back in recovery.
I'm not the only one who has heard seemingly “harmless” comments about past childhood trauma. Because of this, we asked childhood trauma survivors in our mental health community to share one “harmless” comment they heard that was actually harmful.
It's important to remember what may seem “harmless” to one person may actually be hurtful to another. No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid, and you deserve support.
Here's what our community had to say:
1. “Don't be ungrateful. Your childhood wasn't even that bad…”
“Literally ‘your childhood wasn't even that bad.' This comment hurts because something that could be seen as a small issue for someone else can also be the biggest and worse thing ever to someone going through it.” — Tess G.
“‘Don't be so ungrateful. You had a privileged childhood.' The assumption seems to be that people who grow up with money or opportunity can't have been mistreated. If only that was the case. Having a privileged upbringing simply means abuse is more often or ignored or covered up.” — Heather F.
2. “But that was so long ago…”
“‘But that was so long ago. They (the person/people who caused abuse) have gotten over/forgotten it, you should too.'” — Ashley S.
3. “Have you tried forgiving them?”
“I have C-PTSD as a result of emotional, sexual and physical abuse. Well-meaning people have often said to me, ‘Just forgive them.' I have forgiven them, for my own sake. This does not heal the PTSD, it means I have more mental and emotional energy towards helping myself to feel as well as I can, one day at a time. Wish people understood that PTSD is not a character flaw, but a medical condition.” — Donna H.
4. “It's sad you aren't close to your family. Family is so important to me.”
“‘My family and I are so close. I don't see how anyone could be so distant from their own family.' I honestly don't think I need to explain why that would hurt. Because anyone who went through this would know. Since I've always wanted a ‘normal' family, but I will never have that. Sometimes I blame myself, but I have to remember it's not my fault.” — Taylor B.
“‘It's really sad you don't have a relationship with your mum.' I don't explain why, but it hurts and I wish people would think before they make this comment. Clearly there is a reason why there is no relationship.” — Esther L.
5. “Just think of all the people who had it worse than you.”
“ ‘It could've been worse. Think of other people.' It's so invalidating! That one always got me. My childhood was so traumatic to me, and I know people have had it worse, but to me, that was the worst. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.” — Tasha L.
6. “I've been through worse.”
“‘I've had worse.' I'm sorry if you did, but I'm not you. My bad may not be your bad. And my strength may not be your strength. Don't try to one-up and belittle me when I'm sharing something that's difficult to share.” — Ash D.
“‘Your childhood wasn't as bad as mine,' like its a contest. Trauma is trauma. I got so many ‘they didn't really abandon you' or ‘at least you still have both your parents.' It still doesn't make my trauma less.” — Adriel C.
7. “It's not like he ever hit you…”
“‘It's not like he ever hit you.' Just because my father never hit me doesn't mean the years of emotional abuse aren't bad. Actually I would rather have him hit me so I would know why I hurt. Emotional abuse sticks with you. Those names, the things they said — years later they affect me so much. Sometimes I don't even know why what someone says hurts until I realize it's what my father said.” — Kaitlynn L.
8. “Everything happens for a reason.”
“‘Everything happens for a reason.' I am a much stronger and empathetic person today because of my trauma, but that doesn't mean it had to happen, and that doesn't justify anyone's actions. “ — Alicia A.
“‘It's all part of God's plan.' It always made me wonder why God would make me suffer or how vindictive/malicious God could be. At my worst, I began to hate God because of what He turned my life into. That line is meant to comfort, but it made me feel even more neglected than I already was, and this one cut even deeper because it was God, my Heavenly Father, who was treating me so poorly.” — Candice K.
9. “I know exactly how you feel.”
“‘I know how you feel.' Unless you've been through the trauma, you really don't know how I feel. Having a relative or friend go through it is not the same thing. So unless you've actually had the experience yourself, please don't say this.” — Monica S.
10. “You're an adult now. It's time to grow up and stop living in the past.”
“‘You're an adult now, just deal with it.' Out of all the comments I've heard, this hurt the most as it made me truly feel that all I had experienced and endured was supposed to just leave in adulthood and I was responsible myself for it.” — Gemma I.
“‘You're an adult. You can't blame your parents for your problems anymore.' People don't understand that it is a lifelong battle to overcome trauma.” — Chisa P.
“‘Grow up and get over your ‘daddy issues.'' It's not exactly the same as those people that dislike their fathers for reasons like, ‘He didn't spoil me the same as mommy.' Stay out of my family ordeals.” — David M.
11. “Time heals all wounds.”
“'Time heals.' Yes, time does heal, but if you have PTSD from the trauma, time seems to stand still.” — Alicia A.
12. “How can you say that about your family?”
“‘How can you say that about your mother/father/family?' Uh, because it's true. It sucks when people can't wrap their heads around abuse bad enough that I don't have a normal loving relationship with them. Just because they had loving parents, doesn't mean all of us were that lucky.” — Jackyn B.
13. “Why did you let him do that?”
“‘You let him do that? That's disgusting.' It made me feel like it was my fault, and like I was dirty. I was so ashamed. And, ‘It happened so long ago, just forget about it, get a life' makes me feel guilty that I can't move forward with my life fast enough to make people happy and feel bad about still needing therapy.” — Ally M.
14. “Well… what were you wearing?”
“‘Well what were you wearing? Were you drinking?' My ex boyfriend's response to me after telling him I was molested. I don't know? Maybe a T-shirt and shorts? I was 5, but I could've told you that if you would've let me finish.” — Madi P.
15. “Your mother will always love you because that's what mothers do.”
“ Any of those quotes about how your mother will always love you because she's your mother and that's what they do… obviously not all of them.” — Beth H.
16. “Don't be silly.”
“‘Don't be silly.' I grew up being told I was ‘silly' and ‘stupid.' I know that often this term is used by those who love us to try to stop us from feeling bad, but for me it just compounds the feelings/thoughts that I'm stupid.” — Lucy B.
17. “You're acting like your mother.”
“‘You're acting like your mother.' No. No, I am not. I am communicative and nurturing. My children will never wonder if they are loved nor will they ever want for any of life's necessities.” — Alexandrea G.
18. “I bet your parents want to see their grandchildren.”
“‘You will never have another mother. I bet she really misses you and wishes she could see her grandkids.' Thank God I only have one mother because she is a horribly abusive person. And no, she doesn't miss me — she misses having a punching bag! And I'll be damned if she treats my children the way she treated me!” — Lindsey G.
19. “Have you prayed about it?”
“‘Pray about it' or ‘God's got it.' I grew up with a mom who used God as an excuse to do unforgivable things. Though I am a Christian and do believe in God and prayer, those phrases especially from her make me cringe!” — Saga T.
20. “Your parents did the best they could.”
“‘Your parents did the best they could.' Thanks for that feedback, Janice. I'll remember that when I'm filling $300+ per month rotation of psychotropic medication to treat the complex post-traumatic stress whose origins started in childhood.” — Ashley P.
“‘But she's your mother. She did the best she could. You should still talk to her.' To me that's like saying just because she's my mother I have to tolerate the abuse and keep her in my life. It infuriates me. Unless you have lived my life, shut your trap.” — Brittany W.
21. “Don't be so negative. Your mom was a good mom.”
“‘Oh but when your mom was sober, she was a good mom. Just the best.' My mom was rarely sober. And she was the meanest person on the planet when high or drunk. She put my siblings and I in horrible situations, including physical and sexual abuse. And not having food for us. After my mother abandoned us and her parents had taken custody, my family would always say this. And it made it really difficult to talk to them about how I was feeling. It made it impossible for me to hate her. And it really invalidated any pain I was experiencing as a result of her abuse, neglect and abandonment. I spent the next 30 years thinking I did something wrong, thinking I deserved it. It's just in the past three years in therapy, that I realized there was nothing I could have done differently that would have yielded a different result.” — Kristy G.
22. “Just let it go.”
“‘Just ignore it. That's what I do,' or, ‘Just let it go.' I can't ignore it when it's thrown in my face every day and I feel like I'm still there. Everything — smells, TV shows, an object, even my own thoughts — throws me back into the traumatic events. I stuffed it away and ignored it for almost 40 years until my mind/body forced me to face it. By saying these things, it's like saying I like being a drama queen or something when that's the furthest thing from the truth. I want the triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, etc. to go away! Unfortunately, I have to relive it/face it in order to process it.” — Jessi F.
23. “I bet they miss you.”
“‘I can't imagine not talking to or seeing my mum. I bet she misses you' No. She misses the opportunity to bring me down and blame me for everything. She lied to me, she abducted me, she manipulated everyone around her. I've been through enough counseling in my life to realize I don't need her in my life. I moved to my dad's when I was 13, and I'm 28 now. I've finished my GCSEs, completed college and university. I've got a career, a house and a fiance… and none of it involved her!” — Lynsey B.
24. “Look how strong you are now because of what you went through!”
“‘But look how strong you are now because of it.' This is a common reassuring say thing to say, but do you really think I wouldn't be strong without the trauma? Maybe it's just me, but I see the weakness it has given to me, even now at 38 years old. I'll admit it did teach me what not to do as a parent but it didn't make me stronger.” — Mandy R.
If you have a loved one who lived through childhood trauma, and are wondering what you can say to be helpful and supportive, check out this piece that outlines 11 truths childhood trauma survivors need to hear.
Child pornography may make a comeback after court ruling guts regulations protecting minors
by Gail Dines and David L Levy
A federal appeals court judge just made it a lot easier for the pornography industry to abuse and exploit children for profit.
The Aug. 3 legal decision, which has received far less media attention than it deserves, represents the most significant blow to opponents of child porn in decades. We believe it could lead to a sharp increase in the number of underage performers being exploited due to the removal of legal oversight and penalties for uploading or distributing images that feature minors.
We've been studying the business of porn for years, as scholars, advocates and experts in legal battles. In fact, we provided expert testimony in 2013 in a related court case and endured two hours of grilling from the judge and porn industry lawyers.
The industry is now celebrating its landmark victory. To us, it is a sign of porn's growing power to fight legal battles and free itself from regulatory constraints as its business model rapidly changes in the internet age.
The case revolves around U.S. Code Title 18 Section 2257, which requires porn producers to keep stringent records on the ages of performers and allows federal agents to inspect them at any time.
The penalties for failing to do so are harsh, including large fines and up to five years imprisonment for a first offense. In the most famous case, the company that produced the “Girls Gone Wild” video series was fined US$2.1 million for 2257 violations. Although there have been few prosecutions, the potential penalties provide an important deterrent.
Over time, the Justice Department expanded the definition of producers subject to the regulations to include “secondary producers,” which includes internet distribution, and set out detailed guidelines for how the records should be organized and indexed.
Judge Michael Baylson of the U.S. 3rd Circuit of Appeals ruled that most of 2257's record keeping requirements were unconstitutional on First and Fourth Amendment grounds. The ruling allows primary producers to fulfill age verification obligations by using a form developed by the Free Speech Coalition, the industry association that brought the lawsuit against 2257. In the most far-reaching and troublesome change, the decision completely exempts major distributors (termed secondary producers), from any record-keeping requirements.
While the production and distribution of child pornography remain illegal, the law is toothless without record keeping. The requirement provides the only way to verify and track performers' ages and serves as a major incentive for businesses across the complex supply chain to monitor content.
A 30-year war
The regulations came in response to the public outcry that ensued when Penthouse magazine featured a 15-year-old Traci Lords in its September 1984 edition.
Research and evidence demonstrate clearly that children who are exploited in the making of porn suffer from a range of devastating and long-lasting effects.
Four years later, Congress enacted the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act, which included Section 2257 and criminalized a wide range of transactions involving the use of minors in pornography, including the electronic transmission of visual images.
The rapid growth of pornography on the internet led lawmakers to pass the Child Pornography Prevention Act in 1996, which extended the provisions to include any digital image that “is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
The porn industry has fought these regulations ever since they were first passed in 1988 and founded the Free Speech Coalition just three years later to coordinate the industry's lobbying and legal strategy and to share expenses related to it. Prior to this month's decision, its biggest victory was overturning the 1996 restrictions in a 2002 Supreme Court decision that permitted images of young-looking girls, as long as the performers were actually over 18.
The decision made the reporting requirements more vital that ever, as it was otherwise impossible to know the real age of performers who were made to appear very young. Nonetheless, the coalition filed many lawsuits over the years challenging 2257, claiming that the regulations placed an undue burden on pornographers' free speech and violated Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless search and seizure.
While different courts have struck down various parts of 2257 and then upheld them on appeal, overall the regulations have largely remained intact – until now.
2257's death knell?
In the 2013 case in which we served as expert witnesses, the Free Speech Coalition challenged 2257 by claiming that there was hardly any porn featuring young-looking females.
Constitutional cases often turn on whether a compelling public interest – such as protecting children from exploitation – is greater than any resulting regulatory burdens that might infringe on another group's rights – in this case, keeping records.
Our research demonstrated that, contrary to the industry's claims, “teen porn” and related genres featuring young-looking females have grown to be the largest single segment, representing about one-third of all internet porn in terms of both search-term frequency and proportion of websites.
The same Judge Baylson cited the strength of our research in his 2013 ruling to uphold the 2257 regulations. But in his decision this August, for reasons unknown to us, he appears to have changed his mind and sided with the industry over the protection of children. Indeed, the decision only considered injuries to porn businesses, not to children.
The Department of Justice might yet appeal, but most legal observers we have consulted with think that 2257 is in serious jeopardy.
Why the industry fights
The Free Speech Coalition claims that it has invested more than $1 million since 2005 to fight 2257 and is now asking for donations to cover outstanding legal debts.
Why is overturning 2257 so important to the porn industry?
The key reason, in our view, is that the regulations strike at the heart of the business model of the major corporate distributors of porn and particularly of MindGeek, which has become the largest multinational porn conglomerate in the world.
MindGeek and other distributors source porn content from a large number of fragmented low-cost producers, who are increasingly located around the globe. The growth of the market segment featuring young-looking females represented a potential legal threat. And distributors of porn – like other internet companies and social media platforms – want to avoid responsibility for content that could expose them to substantial legal and financial liabilities.
Although software solutions are available that could tag every picture and video with data on the performers, the complexity of distribution networks and the vast amount of product uploaded by third parties likely makes compliance with 2257 somewhat cumbersome and costly.
The porn industry has emerged as a powerful force that is trying to shape the regulatory environment to support its shifting business model. Compliance with age verification laws might cost the industry some money, but we believe this is a small price to pay to protect children from the predatory porn industry.
About the Authors: Gail Dines is Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women's Studies, CEO of Culture Reframed, Wheelock College -- David L Levy is Professor of Management, Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Priest: ‘Evil' gay bishops ‘persecute, blackmail' faithful priests who might expose their secret
TAMPA, Florida, August 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – “Evil” homosexual bishops set out to “punish, humiliate and blackmail” decent, God-fearing priests if these threaten to blow the whistle on the gay “mafia” within the Roman Catholic church, says a parish priest.
In the bulletin and on the website of the Epiphany of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church, Father Edwin Palka does not mince words about the terrible extent of the damage done by what he calls the gay “Lavender Mafia” within the church. His writing offers light on why the sexual abuse crisis within the U.S. church has continued to rage unabated for decades.
“Many people still don't (I believe most priests still don't) understand just how evil the active homosexual or homosexual activist … priests and bishops are,” writes the pastor of that Tampa, Florida parish.
“Not understanding the extent of their depravity and wrongly thinking that they are simply ‘normal' men who just struggle with their sexual desires and sometimes might fail to remain chaste but are really, truly repentant when it happens and strive to ‘confess my sins, do penance and amend my life, amen', they cannot possibly grasp the hellish depths to which … [homosexual activist] … clergy will go to persecute, lambaste, punish, humiliate and blackmail anyone who stands in their way or threatens their way of life,” writes Palka.
Estimates of the number of priests who are homosexual vary widely. In one article, an associate professor of religious studies at John Carroll University warned as far back as 16 years ago that studies suggested the percentage of Catholic priests who were homosexual could be as high as 50 per cent. That's roughly 16 times more the percentage of gay men in the general population.
But that astoundingly high estimate of homosexuality in the clergy is perfectly in line with the revelations of Father Dariusz Oko, a priest who became world-famous in 2013 for his essay on clerical homosexuality, With the Pope Against Homoheresy.
In that essay, Oko alleged homosexual priests and bishops had abused seminarians, teenagers, and children and that there was a gay mafia of powerful clerics protecting these men.
“According to reliable estimates, it is estimated that about 30 to 40 per cent of priests and 40 to 50 per cent of bishops in the USA have homosexual inclinations,” Oko told LifeSiteNews in an interview last month.
That gay mafia has a tremendous and terrible impact on good priests who teach the truth about homosexuality as revealed by the church.
And the gay mafia's power over good priests starts in seminary school, according to Palka.
These students who will one day perhaps become priests are asked to provide a great deal of personal detail, including their history with chastity, sexual activity, criminal undertakings, and worst fears about the challenges of living out their vows or promises.
“His file grows thicker the longer he remains in the seminary and it continues to grow after ordination, and includes self-revealed and other-revealed (from formation directors, vocation directors, letters from parishioners, etc.) information regarding his struggles, mental issues, physical problems, and moral failings before, during and after formation, any perceived ‘hostility toward women' or ‘rigidity' or ‘uber Catholicism' or ‘hard preaching' and many more such things,” writes Palka.
None of this information is protected by the seal of the confessional and it follows this man throughout his time in the seminary and afterwards if he becomes ordained into the priesthood. The purpose of this file of information is to help the seminarian and priest grow and meet the challenges of his vocation.
“This file is always meant to help him so that by working with his spiritual director he can improve in every aspect of his life, so that he can overcome fears and failings, so that he has a benchmark by which to gauge his improvements in holiness and competence,” writes Palka. “It is also meant to help his bishop and any of his future bishops understand the priest, to figure out where to place him on assignment or which assignment to keep him away from for his own good.”
But that information can also be used for nefarious purposes by evil bishops.
Using two fictitious scenarios, Palka shows how priests can be set up.
In the first, a priest who struggles with his own homosexual urges to remain chaste and live out his vows in obedience to the church can be manipulated by a homosexual activist bishop and set up to fail.
“Suppose a priest's file reveals that as a teen he was sexually abused by an adult male. As a result of this formative abuse, he struggled with homosexual desires as an adolescent and into his early adulthood but always remained chaste,” writes Palka. “Once ordained as a priest he spoke out fervently against the acceptance and promotion and legalization of homosexual activity and other sexual sins.
“His … [homosexual activist] … bishop, knowing his past, makes him the Boy Scout chaplain where he will be working closely with the bishop's handpicked and openly-active homosexual lay diocesan Scout leaders, hoping and even encouraging (vicariously, through his minions) him to finally fall to his boyhood abuse-induced homosexual desires and sexually abuse one or more of the Scouts,” writes Palka.
But it's not just homosexual priests who can be manipulated in this way, notes Palka.
A heterosexual priest who was sexually active before being ordained and who dares to speak out against homosexuality could similarly be assigned to be the chaplain of a girls' high school in the hope he would succumb to temptation, writes Palka.
“Think this is far fetched? Don't be fooled,” he warns.
Although he declined to be interviewed by LifeSiteNews, insisting he prefers to collect his thoughts and express them in writing in the parish bulletin, Palka did agree online the gay mafia in the church is not at all above exploiting the seal of the confessional to bind decent priests into silence and even to pick up other priests to commit homosexual acts with them.
“These men know the way the church works and they use that knowledge for their own evil ends … They have embraced evil,” he writes. “There is a huge difference between a weak man striving for holiness and a man who has sold his soul to the devil. And oftentimes the former appears to be ‘bad' because he admits his sin while the latter appears ‘nice' because he is as adept at lying as his father, the prince of lies, is.
“That type of priest will also use the confessional to see if he can pick up a new ‘date' by seeing how his confessor reacts to his revealed (not repented) sins,” writes Palka.
The pastor of the Epiphany of Our Lord parish has promised to publish another article on Saturday detailing more of the destructive uses to which evil bishops put the personal information offered up by seminarians and priests, showing how even ex-priests are not safe from this plotting.
Foster parent applicants rarely denied
by Dana Gentry
Author's note: Earlier this month the Current reported that a longtime advocate for foster parents and adopted father of five children is alleged in a police report and by family members to have a history of sexual assault. The allegations prompted questions about the vetting process for foster parents.
Reports of child abuse and endangerment in Clark County have increased by double-digit percentages or close to it in each of the last four years. While Clark County Child Protective Services (CPS) is receiving more calls it's investigating fewer and a smaller percentage of children are being removed from their homes. And although opiate abuse is overwhelming child welfare services elsewhere, Clark County officials dismiss any impact.
Is CPS achieving more success working to keep families together? Or does the agency lack the foster homes to keep pace with demand?
Statistics obtained by the Current reveal Clark County approves almost all applicants to become foster parents – 252 out of 261 in 2017 – a 97 percent approval rate. A spokesman for Clark County's Department of Family Services (DFS) says the agency does not know the approval rate for previous years.
“The Department of Family Services' child placement and recruitment functions here in Clark County have been failing miserably for quite some time,” says Janice Wolf, Directing Attorney of the Children's Attorneys Project (CAP) for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. “CAP has made numerous suggestions and recommendation on how to make things better, but these only seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The problems are systemic and long-standing and definitely include failure to recruit a sufficient number of quality foster parents.”
A national child welfare expert says an increase in licenses doesn't necessarily translate to an increase in foster capacity.
“The most important question is how many of those licensed homes had a foster child within three to six months of licensing?” asks Carole Shauffer, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Youth Law Center, a public interest law firm that works on behalf of children and has long been a critic of Clark County's system.
“Plenty of people get licensed hoping to get an infant they can eventually adopt,” Shauffer says. “Some people won't accept children who are not free for adoption. Others won't accept teens. You can license many homes but not all are willing or able to take children who need families.”
DFS officials declined to be interviewed by the Current but spokesman Dan Kulin says the department doesn't know how many children were actually placed.
“We do work to match children with foster families as soon as they are done with training,” Kulin says.
Kulin says the county doesn't have a target denial rate.
“We deny those who do not meet our standards,” Kulin said. “There are also a number of applicants who withdraw from the process for various reasons, including to avoid being denied a license.”
By contrast, Washoe County approved between 60 and 78 percent of its applicants in the last three years – 156 of 199 in 2016; 135 of 191 in 2017; and 57 of 96 to date in 2018.
The State of Nevada, which administers child welfare programs in all counties with the exception of Clark and Washoe, did not provide foster care approval figures to the Current .
Other states approve foster care applicants at an even higher rate than Clark County.
Washington state child welfare officials say they received 1,402 foster home applications in 2017 and approved all but 18, a 99 percent approval rate.
“These denials do not include foster homes that withdraw from the process by their choice, through mutual agreement, or through a legal settlement,” says Debra Johnson, a media relations official for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Washington's statistics do not include applications processed by private companies. Nevada does not allow private companies to license foster care applicants.
Arizona has a similarly high approval rate. In 2016, Arizona approved all but four of 1,797 applications. The state approved all but two of 1,779 applications in 2017 and has denied no applications from 682 applicants so far this year, according to a spokesman.
Supply and demand
Reports of child abuse, neglect or endangerment grew by 10.6 percent in Clark County in 2015, by 8.6 percent in 2016, by 9.4 percent in 2017 and by 12.6 percent in the fiscal year ending in June of 2018.
Kulin says Clark County's DFS does not believe the opioid crisis, which has ravaged child welfare resources in other states, is responsible for the increase in reports of child abuse here.
“Not at this time, although drug use is certainly a factor in some cases. The increase could also be affected by the continued increase in our population here,” says Kulin. However, population growth in Clark County hovered around two percent in recent years, well below the increase in reports of abuse and neglect.
The Centers for Disease Control reported last week that the number of pregnant women addicted to opiates has quadrupled in the last fifteen years. In 2016, the number of new foster children whose parents used drugs hit 92,000 — the highest in the 30 years the statistic has been kept, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That's one in three of the 274,000 children who entered foster care that year. Drug-related foster care cases skyrocketed by 32 percent from 2012 to 2016.
Kulin says DFS has no information on the incidence of babies born to drug-addicted mothers.
In 2015, the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) received 21,068 referrals or reports and referred 54 percent of the cases to CPS.
By the fiscal year ending in June 2018, the number of referrals received by DFS increased to 28,185, with 45 percent of those forwarded to CPS for investigation — a lower percentage of cases forwarded than in 2015, but roughly 1,300 more referrals.
CPS removed 2,474 children from their homes in fiscal 2018, an 11 percent drop from the previous year.
What's behind the increase in Clark County referrals and why are proportionally fewer cases being investigated?
“In recent years we have put more emphasis on encouraging the public to contact us anytime they suspect abuse or neglect,” says Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County “We believe this has led some people to contact us when they encounter situations that they may have not reported in the past, which has likely increased the number of reports to us.”
“Also, within the last three years we have put even more focus on finding ways to help families stay together. To accomplish this, we work to identify the needs of a family and provide them with services to address those needs while keeping the family together whenever possible.”
“At this point, things can't get any worse in Las Vegas.”
The county's intensified efforts are possible because of a Title IV-E Federal Waiver, that “has allowed us to provide our DFS families with services that were not previously available to them,” according to a county website.
The in-home “safety services” enable families “to keep their children safely at home while they work on increasing their parental protective capacities enough to mitigate circumstances that would cause their children to be deemed unsafe,” says the county website.
As a result of the waiver, the county website says CPS has been able to keep more than 1,700 children “safely at home in our first three years. Our goal is to avoid the trauma of removal from the family by serving more children and families at home and reduce the number of children in foster care.”
“At this point, things can't get any worse in Las Vegas,” says Shauffer of the Youth Law Center. “We're still interested in taking on an advocacy role. We are looking to find how we can ensure improvement because it's languishing.”
Unlike Clark County, Washoe County's referrals for possible abuse, neglect or endangerment have dropped during the last four years from 5,680 to 5,621. In Washoe, the percentage of cases investigated has remained static, between 34 and 36 percent in that time period.
In rural Nevada, referrals to the State of Nevada Department of Child and Family Services increased from 3,803 to 4,144; however, investigators pursued fewer cases, down from 28 percent four years ago to 21 percent in 2018.
‘Critical to get it right the first time'
For child welfare officials, the task of attracting new foster parents while weeding out those who are not qualified amounts to a balancing act. But Janice Wolf of CAP says Clark County is failing miserably on a variety of counts, including recruiting homes close to where children are removed to allow for family visitation and prevent the child from having to change schools.
Wolf says the county fails to recruit quality homes where siblings don't have to be split up. “Being separated from siblings is as traumatic, if not more traumatic than being removed in the first place,” she says.
Wolf alleges that child welfare officials alienate potential quality foster parents through policies and attitudes and she says the county makes insufficient efforts to work with relatives so that children can be placed with family instead of strangers.
The county also fails to match children with families with similar interests, says Wolf, who accuses the county of “placing kids wherever there is an open bed, regardless of whether it's a good fit, then blaming the child when the placement disrupts.”
On average, foster children in Clark County remain in the system for two years, and each of those children will be placed in three different homes during their stay, according to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization of volunteers who work to represent the desires of the child in court proceedings and other forums.
Clark County DFS says for every 1,000 days in the system, a child will be placed in 4.7 foster homes, on average.
Nevada is not alone. A recent study from the non-profit Children's Rights says 34 percent of the children in foster care in Oklahoma have been moved four or more times, with 17 percent subjected to six or more placements.
Child psychologists say children who endure multiple placements are more likely to suffer mental health problems and generate greater mental health costs than children who are in stable placements.
“That's why it's critical to get it right the first time,” said one CASA volunteer who did not want to be identified.
Nevada law prohibits a foster care license being issued to anyone who has a felony conviction for:
- Child abuse or neglect
- Spousal abuse
- Any crime against children, including child pornography
- Any crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including any other physical assault or battery
- Physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense, if the offense was committed within the last 5 years
Clark County has an annual average of about 1,433 licensed family foster homes and ten group homes (each licensed for seven to 15 children) to care for more than 3,300 foster children.
Washoe County has about 410 foster homes and 18 group homes for more than 900 children in their care. The state is charged with coordinating care in 223 foster homes and 11 group homes for some 400 children in rural Nevada.
The federal government's lack of regulation of foster care and adoption means there are no nationally uniform standards for applicants or home studies. Agencies within the same state often have vastly different criteria.
Some states, such as California, have raised their standards for prospective foster parents, but not without disruption to the system. New foster parents and relatives must navigate the state's resource family approval (RFA) process, the result of more stringent standards for relatives seeking to provide care.
California now prohibits relatives from being reimbursed for children in their care until they've completed the RFA process, leaving thousands of families caring for children with funding, according to news reports.
Raising standards, experts say, can result in a temporary disruption of the system but may result in stronger and longer placements.
Additionally, applicants for foster care and adoption navigate the same licensing procedures, which is already the case in Clark County. “It's slowing up the process (in California) but you get a better result in the end. You don't get to the end of foster care and say ‘this person can't adopt because they don't meet the criteria,'” says Shauffer.
State Senator Patricia Farley, a foster parent, told the Current the child welfare system is plagued by inefficient policies and misplaced priorities.
“We don't take the time and effort to screen out bad people,” says Farley.
“The system is so bad they can't get good families and they're not attracting a ton of good families because the process is ridiculous,” Farley laments. “They (DFS) spend time worrying about trash can lids in the kitchen but not training parents and providing treatment for the issues the kids may have or the turmoil the house may be in.”
Clark Count applicants must be residents of the county and be at least 21 years of age. Non-married couples can apply, though only one parent may adopt a child. Single people can apply, as can gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and couples. People with disabilities can also apply to foster or adopt.
The process includes a background check, fingerprinting, 30 hours of training and a financial check to ensure the family will not be reliant on foster payments it receives from the state. Pay stubs are checked to verify income.
Applicants must have a “lifestyle free from drug/alcohol or law enforcement difficulties” and submit to a home inspection.
They must be tested for TB and trained to perform first aid, as well as CPR, if the home has a pool.
Applicants are asked to provide personal references, who complete a questionnaire and agree to be interviewed.
Home checks determine whether the dwelling has adequate fire prevention measures and other requirements that some applicants consider to be nitpicking.
“Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, all of which are good, but all of which we probably don't have in our own homes,” says Shauffer of the Youth Law Center. “If it were my child I'd be more concerned whether they were in a loving, caring environment.”
“We should know that every child in out-of-home care, regardless of how long, is getting excellent care.”