A Secret Database of Child Abuse
A former Jehovah's Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.
In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Jehovah's Witnesses, sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions—Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse?—and mail it to Watchtower's headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation's confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.
Thus did the Jehovah's Witnesses build what might be the world's largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades' worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file. In recent decades, much of the world's attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Yet all this time, rather than comply with multiple court orders to release the information contained in its database, Watchtower has paid millions of dollars to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are contained within.
That effort has been remarkably successful—until recently.
A white Priority Mail box filled with manila envelopes sits on the floor of Mark O'Donnell's wood-paneled home office, on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Mark, 51, is the owner of an exercise-equipment repair business and a longtime Jehovah's Witness who quietly left the religion in late 2013. Soon after, he became known to ex–Jehovah's Witnesses as John Redwood, an activist and a blogger who reports on the various controversies, including cases of child abuse, surrounding Watchtower. (Recently, he has begun using his own name.)
When I first met Mark, in May of last year, he appeared at the front door of his modest home in the same outfit he nearly always wears: khaki cargo shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, white sneakers, and sweat socks pulled up over his calves. He invited me into his densely furnished office, where a fan barely dispelled the wafting smell of cat food. He pulled an envelope from the Priority Mail box and passed me its contents, a mixture of typed and handwritten letters discussing various sins allegedly committed by members of a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Massachusetts. All the letters in the box had been stolen by an anonymous source inside the religion and shared with Mark. The sins described in the letters ranged from the mundane—smoking pot, marital infidelity, drunkenness—to the horrifying. Slowly, over the past couple of years, Mark has been leaking the most damning contents of the box, much of which is still secret.
Mark's eyebrows are permanently arched, and when he makes an important point, he peers out above his rimless glasses, eyes widened, which lends him a conspiratorial air.
“Start with these,” he said.
Among the papers Mark showed me that day was a series of letters about a man from Springfield, Massachusetts, who had been disfellowshipped—a form of excommunication—three times. When the man was once again reinstated, in 2008, someone working in a division of Watchtower wrote to his congregation, noting that in 1989 he was said to have “allowed his 11-year-old stepdaughter to touch his penis … on at least two occasions.”
I was struck by the oddness of the language. It insinuated that the man had agreed to, rather than initiated, the sexual contact with his stepdaughter.
After I left Mark's house, I tracked down the stepdaughter, now 40. In fact, she told me, she had been only 8 when her stepfather had molested her. “He was the adult and I was the kid, so I thought I didn't have any choice,” she said. She was terrified, she told me. “It took me two years to go to my mom about it.”
Her mother immediately went to the congregation's elders, who later called the girl and her stepfather in to pray with them. She remembers it as a humiliating experience.
Her stepfather was eventually disfellowshipped for instances that involved “fornication,” “drunkenness,” and “lying,” according to the letters. But according to the stepdaughter, his alleged molestation of her resulted only in his being “privately reproved,” a closed-door reprimand that is usually accompanied by a temporary loss of privileges, such as not being allowed to offer comments during Bible study or lead a prayer. The letters make no reference to police being notified; the stepdaughter said her mother was encouraged to keep the matter private, and no attempt was made to keep the stepfather away from other children. (Calls to the congregation's Kingdom Hall—the Witness version of a church—for comment went unanswered.)
By the time the letters were written, the man was attending a different congregation and had married another woman with children; he is still part of that family today. Near the end of the final letter in Mark's possession is a question: “Is there any responsibility on the part of either body of elders … to inform his current wife of his past history of child molestation?”
Mark O'Donnell's childhood was an isolated one. His parents, Jerry and Susan, had started attending Jehovah's Witness meetings in the mid-1960s. Another couple from Baltimore had told them of Watchtower's prediction that the world would end in 1975, bringing death to all non-Witnesses and transforming Earth into a paradise for the faithful. In 1968, just after Mark was born, Jerry and Susan were group-baptized in a swimming pool in Washington, D.C. Mark was an only child, and he inherited his father's peculiar love of record-keeping. Mark would show up to meetings at the Kingdom Hall with a briefcase full of religious texts.
As in any religion, there's some variation among Jehovah's Witnesses in how strictly they interpret the teachings that govern their faith; Mark's upbringing seems to have been especially stringent. As a child, he attended at least five meetings a week, plus several hours of private Bible study. On Saturday mornings, he joined his parents in “field service,” knocking on doors in search of converts. He was taught that most people outside the organization were corrupted by Satan and, given the chance, would try to steal from him, drug him, or rape him. Mainstream books and magazines were considered the work of Satan. If he broke any of the religion's main rules, he could be disfellowshipped, meaning even his own family would have to shun him.
Throughout Mark's childhood, he heard elders cite Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever holds back his rod hates his son.” Mark's parents took the lesson to heart and beat him frequently. The religion forbids celebrating birthdays, voting, serving in the military, and accepting blood transfusions, even in life-and-death situations. Witnesses were encouraged to devote themselves to bringing more converts into the religion before the end of the world arrived. “Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property” to spend their last days proselytizing, said a Watchtower publication in 1974. “Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.” Some Witnesses stopped going to the doctor, quit their jobs, or ran up debt.
But piety, Mark noticed, did not always translate to morality. When he was 12, Mark became suspicious of a local Witness named Louis Ongsingco, a flight attendant who would bring home Toblerone bars for the local Witness kids and invite them to his apartment to act out religious plays. Mark noticed Ongsingco touching young girls in a way that made him uncomfortable. He told an elder about his concerns. But rather than take action against Ongsingco, the elder told him what Mark had said. Days later, Ongsingco pulled Mark aside and scolded him.
Mark's instincts seem to have been right. In 2001, one of Mark's childhood friends, Erin Michelle Shifflett, along with four other women, sued Ongsingco for sexual assault. The cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Ongsingco died in 2016.
To Mark, the lesson was that for all the emphasis the elders placed on moral purity, there was no greater sin than speaking out against other Witnesses.
By the time Mark was in high school, in the early 1980s, 1975 had come and gone, but Watchtower had a new prediction for the apocalypse. It said that the world would end before the passing of the generation that was alive in 1914. At the time, the youngest members of that generation were 70, so the new prediction created a sense of urgency.
“My parents basically told me, ‘You're not even going to live to graduate from college,'” Mark said. At 17, despite having a year of college credit and a guidance counselor imploring him to apply, he decided to settle for a high-school diploma. He was baptized and later started his exercise-equipment repair company. The business provided enough flexibility for him to perform 50 hours of field service for the Witnesses a month, which qualified him for the rank of auxiliary pioneer.
Though many Witnesses left the religion after 1975, membership was on the upswing by the 1990s, and the organization was building new Kingdom Halls. Mark was installing a sound system in a new hall in Baltimore in the fall of 1997 when a young woman named Kimmy Weber asked to borrow his ladder.
At 20, Kimmy was putting in more than 90 hours of field service a month, making her a full-fledged pioneer. She had completed a two-year program at a community college on a scholarship, and would later get permission from the local elders to get her bachelor's degree. Mark was drawn to her drive and intensity. He tracked down her email address; they flirted over AOL Instant Messenger and were married within eight months. They wanted to start a family, but decided to wait until after the arrival of paradise on Earth, when they, and their children, would be perfect. In the meantime, Kimmy began opening their home to abused and abandoned cats.
As Mark's business grew, he brought on employees, mostly other Witnesses. When he and Kimmy had saved enough money to buy the house across the street as a rental property, they filled its three units with other Witnesses. There were ski vacations, softball games, dinner parties, and game nights—always with friends who shared their faith.
But as much as Mark enjoyed his friends' company, he started to chafe at the insularity of their social life. It felt less like intimacy and more like a self-imposed bubble. These frustrations eventually grew into suspicions about Watchtower itself. He'd heard rumors that the organization was covering up cases of pedophilia and child abuse. But Watchtower always dismissed such criticism as “apostate-driven lies.”
A few years after he and Kimmy married, he saw a protester outside a Witness convention holding a sign that read a jw elder molested me. “I looked at that sign,” Mark told me, “and I locked it in my brain. I'll never forget it. I said to myself, There's no way he's lying. Nobody would stand out there and hold a sign that says an elder molested me unless it really happened. No way. He's telling the truth.”
Watchtower adjusted its estimates for the apocalypse several more times. In 2010, it introduced the Overlapping Generations theory, which claims that the end will come before the death of everyone who was alive at the same time as anyone who was alive in 1914. Mark found these revised predictions difficult to accept.
In late 2013, Mark had an extreme reaction to an antibiotic and was confined to his couch for several weeks, away from the meetings and Bible studies. Left alone with his thoughts, he began to admit to himself that he no longer believed Armageddon was imminent. The Jehovah's Witnesses he knew were no more deserving of God's mercy than the nonbelievers he'd met. And here he was, 45 years old and facing a health crisis. How much more of his life was he willing to waste inside the bubble?
That November, as he and Kimmy were preparing to spend the weekend at a friend's house, Mark suddenly stopped packing and told Kimmy he couldn't maintain the facade anymore. He never attended another meeting.
Though Kimmy kept going to meetings, her Witness friends pressured her to leave her marriage. “They would just come out of the blue with unsolicited advice,” she told me. “‘Don't forget, Kimmy, Jehovah comes first!' ‘At some point, you'll have to make your choice!'” But she didn't want to leave Mark. “I just tried to figure out, how can I stay a Witness and him not?”
Mark's doctor had suggested that he take daily walks as part of his recovery. Kimmy already had a routine of evening strolls, and he began to join her. Mark told Kimmy that he'd once planned to be an engineer, and that he felt he'd been forced to choose between God and his ambition. Kimmy said she'd once dreamed of becoming a doctor or a veterinarian. She revealed that she'd always been terrified that having kissed Mark before they were married meant she might die at Armageddon. She told Mark she feared that, at 36, she'd missed her chance to have children.
Their walks got longer, eventually reaching eight or 10 miles a night. “She was trying to get into my head, to figure out what was going on,” Mark told me. By this point, he'd given himself permission to delve into so-called apostate material, books such as Crisis of Conscience, a 1983 exposé written by a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses Governing Body. He also started watching YouTube videos by Lloyd Evans, a former British elder who has amassed a dedicated following with his anti-Watchtower arguments. A Witness can be disfellowshipped for sharing such material, so Mark didn't tell Kimmy.
Instead, he shared small pieces of information to challenge what Kimmy had been taught, such as the truth about the 1975 doomsday prediction. Kimmy had grown up believing that overzealous Witnesses, not Watchtower, had chosen that date. But Mark, who rarely threw away anything, encouraged her to read the Watchtower articles exhorting members of the faith to sell their homes. Kimmy began to entertain the kind of doubts she'd been trained to ignore. “But I think the big trigger for her,” Mark said, “was when I mentioned Candace Conti.”
Candace Conti, now 33, was raised as a Jehovah's Witness in Fremont, California. When she was 9, the elders in her congregation paired her with a man named Jonathan Kendrick for Saturday-morning field service. Instead of going door-to-door to preach the word of God, Kendrick would take Conti to his house and molest her, she says. She estimates this went on for about two years.
Years later, after Conti had left the Witnesses, she discovered Kendrick's name on the federal sex-offender registry. When she went back to the elders in her former congregation to tell them about the abuse, she was rebuffed by something called the two-witness rule.
Rooted in Deuteronomy 19:15—“No single witness may convict another for any error or any sin that he may commit”—the two-witness rule states that, barring a confession, no member of the organization can be officially accused of committing a sin without two credible eyewitnesses who are willing to corroborate the accusation. Critics say this rule has helped turn Witness communities into havens for child molesters, who rarely commit crimes in the presence of bystanders.
The elders told Conti that without a second witness to the molestation, there was nothing they could do. (When reached for comment, Watchtower's Office of Public Information said, “Our policies on child protection comply with the law, including any requirements for elders to report allegations of child abuse to authorities.” Watchtower declined to comment on specific cases out of respect for the privacy of all involved.)
Conti asked the elders to consider a plan she had devised for tracking child molesters within the organization. When they refused, she sued Watchtower, her former congregation, and Kendrick. During depositions, the elders admitted that they'd long known Kendrick had a history of child molestation—they knew before they paired him with Conti for door-to-door ministry, and before they rejected her story about the abuse. In 2012, a jury awarded Conti $28 million, believed to be the largest jury verdict ever for a single victim in a child-abuse case against a religious organization. (On appeal, judges reduced the damages to less than $3 million. Kendrick has always denied Conti's allegations.)
Others had come forward with accusations against Watchtower before, but Conti refused to take a settlement, and the trial, with its blockbuster monetary award, became a major news story. In the years since, Watchtower has faced dozens of similar lawsuits from victims who say the organization's policies enabled and protected their abusers. In addition to the 1997 “special blue envelope” letter, these suits have cited a 1989 letter in which Watchtower discouraged elders from reporting wrongdoing to civil authorities. “There is ‘a time to keep quiet,' when ‘your words should prove to be few' (Ecclesiastes 3:7; 5:2),” it read. “Improper use of the tongue by an elder can result in serious legal problems for the individual, the congregation, and even the Society.”
It was one such lawsuit that brought attention to the database.
José Lopez was 7 years old when he was molested by Gonzalo Campos, a fellow Witness whom the local elders had recommended as a mentor, despite knowing that Campos allegedly had a history of molesting young boys. When Campos assaulted Lopez in a La Jolla, California, home in 1986, the boy told his mother, who immediately reported Campos to the elders. They said they would handle the situation, and told her not to call the police. Yet Campos continued to rise in the organization, eventually becoming an elder. In 2010, he fled to Mexico, where he later confessed in a deposition to molesting Lopez and several other young boys.
Lopez filed a lawsuit against Watchtower in 2012. When his lawyer, Irwin Zalkin, requested that Watchtower turn over all documents related to Campos and other known molesters, the organization at first refused, saying it lacked the resources to locate and sort all the information. But a senior official for Watchtower later testified that all the information had, in fact, been scanned and stored in a Microsoft SharePoint database.
Zalkin introduced a software expert who testified that Watchtower should be able to produce the documents in as little as two days using simple search terms. Still, Watchtower did not comply. The judge grew frustrated and eventually barred the organization from mounting a defense, and handed Lopez a $13.5 million award. (An appellate court overturned the ruling, saying the judge should have sanctioned Watchtower incrementally; the case was settled for an undisclosed sum in January 2018.)
When Zalkin raised the issue of the database in another case against Campos, in 2016, the judge ordered Watchtower to pay a fine of $4,000 a day until it handed over the documents. Watchtower racked up $2 million in charges (which it later paid) before settling the case in February 2018. Zalkin has once again requested the release of the database documents in another California case he's brought on behalf of a former Witness.
Exactly how many alleged pedophiles are named in the database has been the source of wide-ranging speculation. In 2002, one former elder said the number was 23,720. (Watchtower would not comment on the number at the time except to say that it was considerably lower.) During the Lopez trial, a Watchtower attorney estimated that the organization had received 775 blue envelopes from 1997 to 2001, but did not say how many it had received since then. Perhaps most tellingly, in 2015, an Australian investigation found that the perpetrators listed in the database represented 1.5 percent of that country's Witness population of 68,000. Assuming the percentage is comparable in the U.S., which has a Witness population of 1.2 million, the number of alleged American abusers in the database would be 18,000.
U.S. authorities have so far taken no action against Watchtower, but other countries have launched investigations. In 2016, a royal commission in Australia found that Watchtower demonstrated a “serious failure” to protect children, including not reporting more than 1,000 alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse (more than half of whom have confessed to committing the abuse) and at least 1,800 victims in that country since 1950. In 2014, the U.K.'s Charity Commission opened two investigations, one of which is ongoing. Last year, in the Netherlands, then–Justice Minister Sander Dekker urged Watchtower to conduct an independent investigation into hundreds of abuse allegations received via a special hotline. Watchtower declined.
By the time Mark told Kimmy about the Conti trial, in August 2014, she was starting to see things differently, too—enough that she decided to read the trial transcript. “It was like someone just punched me in the stomach,” she told me. “It was like this whole crack happened in my head.”
Mark knew that Kimmy had suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her mother, who was mentally ill, but Kimmy didn't talk about it much. Now she began to open up. She told Mark about how her mother would lock her and her two siblings in their bedrooms or the basement for days with no food and only a litter box for a toilet. How she would keep them up all night by banging on pots and pans, then send them to school delirious and malnourished. She was also physically abusive toward Kimmy's father, who worked long hours and was largely unaware of how his wife was treating their children. “She would beat us every which way you can imagine. Scream at us, cuss at us for hours and hours and hours,” Kimmy said. There was sexual abuse, too, which Mark hadn't known about. (My attempts to contact Kimmy's mother for comment were not successful.)
Like many abusers, Kimmy's mother used animal cruelty to keep her kids from telling anyone. She would drown kittens in the toilet, then hang the corpses from a ceiling fan in their bedrooms or place them in a jar by their bed, “making the point that she could kill us if we didn't cooperate or we told,” Kimmy said. “That's why I'm always trying to rescue cats,” she added, laughing darkly. “That's some easy psychology there.”
But Kimmy did tell. As a 12-year-old, she went to the elders in her congregation for help. They told her she couldn't report her mother to the police, “because it would make the organization look bad,” she recalled. They discouraged her from seeking counseling, because a therapist might blame the religion or get the authorities involved. Finally, the elders asked Kimmy a question: If her mother did end up killing her, could that prevent Jehovah from resurrecting her at Armageddon? “Of course, I said no,” Kimmy said, rolling her eyes. “They told me, ‘Go home and obey your mother.'”
She told again at 15, after she'd been baptized. This time, the elders said they would need a second eyewitness before they could intervene. Kimmy offered her brother—who has corroborated Kimmy's allegations for this story—but was told that his testimony wouldn't be credible, because he wasn't baptized. “It was my word against my mother's word,” Kimmy said. Years later, she would learn that her brother had already reported the abuse to the same elders.
Kimmy had heard of the two-witness rule, but she'd assumed it was a peculiarity of her local congregation. When she read the transcript of the Conti trial, she discovered that it was Watchtower doctrine and had been used for decades to prevent other abused children from getting help. “The scales fell off my eyes,” she said. Soon, both she and Mark would leave the organization for good.
Over the next couple of years, the implications of Kimmy and Mark's decision became apparent.
One of Mark's employees quit. Two of the couple's tenants moved out in the middle of the night. Close friends stared at their feet when Kimmy ran into them at Walmart. “I went and hid three rows down and cried,” she told me. Mark's relationship with his parents, always strained, disintegrated. His business faltered. He and Kimmy had some savings to fall back on and would find other tenants. But in his mid-40s, with no college degree or résumé, Mark faced an uncertain future.
On a lark, he emailed Lloyd Evans, the British activist with the YouTube videos. Mark told Evans his story and thanked him for the work he was doing. To his surprise, Evans wrote back, suggesting some online ex-Witness groups he should join. Still wary of being labeled an apostate (neither he nor Kimmy had been officially disfellowshipped, though they'd stopped attending meetings), Mark joined Facebook under the pseudonym John Redwood—an homage to Evans, whose pen name was John Cedars—and began finding others with similar stories. As he connected with ex-Witnesses around the world, he was struck by how similar their accounts were to his own. He began writing about his experiences on Facebook. His posts spurred conversations among former Witnesses, giving him a new sense of purpose.
In the summer of 2015, the ex-Witness community was transfixed by Australia's royal-commission hearings, live-streamed online, into sexual abuse in religious organizations. The commission had been trying to get testimony from a member of Watchtower's Governing Body—the organization's all-male ruling council, which then consisted of eight men. By a strange twist of fate, one member, Geoffrey Jackson, was in Australia at the time, tending to his sick father.
Watchtower had managed to avoid a subpoena by claiming that the Governing Body was strictly advisory and played no role in creating policy. Mark—who had obsessively collected Watchtower literature his entire life—had the evidence to prove this wasn't true. He dug out a copy of the “Branch Organization Manual,” an obscure document explaining all the functions of the Governing Body, and emailed it to Angus Stewart, the lead litigator in the proceedings. Stewart used the manual to subpoena Jackson.
In front of the commission, Jackson became the first active member of Watchtower's Governing Body to acknowledge that “child abuse is a problem right throughout the community.” He also admitted that in most cases, children who make such charges against Watchtower are telling the truth.
It was an emotional moment for those whose abuse Watchtower had denied. Mark received an email from Stewart saying that the “Branch Organization Manual” had proved to be crucial in securing Jackson's testimony. Perhaps, Mark thought, his extensive collection of Watchtower ephemera and his encyclopedic knowledge of the religion could be used for something other than recruiting.
Still using his John Redwood pseudonym, Mark became a regular contributor to Evans's anti-Watchtower news site, JWsurvey.org. Trey Bundy, who has covered Watchtower's sex-abuse scandals for the Center for Investigative Reporting, invited Mark to speak at a 2017 conference on the topic in London that also featured Zalkin, the attorney, and Michael Rezendes, the Boston Globe reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize with his co-workers for their investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The conference marked the first time that Mark used his real name as an activist, figuring the Witnesses he knew in Baltimore were unlikely to hear about the small overseas gathering.
Mark also used JWsurvey, where he continued writing under his pseudonym, to encourage Witnesses to expose Watchtower's abuses—a call that has yielded hundreds of emails. “He just comes off as so sincere and knowledgeable and articulate,” says Faith McGinn, a former Witness and an abuse survivor who reached out to Mark last April. “That's what prompted me to finally come forward.” Mark has built an international network of abused, disfellowshipped, and aggrieved Witnesses, whom he has connected to journalists, attorneys, and one another. “Mark is probably the key ex-JW in the ex-JW community,” says Jason Wynne, the founder of AvoidJW.org.
A Jehovah's Witness who has started doubting the religion's tenets but not yet left the organization is said to be “physically in, mentally out,” or PIMO. In 2017, a PIMO man and his girlfriend began walking into Kingdom Halls in Massachusetts, opening locked file cabinets with a set of stolen keys, and removing or making copies of sealed documents. They had heard chatter about Watchtower covering up child abuse and, at first, simply wanted to see the evidence themselves.
Most of the documents they took were letters between local elders and Watchtower headquarters, or from one congregation to another, discussing the alleged sins of individual congregants. One young man was disfellowshipped for stealing candy bars, another for refusing to remove a sign from his van window that said beating children violates God's law. A woman was disfellowshipped for having sex with her ex-husband when he came over to plow her driveway during a snowstorm.
But they also gathered dozens of letters dealing with accusations of rape, domestic violence, and molestation, including several questionnaires required by the 1997 “special blue envelope” letter. In total, 12 individuals are named as suspected child molesters, though missing documents make it difficult to piece together some of the stories.
Not knowing what to do with the documents, the PIMO man—who has requested anonymity and prefers the code name Judas—posted a redacted version of a single letter he had stolen on an ex–Jehovah's Witnesses subreddit. Just five sentences long, the letter informed Watchtower that a ministerial servant had admitted to physically and mentally abusing his wife for years. In the most recent incident, he beat her so badly that she would have sought medical attention, “if it were not for her concern over the reproach it would bring on Jehovah's name.” As punishment, the husband had been stripped of his rank and had lost all “special privileges,” like handling the microphone at Kingdom Hall meetings. No mention was made of involving police or taking steps to protect the wife. Judas had blacked out the names of the couple and the congregation, but not the date.
“It was just one simple letter that shocked me,” Judas told me. “I wanted to see if this would get anyone's eyes who is really important and could tell me what I should do with this information.” His plan worked. Jason Wynne saw the letter and sent Judas a private message, warning him that he could be exposing himself and others to legal trouble or harassment by posting sensitive documents online. Judas replied, asking for advice on how to release his other documents.
At Wynne's request, Mark reached out to Judas with a plan to release the information while still protecting his identity. Judas went to a distant post office and mailed him the documents in a USPS Priority Mail box with no return address. He also used secure channels to send scanned copies to Mark and Wynne. Though they wanted to eventually leak redacted versions of every document involving a criminal act, they decided to start with one big story: the case of a Witness man from the Palmer Congregation in Brimfield, Massachusetts, who allegedly abused his two daughters and another young girl.
The story plays out across 33 letters—69 pages in all—between the congregation and Watchtower headquarters. One of the man's daughters said he had tied her down and molested her; the other said he had raped her repeatedly for nine years. He allegedly took one of his daughters into the woods and showed her where he would bury each of her body parts if she told. The girl who wasn't his daughter said he raped her in his neighbor's mobile home when she was 4.
At first, the elders took only nominal action because one of the sisters refused to accuse her father in person. In 2003, the elders finally disfellowshipped the man after he confessed to molesting one daughter. But he was reinstated a year later, partly because the daughter who had accused him of years of rape refused to answer new questions from the elders, who had pressured her and her sister not to alert civil authorities.
Mark and Wynne, nervous about trafficking in stolen documents, wanted to create another layer of protection for Judas and themselves. So Wynne approached Ryan McKnight, the proprietor of MormonLeaks.io, a site dedicated to transparency in the Mormon Church. They shared the Palmer documents with McKnight, who used them as the inaugural posts for a new site, FaithLeaks.org, and worked with a reporter from Gizmodo to independently confirm the story. Mark and Wynne never shared any details about Judas's identity with McKnight, so that he could honestly say he didn't know who had stolen the letters.
On January 9, 2018, the documents went live on FaithLeaks, and Gizmodo published its story. Other American outlets picked it up—as did media in the U.K., Finland, Spain, Lebanon, Hungary, Chile, and Bolivia. (The Palmer Congregation has never made any public comment on the abuse or cover-up allegations, and didn't return a comment request for this story.)
A month after the documents appeared online, McKnight received an email from an officer with the Brimfield Police Department; the Palmer Congregation had reported the theft of its documents, and wanted the perpetrator brought to justice. The officer asked McKnight about the source of the letters he had published, but McKnight had no information to give.
The officer also asked whether McKnight could connect him with one of the victims, whose case appeared to fall within Massachusetts's statute of limitations. McKnight reached out to the victim to let her know that the police were interested in talking with her. In August, I spoke with the police officer who had contacted McKnight, and a spokesperson for the Hampden County district attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Brimfield. Both told me that their offices continue to gather information on the Palmer case, but they could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation into the alleged abuser had been opened. An investigation into the theft of the Watchtower documents is ongoing.
Six months after the leaks went public, Mark received a call from his mother, whom he hadn't spoken with in more than a year. His father had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and his treatment wasn't going well. She needed help, she said, though she didn't expect much from her son.
Mark felt hurt, not only by his mother's low opinion of him, but also that nobody from his old congregation had bothered to tell him about his dad. He and Kimmy immediately became involved in his parents' lives, doing their grocery shopping, driving his father to radiation treatments, and managing his care. They mostly avoided talking about religion with Mark's parents; to lift their spirits, Kimmy even gave them one of her favorite cats. For the first time in his adult life, Mark grew close to his parents, and Kimmy became a daughter to them.
In January 2019, Mark's father died. Three weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, Mark was once again sitting in the Baltimore Kingdom Hall he'd attended as a child. Though he and Kimmy had—to their great surprise—still not been disfellowshipped, they did not know what to expect. Both had become vocal Watchtower critics online and no longer bothered to hide their identities. Still, there is an unwritten rule among Witnesses that funerals are a no-shun zone. They were mostly greeted warmly, and both were glad to see some old friends. The elder giving the eulogy spoke of Jerry O'Donnell's ever-present smile and his endearing habit of obsessive record-keeping.
Late that night, driving back to Mark's house, I asked him about the state of the Judas documents, a subject he had put off discussing with me during his father's illness. He said he planned to send the documents describing serious crimes to the relevant local authorities. And he was excited about more documents he expected to receive soon.
I asked him about a picture that had been on display at the funeral, a faded Polaroid showing a large group of people wading into an aboveground pool in a large, empty parking lot. He laughed. That was a picture of his parents' baptism, in the parking lot of a stadium in Washington, D.C. Once again, he told me about how his parents became Jehovah's Witnesses after a local couple told them the end of the world was coming. This time, though, he told the story with a tone of forgiveness I hadn't heard before. “You have to remember,” he said, “they were talked into this, too.”
Campaigners furious after pope's ‘defensive' speech on child abuse
Pontiff accused of ‘undoing tiny bit of progress' achieved at high-profile Vatican summit
ROME -- Activists for survivors of clerical sexual abuse have reacted furiously after Pope Francis failed to promise a “zero tolerance” approach to paedophile priests and the bishops who cover up their crimes as he closed a landmark summit at the Vatican.
Francis vowed that the Roman Catholic church would “spare no effort” to bring abusers to justice and would not cover up or underestimate abuse, but a significant part of the pontiff's closing speech focused on the prevalence of child abuse across society.
Citing data, he said that the majority of cases arose within families and that the perpetrators of abuse were “primarily parents, relatives, husbands of child brides and teachers”. He also said that online pornography and sex tourism amplified the issue.
“Our work has made us realise once again that the gravity of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies,” he said. “I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites.”
While the pope acknowledged that the occurrence of the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic church was even more “scandalous” due to its incompatibility “with her moral authority and ethical credibility”, his speech failed to reflect the concrete action that survivors of sex abuse were hoping for.
Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-founder of Bishop Accountability, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases, described the speech as “recycled rhetoric”.
“I am utterly stunned,” she told the Guardian. “The pope has undone the tiny bit of progress that possibly was achieved this week. He was defensive, rationalising that abuse happens in all sectors of society. Ironically and sadly, he exhibited no responsibility, no accountability and no transparency.”
About 190 bishops and cardinals attended the four-day summit, during which they heard traumatic testimony from those who had been raped and molested by priests, and about the indifference that the Catholic church's hierarchy has shown towards them.
One woman from Africa told the summit that the priest who began raping her at age 15 forced her to have three abortions, and beat her when she refused him sex. A survivor from Chile told the bishops and religious superiors they had inflicted even more pain on victims by discrediting them and protecting the priests who abused.
“The presidents of the bishops' conferences going home today will rest easy,” added Doyle. “They will scrutinise the [pope's] talk and try to analyse the question: ‘Do I have to do anything differently or risk losing my job?' The answer is no, there's nothing in this talk today that threatens the position and power of bishops. It is so far from what was needed.”
Father Hans Zollner, a member of the summit's organising committee, said during a press briefing on Sunday that the event was a “quantitative and qualitative leap”, adding that the church must “own” the problem and that it was in the process of “turning things around”.
But dozens of survivors of clerical sexual abuse who travelled to Rome on the expectation of a stronger outcome felt severely let down.
“I've been waiting for seven years … others have been waiting for much longer,” said Alessandro Battaglia, 22. “After four days, we get a piece of paper full of banality, and this is the church in which we're expected to believe. We are very disappointed.”
Francesco Zanardi, who set up Rete l'Abuso, Italy's only network of clerical abuse survivors, said: “We're being taken for a ride. We expected a concrete response but nothing useful has come out of this. In this speech the church makes itself out to be the victim – but we are the victims.”
Peter Isley, spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse, an organisation that brings together activists from different countries, criticised the pope's speech for failing to signal that church leaders would get tough on removing from the ministry priests guilty of abuse and bishops who covered up for them.
“A child will be harmed today due to what the pope didn't say today,” he said. “What he's actually saying to all bishops is to ‘keep on covering it up'. He talks about families … well he is protecting his family. Why can't he enact zero-tolerance into church law? He has the power to do that. The problem is his internal conflict – does he protect the priests within his family or the victims of abuse?”
A list of 21 “reflection points”, written by the pope and handed out on the first day of the summit, is expected to provide the basis for the development of new anti-abuse procedures for bishops. To date, many priests accused of assaulting children have simply been transferred to other parishes.
Alberto Athié left the priesthood after church leaders ignored his reports of abuse committed by the late Marcial Maciel, a prominent Mexican priest who sexually abused several children.
“My bishop told me that either I shut up or leave,” said Athié, whose testimony contributed to an investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002 into the scale of clerical sexual abuse. “They said Father Maciel was very dear and had done many good things. The church doesn't want to recognise or take responsibility for something that they have expressly hidden across the whole world.”
After Years Of Abuse By Priests, #NunsToo Are Speaking Out
by SYLVIA POGGIOLI
In February, Pope Francis acknowledged a longstanding dirty secret in the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests.
It's an issue that had long been kept under wraps, but in the #MeToo era, a #NunsToo movement has emerged, and now sexual abuse is more widely discussed.
The Vatican's wall of silence was first broken in Women Church World, a supplement of the official Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano. An article in the February issue by editor Lucetta Scaraffia — a history professor, mother and feminist — blamed abuse of women and minors on the clerical culture of the all-powerful priesthood. The piece was based on hundreds of stories she heard from nuns.
It's very hard for a nun to report she has been raped by a priest, says Scaraffia, because of the mindset that, in sex, women can always say no.
"These nuns believe they're the guilty ones for having seduced that holy man into committing sin," she says, "because that's what they've always been taught."
Adding to the trauma, she says, raped nuns who get pregnant become outcasts from their orders.
"These poor women are forced to leave their order and live alone raising their child with no help," she says. "Sometimes they're forced to have abortions — paid by the priest because nuns have no money."
"We are unobserved, invisible, ignored and not respected"
Sister Catherine Aubin, a French Dominican nun who teaches theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, says the abuse is the result of male domination in church leadership.
"The Vatican is a world of men," she says. "Some truly are men of God. Others have been ruined by power. The key to these secrets and silence is ... abuse of power. They climb up a career staircase toward evil."
Aubin, who also works on Women Church World, describes women's treatment inside the male Vatican world this way: "We are unobserved, invisible, ignored and not respected."
The first extensive report on abuse of women in the church was in 1994 by an Irish nun, Sister Maura O'Donohue. Her report covered more than 20 countries — mostly in Africa, but also Ireland, Italy, the Philippines and the United States.
In the report, O'Donohue, who died in 2015, linked sexual abuse of nuns in Africa to the AIDS epidemic: Religious sisters were considered less likely to carry the virus.
She cited a 1988 case from Malawi, where a bishop dismissed the leaders of a women's religious order because they complained that 29 nuns had been made pregnant by local priests. She also reported that a priest arranged for a nun to have an abortion; the nun died during the abortion, and the priest then officiated at her funeral.
O'Donohue briefed Vatican officials on her findings, but the document was shelved. Its contents were made public only in 2001 by the National Catholic Reporter, which also publicized another report, from 1998, titled "The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and in Rome."
A "culture of silence and secrecy"
In St. Peter's Square on a recent Sunday morning, a Mexican nun, Sister Silvia Lopez, was thrilled the pope had made public what, among nuns, has long been a painful secret.
"The pope spoke out about abuse of nuns, and now the whole church must also denounce these terrible things," she said.
Last fall, the International Union Superiors General, the organization that represents the world's female Catholic religious orders, urged sisters to defy a "culture of silence and secrecy" and speak out.
In India, a nun has reported a bishop to police, accusing him of raping her more than a dozen times. He's out on bail, awaiting trial. In Chile, the Vatican is investigating a small order of nuns after a national TV channel revealed some sisters had been kicked out after reporting sexual abuse by priests.
An investigation by The Associated Press last summer found the Vatican had not punished offenders for abuse of nuns in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
"I think the movement of #MeToo has absolutely an influence on the fact that the abuse of nuns comes into the press and on the public forum," says Karlijn Demasure, a Belgian expert on sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults who teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
There's no data on the issue, she says, but anecdotal evidence indicates rape of nuns happens not just in the developing world. Media attention, says Demasure, is helping shed light on a longstanding taboo.
"It's the first time that it is accepted in the public forum that adult women can be victims of men," she says. "And this is very important because before you had [society] blaming the victim" and seeing the woman as the one "who was seducing."
Sister Bernardine Pemii from Nigeria, who works as a teacher in Ghana, recently completed a course at the Pontifical Gregorian University on protection of children and vulnerable adults. On her return home, she says she'll focus on abuse of women.
"I am going to empower the nuns," says Pemii. "I want to give them a forum to talk about it. If such a thing has happened to them, they should let us know. I would guarantee them that their voices will be heard."
"I don't want to be dependent on church leaders again"
At a recent press conference in Rome, Doris Wagner, a German former nun, was among those making their voices heard.
Wagner, who also goes by her married name, Reisinger, has written about being raped by the male superior of her convent when she was 24. After that, she says, another priest made sexual advances on her during confession.
When scandals over clerical abuse of minors hit Germany in 2010, Wagner was inspired to report the abuses she'd suffered to her mother superior.
"She became furious," says Wagner. But the fury was not at Wagner's abusers.
"She was literally jumping on her feet," says Wagner. "She was shouting at me. The first question she was able to ask was, 'Have you used contraceptives?' And it was then that I understood that she just refused to understand."
Her former confessor, the Rev. Hermann Geissler, later became chief of staff of the theology section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that handles sex abuse allegations. In January, after Wagner went public with her accusations, he stepped down but denied the accusation against him.
Wagner, now married and a mother, works as a headhunter for a German company and says she will never work again for the Catholic Church.
"I don't want to be in a vulnerable position," she says. "You know, I don't want to be dependent on church leaders again."
Wagner is calling for full investigations of all cases known to the Vatican — that it identify, convict and punish the perpetrators. She also wants compensation for victims, especially nuns who become pregnant.
The Danger of Conflating Sexual Abuse With Abuse of Power
The February summit of bishops at the Vatican signaled a turning point in how the Church is framing sexual abuse.
by Father Raymond J. de Souza
The organizers of the recent sexual-abuse summit at the Vatican expressed satisfaction that the unprecedented meeting of bishops from around the world constituted an important turning point.
That is to be understood in terms of effecting a change of mindset that will produce concrete reforms. Yet the summit may also mark a turning point in how sexual abuse itself is understood in the Church — with a shift away from sex itself toward abuse of power.
While some countries, like Canada and the United States, have had protocols for handling allegations and prevention measures in place for quite some time, the summit made it clear that all local Churches are to have those in place. One concrete result from the summit is that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will produce a vademecum (guidebook) that all bishops can follow for handling allegations of sexual abuse against clergy.
Those kinds of measures garnered most attention. But perhaps more important was a shift in how the Church understands the phenomenon of clerical sexual abuse itself.
The summit, in its preparation and its execution, took pains to downplay the sexual aspect of sexual abuse and to emphasize the abuse aspect, namely the abuse of power.
“It is difficult to grasp the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors without considering power, since it is always the result of an abuse of power, an exploitation of the inferiority and vulnerability of the abused, which makes possible the manipulation of their conscience and of their psychological and physical weakness,” Pope Francis said in his closing address to the summit. “The abuse of power is likewise present in the other forms of abuse affecting almost 85 million children, forgotten by everyone: child soldiers, child prostitutes, starving children, children kidnapped and often victimized by the horrid commerce of human organs or enslaved, child victims of war, refugee children, aborted children and so many others.”
Sexual abuse of minors is to be understood as analogous to starving children and abortion, all an “idolatrous sacrifice of children to the god of power, money, pride and arrogance.”
The emphasis on power is significant for three reasons.
First, it shifts the focus of attention away from sexual morality and the virtue of chastity.
In the preparations for the summit, it was clear that three topics were completely off the table: priestly celibacy, homosexuality in the priesthood, and sexual misconduct with adults. That was partly tactical. It was thought that a more narrowly focused meeting would be more likely to achieve the “concrete” actions that Pope Francis demanded at the summit's outset.
But the shift away from the sexual dimension of sexual abuse also means that an affirmation of the traditional Catholic sexual ethic — on fornication, adultery, contraception and homosexual acts — can be avoided.
An emphasis on power can put the Church in a less conflictual position with secular society; it is less controversial to speak of sexual abuse as of a piece with child trafficking, rather than to question the effect of liberal sexual mores infiltrating the priesthood.
Second, the emphasis on power recasts the Church's analysis on a more worldly basis.
There can be no doubt that power is related to sexual abuse; the weak do not molest the strong, the subordinate does not intimidate the superior. But that is also true of any other kind of harassment or exploitation or even simply rude or nasty behavior; it is the powerful who afflict the less powerful.
For decades now, there has been an effort in culturally influential quarters to hold that sexual abuse — including rape — is not about sex, but about power. This has largely been driven by a reluctance to call any sexual behavior into question, or to apply any standard of morality to it, save for that of consent.
Lack of consent, then, becomes the critical factor, and those who are capable of forcing themselves upon others against their will possess, by definition, some kind of power that is abused.
The sexual-abuse summit went a considerable way toward embracing that line of thinking. Indeed, in the Holy Father's concluding address, he quoted at length from secular sources, such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization, going so far in the latter case as to adopt its analytical framework for reform.
The shift from chastity toward authority, from sexual morality to power dynamics, constitutes a shift toward a Church that thinks in more worldly categories.
Third, there is a potential danger of unintended consequences in the new emphasis on abuse of power.
It can be argued that almost anything a priest does as a priest involves his power as a priest, or his office. A pastor who publicly insults teachers in the parish school is abusing his authority over them, taking advantage of his clerical status to protect him from the proper consequences of nasty behavior. He should be corrected and even punished for such behavior.
Canon law has severe penalties for priests who violate the Sixth Commandment — chastity. It also calls for specific penalties for clerics who abuse their office — an abuse of power. But if the latter category is emphasized in punishing the former — sexual abuse is punished as an abuse of power — what, then, happens in cases where there is an abuse of power that is not sexual? Does the priest who is nasty to the parish staff have to be punished at the same level as the more severe penalties administered to sexual abusers?
Abuse of power is a much broader category than sexual abuse. In conflating the two, there is a danger that all abuse of power is treated at the level of sexual abuse. And because almost all behavior by priests could be related to their status — their “power” — it might have the effect of ratcheting up all priestly discipline toward the removal from ministry now mandated for credible allegations of sexual abuse.
Abuse of power requires a proper response, as does sexual abuse. They are related, but distinct. For proper priestly discipline to be administered, that distinction needs to be observed.
Archdiocese of Mexico City seeks to seize initiative in fight against abuse
by Inés San Martín
ROME - Continuing its efforts to fight clerical sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Mexico City presented on Wednesday an Interdisciplinary Team for Attention to Victims, that involves priests, lay people and survivors, including the director of SNAP-Mexico.
The proposal is a concrete response to the Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors that took place in the Vatican, with the participation of the presidents of bishops' conferences from all over the world.
Joaquin Aguilar, who represents survivors on the new team, was among those who introduced the initiative to the media on Wednesday. After acknowledging that it hasn't always been easy for victims of clerical sexual abuse to have paths of communication with the archdiocese, he said that recently it's the Church that has been reaching out to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
He also said that the institution has taken the first steps towards an “integral reparation” of the damage done by abuse, such as the sanctioning of those responsible, crime prevention, and victim assistance.
“Is not easy; the road is long, but I want to emphasize that this team is one of the few that intends to work very well. That's why I joined,” Aguilar said.
The team includes Aguilar; Father Andres Luis Garcia, who heads the ecclesial tribunal of the archdiocese; psychologist Zaira Noemi Rosales, who heads the Department of Child Protection of the archdiocese; Father Manuel Corral, Secretary for Institutional Relationships; and Marilu Esponda, Director of Communications for the archdiocese.
Esponda said that since 2018, the archdiocese received accusations of child sex abuse against 10 priests, and the cases are being studied together with the civil authorities. She said that the ten clerics have been suspended “ad cautelam,” preventing them from exercising ministry until their cases are decided.
She said the victims, as well as their family members, are receiving care, psychological and spiritual attention, as well as legal counsel to help them navigate both the civil and canonical procedures.
Esponda also said that the new team represents an open channel so that survivors of clerical sexual abuse, or those who detect an irregular situation, can reach out to the archdiocese, contacting Rosales either via phone or email.
Helping survivors, she said, is one of the most complicated things, but stated that financial compensation is a must, “we all have a right to this as victims, but the authorities determine how much is owed.”
The interdisciplinary team is intended as an instrument for the protection of victims and survivors, and is the first step of a broader strategy through which the archdiocese aims to create environments for the protection of minors in different social spheres, since the crime of sexual abuse is not only present in the Catholic Church, but can occur in other areas.
Esponda also said that the instruction the team received from Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, the Archbishop of Mexico City, is clear: “Zero tolerance to every form of abuse. Absolute commitment to timely and effective prevention. Support and unambiguous solidarity for the victims. No opacity and - of course - full cooperation with the civil and ecclesial authorities for an effective justice.”
The Catholic Church in Mexico, she said, is “fully committed” to doing whatever it takes to eradicate these crimes from within the institution.
Before the press conference was over, the team also appealed to society, particularly the “people of good will,” so that they can recognize cases of abuse, “avoiding rumors, fighting and confronting defamation, and eradicating every form of cover-up.”
The project was originally announced by Esponda through a statement released March 6, in which she said that Aguiar had expressed his determination to resolve the problem of abuse “at the roots.”
“Fulfilling this responsibility implies, at the outset, knowing the status of historical cases, and of course, promptly, efficiently and transparently addressing any case that may arise in the Archdiocese of Mexico,” she wrote at the time.
On that date, she also stated that the interdisciplinary team will respond to any allegation promptly, committed to greater transparency and in collaboration with civil authorities, in order to guarantee “authentic justice” for the victims.
Survivors, she said, must always be “at the center.”
In that original statement, Esponda said that the idea of the interdisciplinary committee was born after the summit held in February. As he's no longer the president of the Mexican bishop's conference, Aguiar didn't take part in the meeting. However, he was in Rome participating in a study session ahead of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, scheduled for next October.
While he was in Rome, Esponda wrote, Aguiar met with many bishops from around the world who had taken part in the abuse summit to hear about the discussion and conclusions of that event.
In the past weeks since the initiative was first announced, Rosales, whose phone and email are available on the archdiocesan website, received three calls. According to Esponda: Two were to request information, and one to set up an appointment with the team, presumably to present an allegation.
French court convicts cardinal of not reporting child abuse
by Nicolas Vaux-Montagny
LYON, France — French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said Thursday he will offer his resignation to Pope Francis, after a court found him guilty of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a priest.
The Lyon court's surprise decision was seen by alleged victims as a victory for child protection and a strong signal to the Catholic Church.
The court handed Barbarin a six-month suspended prison sentence for not reporting the cases in the period between July 2014 and June 2015.
In a brief statement to the media, Barbarin said "I have decided to go and see the Holy Father to offer him my resignation." He said he will meet Pope Francis "in a few days," and expressed his "compassion" for the alleged victims.
Alleged victims of the Rev. Bernard Preynat claim Barbarin and other church officials covered up for him for years, but the statute of limitations had expired on some charges and even the victims had expected that the cardinal would be acquitted.
Five other defendants were acquitted.
In the court's decision, read by The Associated Press, magistrates wrote that Barbarin "had the obligation to report" accusations because the alleged victims didn't request the ecclesiastic secrecy.
Alexandre Hezez, one of the alleged victims and among those who brought the case to trial, met Barbarin in November 2014 and kept informing him that there were probably other victims.
"Cardinal Barbarin never showed any doubt about the information," the court wrote.
Barbarin was not present at the Lyon court Thursday. His lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said he will appeal.
"This is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level," Luciani said. He added: "We hope that at the next step, justice will be done."
The Vatican didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Preynat has confessed to abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and '80s and will be tried separately.
Nine people who said the priest abused them brought the case against Barbarin to court.
"This is a victory that sends a strong signal to lots of victims and a signal to the church as well," said Francois Devaux, president of the association "La Parole Liberee" (Lift the Burden of Silence), a group of victims of Preynat.
"We see that no one is above the law. We have been heard by the court. This is the end of a long path."
A lawyer for some of Preynat's alleged victims, Yves Sauvayre, called the verdict "historic."
"The cardinal is convicted because he didn't do what needed to be done," he said.
The victims say top clergy had been aware of Preynat's actions since 1991, but allowed him to be in contact with children until his 2015 retirement.
In addition to Barbarin, an archbishop, a bishop, a priest and two other officials had been on trial. Another top Catholic official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, was among the accused — but didn't appear in court because the Vatican invoked his diplomatic immunity.
In emotional proceedings during the four-day trial in January, several men recounted their fear and shame after they were abused.
Christian Burdet, 53, recalled how Preynat forced him to go into his tent when he was a 10-year-old Scout.
Describing years of suffering, Burdet said he wanted to "understand how this system was put in place" and help other victims to speak out.
Preynat's trial is to be held by next year. The date has not been set yet. Only 13 cases out of an estimated total of 85 alleged victims will go to court, as the statute of limitations has expired for the others.
Last month, French judges refused to block the release in French cinemas of a movie based on the scandal by French director Francois Ozon.
The decision against Barbarin was handed down less than two weeks after the conviction of another "prince" of the church, Cardinal George Pell, was announced in his native Australia of sexually abusing two youths. He too is appealing.
And it comes amid a reckoning among rank-and-file Catholics of how church leaders around the globe allowed decades of sexual abuse and cover-up to fester. The resulting crisis in confidence in the hierarchy sparked Francis' decision to convene church leaders from around the world for an extraordinary Vatican summit last month.
Also last month, Francis defrocked the onetime leader of the American Catholic Church, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after a church investigation determined he sexually molested minors and adult men.
Pope Francis Has Refused the Resignation of Convicted Cardinal
Cardinal Barbarin was convicted of a child sexual abuse cover-up.
Pope Francis has rejected the offer of resignation by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. The former was convicted on charges of failing to inform the proper authorities of child sexual abuse allegations. In his statement, Barbarin said on the morning of March 18 that he forwarded his resignation to the pope. The pontiff invoked a presumption of innocence and declined to accept the Frenchman's resignation. Cardinal Barbarin is the present archbishop of Lyon. He ascended to this position in 2003.
Barbarin, until now, is the top-ranked Roman Catholic Church clergy to be entangled in the murky sex abuse scandals within the French church. The convictions were done on allegations of covering up incidents involving sexual abuse of boy scouts. The abuse happened during the 1980s and in the early 1990s. The abuser was Bernard Preynat, a priest who was subsequently given a prison sentence of six months.
The archbishop has appealed against a verdict which castigated him for his failure to report claims of abuse. The pope, although he has turned down the cardinal's offer of resignation, has nevertheless suggested to the latter to stand aside for some time. Barbarin was not the sole Vatican official to be punished. George Pell, the former Australian Cardinal, was sentenced by a Melbourne court to six years in prison. Pell was convicted of sexual abuse of two schoolboys.
Alessandro Gisotti, the spokesperson for the Vatican, reiterated that the Holy See continues to maintain a close relationship with the sexual abuse victims and with the French faithful who, he said, are presently enduring an extremely painful phase.
Barbarin, at 68-years-old, is the senior most Catholic cleric to be embroiled in the scandal. Child sexual abuse is a global issue in the Catholic Church. After he was convicted of failing to report child abuse crimes, Barbarin said he would visit Rome to give his resignation directly to Pope Francis. The pontiff has defended the French Cardinal once before, saying in 2016 that Barbarin's resignation before any trial would be imprudent and constitute an error on the Vatican's part.
The French cardinal's lawyer has already announced that he would appeal such a conviction. Abuse victims are seeing this conviction as a step which ushered in a new kind of accountability within the French Catholic church. For Pope Francis, the sentence against Barbarin is one among many which have rocked the Vatican. The pope is now working at a frenetic pace to restore people's trust in the Holy See.
Taking stock of the clergy sexual abuse crisis: protecting children
by Thomas Reese, Religion News Service AccountabilityOpinion
Last month's summit in Rome on child sex abuse did not break new ground for those, like myself, who have been following this crisis for more than 30 years, but it did made clear — again — that the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has been devastating for the victims of abuse and for the church as a whole.
There are three parts to the crisis, which I plan to deal with in three successive columns.
First, there is the failure to protect children; second, the failure to hold bishops accountable; and third, the lack of transparency in dealing with the crisis.
Protecting children is a fundamental obligation of any adult, even of those who are not parents. Children are vulnerable and abuse is criminal. It is impossible not to be moved when listening to the horrible stories of survivors of abuse, who can be permanently scarred by the experience.
Abuse occurs in other settings, of course, including schools and in families' homes, but that fact is no excuse for the church's poor handling of abuse.
The mistake many bishops made in the last century was to treat abuse as a sin rather than a crime. If the priest repented and promised not to do it again, the bishop would give him another chance, as if child abuse were comparable to failing in celibacy with a consenting adult. Often, incompetent therapists and psychologist supported this return to ministry.
Bishops were tempted to save these priests, especially those who had only one accusation against them. Before 2002, bishops sometimes simply kept these priests out of parishes and restricted them to administrative work or ministering to adults.
It is true some of these priests never offended again. An alcoholic priest might wake up in bed with a teenage prostitute and be so shocked by the experience that he got into AA, stopped drinking and turned his life around.
But no one can guarantee that an abuser will not re-offend, and too many priests, after being moved to another parish, did just that.
A few were serial offenders of the worst sort.
The 2004 report on clergy abuse by scholars from the John Jay School of Criminal Justice found that just 3.5 percent of the abusers (149 priests) were responsible for abusing 2,960 children, 27 percent of the victims known at that time. Each of these priests had more than 10 allegations against him. On the other hand, 56 percent of the priests had only one accusation against them.
Psychologists explain that there are different types of abusers. There are preferential abusers who prey on children. And there are opportunistic abusers who prey on whoever is available, either children or adults.
It was not till 2002 that the bishops accepted that the best policy was not to allow any child abuser to continue acting as a priest. The Dallas Charter, established by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002, and the norms approved by the Vatican established zero tolerance of abuse by priests. No one who abused a child could be returned to ministry.
In implementing the new policy, dioceses also established lay review boards to assist bishops in examining allegations against priests. No longer is it just clerics policing clerics. Any bishop who disregards the recommendation of his review board to remove a priest from ministry does so at his peril because the public and the media will find out.
Most people want abusive priests not only removed from ministry but also dismissed from the clerical state (laicized) and want them to lose any financial support from the diocese. Others fear that, if an abuser is kicked out on the street without any supervision, he will continue to be a danger to children. They would argue that it is safer to have the church continue to support him in a setting where he would not have access to children. The threat of losing such support might keep him in line.
Another important change in the Dallas Charter was making it mandatory to report to civil authorities the abuse of a child. Child abuse is a crime and should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. In the last 20 years, many states have made clergy mandatory reporters of abuse. Dioceses that did not report priests are now being investigated by state attorneys general and other prosecutors across the nation.
There is some disagreement about what to do if the abused child is now an adult. All agree that the survivor of abuse should be encouraged to report the crime, but if the victim does not want it reported, what should the diocese do if the state does not require such reporting? Some dioceses will report it anyway; others will respect the views of the victim who is now an adult.
If the statute of limitations has expired, the priest will not be prosecuted, but the church would need to remove the priest from ministry in any case.
Protecting children is not just about getting rid of bad priests. We must also develop better screening of candidates for the priesthood.
Unfortunately, there is no test that will accurately predict abuse. There are, however, identifiable risk factors, explains Thomas Plante of Santa Clara University: "Impulse control problems, brain injury, poor peer relationships, antisocial personality, a lack of nonsexual intimate connections with others, alcohol and substance abuse, and a history of sexual victimization."
These factors would make for a bad priest, even if he did not abuse after ordination.
Plante notes that homosexuality is not a risk factor, despite the slanders of right-wing Catholics who want to blame gays for the abuse crisis.
Since 2002, the church has also instituted police background checks for seminarians, priests, teachers, church employees and volunteers who work with children. In addition, there are training programs to help prevent abuse by educating people on boundaries and how to spot abuse.
Reading the constant barrage of news stories about abuse in the Catholic Church makes one wonder if any of this is doing any good.
In truth, there is evidence that these measures are helping. Last year's Pennsylvania grand jury reportlisted 300 priests who had been accused of abuse, but only two had been involved in abuse in the last 20 years. All the priests were either dead or out of ministry. The stories in the report were horrendous, but it also showed that the new system is working, not perfectly, but certainly better than in the past.
Too often stories in the media about abuse do not note these timelines. It often appears that nothing has been done. The John Jay report, in fact, found that the number of alleged abuses increased in the 1960s, peaked in the '70s, declined in the '80s and by the '90s had returned to the levels of the 1950s.
Long before the Boston Globe exposé in 2002, the amount of abuse had dramatically declined in the church. What did increase after the Globe's coverage was the number of survivors who came forward, but they were, for the most part, people who had been abused much earlier.
I would argue that the church in the United States is doing a much better job protecting children from abuse than it did in the past — a better job, in fact, than most other American institutions. But we must continue to be vigilant. We must insist that bishops do their job protecting children, and if they don't, they should be held accountable. We must also insist that the church around the world act aggressively to protect children.
While the U.S. church is doing a good job protecting children, it is not doing well in holding church leaders accountable when they don't protect children. Nor is it forthcoming on the history of abuse and cover-up in the church. That is material for later columns
At Least 4,500 Abuse Complaints at Migrant Children Shelters
The government says it has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse and harassment of migrant children in shelters it managed.
by COLLEEN LONG
WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment of migrant children in government-funded shelters were made over the past four years, including scores directed against adult staff members, according to federal data released Tuesday.
The cases include allegations of inappropriate touching to staff members allegedly watching minors while they bathed and showing pornographic videos to minors. Some of the allegations included inappropriate conduct by minors in shelters against other minors, as well as by staff members.
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., released the Health and Human Services Department data amid a hearing on the Trump administration's policy of family separations at the border. The data span both the Obama and Trump administrations, and were first reported by Axios.
From October 2014 to July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of Health and Human Services, received 4,556 complaints, including allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and inappropriate behavior. Of those, the Justice Department received 1,303 more serious sex abuse complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff, officials said.
The number of complaints decreased during budget year 2017, but otherwise has hovered at about 1,200 per year. Refugee Resettlement officials said the majority of the allegations were "inappropriate sexual behaviors" between minors at the facilities, and shelters can often resolve these allegations through counseling and other non-criminal avenues.
Department officials said the majority of allegations weren't substantiated, and they defended their care of children. They also noted the accused staff members were not employees of the department.
"We share the concern," said Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official who was in charge of the effort to reunify children with their parents, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. "Any time a child is abused ... is one time too many. We abide fully with the laws this Congress has passed, and we are very proud of our outstanding track record of full compliance including referring every allegation for investigation."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement manages the care of tens of thousands of migrant children who cycle through the system each year. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents over the summer at the border, and were placed in shelters. But most of the children in government custody crossed the border alone.
Children are placed in custody until they can be released to sponsors, usually a parent or close relative, while awaiting immigration proceedings. The shelters are privately run under contracts with the government.
Youth are held for increasingly longer periods of time, currently about two months. As of the first week of February, more than 11,000 migrant toddlers, children and teens were in federal custody as unaccompanied minors, up from about 2,500 detained children three months after Trump took office.
Sexual abuse allegations are reported to federal law enforcement, though it's not clear whether anyone was charged criminally. In many cases, staff members were suspended and eventually fired.
Deutch said the data were clearly alarming.
"Together, these documents detail an unsafe environment of sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied minors," he said.
Health and Human Services officials say all allegations are taken very seriously, and the department cooperates with all investigations.
Facilities under government contract must provide training to all staff, contractors and volunteers. Background checks are completed on potential employees, and facilities are prohibited from hiring anyone who has engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.
But Arizona officials moved last fall to revoke licenses for one of the major nonprofits that operates migrant children shelters after it missed a deadline to show that all its employees passed background checks.
A state investigation of Texas-based Southwest Key last summer, prompted by several reports of sexual abuse of immigrant children in Arizona, found that some shelters had not conducted fingerprint checks for all employees.
Southwest Key has apologized and is working with the state to ensure it never misses a deadline again, a spokesman said.
Abe calls for eradicating child abuse
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has instructed cabinet ministers to use all available means to eradicate child abuse.
Abe told a meeting of relevant ministers on Tuesday that reports of child abuse are rising every year.
He stressed the importance of seamless action -- from prevention and early detection to prompt and proper response as well as support for victims.
Abe told ministers to work toward eradicating abuse with a strong resolve to protect children.
The ministers confirmed that child welfare centers and police should share information and increase their cooperation on suspected abuse cases.
They also agreed to work on developing facilities that can offer temporary protection to children facing abuse.
Govt. approves bill to tackle child abuse
Japan's government has approved revisions to its child abuse prevention law following a series of high-profile abuse cases in which victims have died.
The draft bill, approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, bans parents from physically punishing children.
It requires lawyers and doctors to be stationed at child welfare centers so they can share their expertise.
The bill also outlines plans to increase the number of consultation centers.
Professionals offering support and counseling to victims of domestic violence will be asked to help detect child abuse in its early stages.
The government's bill also calls for a review of a part of Japan's civil code that gives parents the right to "discipline" their children.
It includes plans to conduct studies on the licensing of child welfare workers, including the possibility of national government-issued licenses.
The government hopes to pass the bill during the current Diet session.
Japan's National Police Agency says the number of child abuse cases hit an all-time high last year.
A 5-year-old girl died in Tokyo last March after her parents allegedly neglected to feed her and provide medical care.
In January, a 10-year-old girl was found dead at her home in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo. Her parents have been arrested on suspicion of abuse.
Michael Jackson: Barbra Streisand apologises for abuse remarks
The singer Barbra Streisand has apologised after she was criticised for sympathising with Michael Jackson over child abuse accusations against him.
Streisand told The Times newspaper that she believed the allegations against the late superstar but said his actions "didn't kill" the accusers.
She later wrote on Instagram that she was "profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding" caused.
Jackson's brothers have denied that the singer sexually abused children.
The accusations were made in a new documentary - Leaving Neverland - which features testimony from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were abused hundreds of times by Michael Jackson from the ages of seven and 10.
Asked whether she believed Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck, Streisand said she "absolutely" did.
But she continued: "His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has.
"You can say 'molested', but those children, as you heard say [Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them."
Streisand said she felt bad for both the children and for Jackson, adding: "I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him".
She later said in a statement that she believed the parents of the two young men "were also victimised and seduced by fame and fantasy".
"To be crystal clear, there is no situation or circumstance where it is OK for the innocence of children to be taken advantage of by anyone," her statement reads.
She also wrote in a social media post that she "didn't mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way".
R. Kelly 'sexual abuse' tape given to US authorities
Nursing home worker Gary Dennis said he had a "moral duty" to hand over the tape
A US man has claimed to have found a video tape allegedly showing R. Kelly "sexually abusing underage African-American girls."
Gary Dennis told reporters that he handed the tape to authorities after discovering it at his house.
R. Kelly was charged last month with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, three of whom were minors.
The R&B artist has denied appearing in the video, and all other charges.
If convicted, he faces three to seven years in prison on each count.
Mr Dennis, a nursing home worker, said he came across the footage whilst sorting through a box of old video tapes.
He played one tape with a recording of a football match after finding it had been labelled "R. Kelly". He expected it to have been recorded over with an old concert.
Instead it contained sexual abuse, he alleges.
Whilst not going into detail, Mr Dennis said he saw "[R. Kelly] telling them what to do and what to say, and it appeared that he was in control of the camera."
After the discovery he said he had a "moral duty" to notify law enforcement and contacted Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing women who claim to have been sexually abused by R. Kelly.
The tape was then turned over to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Ms Allred said Mr Dennis had no personal connection to the R&B singer and had "no idea" how or when he came to possess the videotape, adding that friends had given him tapes of sporting events in the past.
She said the tape appears to show a separate incident from those previously attributed to R. Kelly, but conceded that she could not be "100% certain" the man on the tape was him.
"The doubt here is self-evident," said Steve Greenberg, R. Kelly's lawyer.
"It is not him. The larger question is what the authorities are doing about the Dennis' possession of what they believe is child pornography in their tape collection."
"It is obviously now just open season on R. Kelly," Mr Greenberg continued.
"It is irresponsible to continue to take the speculation of every Tom, Dick and Harry, and report it as if it is fact."
R. Kelly was taken into custody on Wednesday after failing to pay $161,000 (£122,000) in child support to his former wife, Andrea Kelly, and their three children. He was released on Friday after paying the debt.
Earlier this month he gave an explosive interview with CBS This Morning where he tearfully and angrily denied the allegations against him.
"I didn't do this stuff. This is not me," he said, adding that he is "fighting for my life".
Believe the victims of child sexual abuse? If only we did
It's taken years for people to see Michael Jackson for what he was. With abuse, the world prefers to look the other way
by Suzanne Moore
Here are some things I don't really want to think about but have had to over the years: Jimmy Savile's penchant for tracksuits, as the bottoms can be pulled up and down so easily; vulnerable 13-year-old girls in Rochdale ignored by local police; seven-year-old boys sleeping in the bed of a pop star and being introduced to masturbation; or the day long ago when I was teaching film studies and a film I showed (Terence Davies' Distant Voices, Still Lives) produced extreme distress for one of my mature students.
Something in that film, a shot of a sofa I think, had caused a rush of terrible memories. In those days there were groups for survivors of sexual abuse and I was able to find some kind of help for them. Never for one moment did I disbelieve the distress I saw in front of me. Nor did I find it strange that sometimes people did not clearly remember what happened to them as children and that they could not talk about it till many years later.
What I find shocking at the moment is that we all know about the sexual abuse of children but we still remain in such a deep state of denial about it. The NSPCC estimates that one in 20 children in this country has been sexually abused. The police say that if they were to prosecute every case there would be no time to do anything else. Everyone who works in mental health services, or with addiction, or with the homeless, will tell you how sexual abuse is a factor in the background of so many people they deal with. The detritus of abuse is all around us. We turn a blind eye to that which disturbs us in order to protect ourselves.
Yet as the documentary Leaving Neverland airs, as Wade Robson and James Safechuck talk sometimes blankly, sometimes shakily, about what Michael Jackson did to them, it is hard to say that our understanding of child sexual abuse has grown much over the years.
Sure, at particular moments we may be more attuned to it. Anyone who watched David Nicholls' brilliant adaptation of the Patrick Melrose novels glimpsed the dissociative states that many who were abused as children enter into. Here the abusive father is unspeakably monstrous.
In Jackson's case we saw this child-man, whose timbre of voice varied according to who he was talking to, taking his pick of young boys: taking them to his room, sleeping in the same bed with them because – as all the world knew – he just loved children. He told us that. All he ever wanted to do was buy them stuff and make them happy, this incredibly talented man who we believed had been robbed of his own childhood. We understood he had been abused himself (not sexually but in other ways). In allowing him to reclaim his own childhood, did we turn a blind eye to his robbing small boys of theirs?
If there is one thing we should have learned from all the recent child abuse scandals it is simply this: listen to the victims. Believe them. Yes I believed the men in this documentary, just as I believed Jordy Chandler when he accurately described the underside of Jackson's penis. That case was settled out of court for millions of dollars. Chandler's father later killed himself. Robson's father would also kill himself. There are many victims here.
We know by now how grooming works, don't we? How it makes victims feel special and loved and confused about keeping the secret. This was apparent in the testimonies of both Robson and Safechuck. When the line between love and sex and care becomes blurred for children, it is hard ever to trust or even know what these boundaries are as adults. This is why abuse wreaks such psychic chaos. Not only were these boys told they were special as they were assaulted, they were then dismissed when the next boy came along and became the favourite.
All of this is obviously being denied by the corporate machine that is the Jackson estate. He was a total angel, his true fans say, we are smearing a good man. Believing Jackson is innocent is now some sort of article of faith. It is certainly easier to submerge oneself in a vat of saccharine denial. Look at how long parts of the Catholic church did that. Look at how long it has taken them to accept what damaged adults have said was done to them.
Yet sexual abuse doesn't usually involve superstars. It is sadly ordinary. Too, too ordinary.
Every time I talk about this subject – and I have done for years – I get emails and messages from both men and women saying that this has happened to them and they have never told a soul. I never know quite what to do beyond letting them know that they have been heard and that they have been believed.
I hope right now that this message is louder than the voices of those who “know” the “so-called victims” are lying and the denials of the Jackson estate. But I am sadly not sure.
The grooming continues to this day. And why wouldn't it? It works, after all.
Childline can be contacted in the UK on 0800 1111 and Samaritans on 116 123. Calls to both are free and confidential.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.
Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
City to compensate child abuse victims
LONDON • Manchester City have launched a compensation scheme for victims of historical child sexual abuse, the Premier League champions said yesterday.
The scheme applies to victims of City's former youth coach, Barry Bennell, who was sentenced to a 30-year jail term last year on multiple counts of child sexual abuse.
The football club added that an independent investigation had also revealed "serious allegations of child sex abuse" against another former junior coach, John Broome, whose alleged victims will also be eligible for compensation under the scheme.
FA PROBES BEARDSLEY AFTER BULLYING CLAIMS
The Football Association has launched an investigation into former Newcastle Under-23 coach Peter Beardsley, who left his job last week amid bullying accusations.
The 58-year-old, who has been suspended since January last year, has been accused of bullying academy midfielder Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, but he denied the claims at the time.
Child abuse charges against YouTube channel's mom underscore lack of oversight for kids
Laws ensure professional child performers are safe, educated and not working too many hours. But they don't extend to stars of popular YouTube channels.
by Elizabeth Chuck
The lighthearted videos appeared to be scripted, edited and neatly produced, and featured their young stars engaging in wholesome mischief as playful music hummed in the background.
It was a recipe that worked for "Fantastic Adventures," a hit YouTube family comedy series created by an Arizona family and shut down this week amid allegations of child abuse off-screen. Before YouTube terminated it, the family's channel had attracted nearly 800,000 subscribers and amassed more than 2 million views — potentially netting upwards of $20,000 per sponsored video.
But while some production aspects of the series echoed traditional show business, the criminal charges reveal a worst-case scenario of how a lack of oversight in mom-and-pop-produced videos can play out, child safety advocates say. Mother Machelle Hackney is accused of neglecting and physically abusing the seven adopted children who starred in the videos.
When it comes to seemingly harmless videos of young people on its platform, YouTube has no purview over what is happening behind the scenes to those children.
"It's the wild, Wild West," said Anne Henry, co-founder of BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit serving families with children in the professional entertainment industry that has advocated for more oversight of minors who star in YouTube videos.
"I hate to say it, but if this family ends up being made an example of that would be great because I think it will save other children from exploitation," Henry added.
Family channels on YouTube come in a variety of formats, such as toy reviews, baking how-to shows or the adventures of family vloggers. Some feature children and are designed for a younger audience, while others are meant to educate or inspire discussion. YouTube does not say how many exist; dozens of the biggest family-focused channels attract millions of followers.
The video site has made clear that it wants to protect children, and will take down any account that appears to show child abuse, as it did in May 2017 when it removed a family channel called DaddyOFive that involved a couple allegedly abusing and humiliating their children.
In a statement this week, YouTube said it works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to arrest and convict anyone whose account depicts harm to children, adding that last year, it terminated and reported 46,000 offender accounts.
Professional child actors working for major production companies are covered by strict legal safeguards.
Laws vary by state, but minors are almost always given some form of legal protection over the number of hours they work, where their earnings go and a guarantee that their job will not interfere with their ability to get an education.
That might mean, for example, that a child can be on set for eight hours a day, but can only work five of those hours, while the rest of the time is spent resting, eating meals and receiving their education from a tutor. As for payment, many states require 15 percent of a minor actor's earnings to be placed into a trust account, reserved for their use when they reach adulthood, so the money cannot be touched by other family members.
"If we had a social worker or health care professional attending every home that puts out YouTube videos, that would be a pretty large task."
In some states, parents must be on set at all times to ensure a child's safety. In others, a child's on-set tutor serves as their welfare worker, doubling as an educator and an enforcer of the laws meant to protect the child.
Nothing of that sort exists for children who star in popular YouTube videos. And some child safety experts say it would be an impossible request of YouTube to expect them to monitor abuse or neglect happening off-camera.
"If we had a social worker or health care professional attending every home that puts out YouTube videos, that would be a pretty large task," said Callahan Walsh, a child advocate with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "When the abuse isn't as blatant, it's much more difficult for authorities to step in because no boundaries have been crossed."
But, Walsh added, child abuse is "rampant" — nearly 700,000 children in America are abused every year, according to the National Children's Alliance — and this case is an example of how important it is to look for red flags, such as bruises or children acting withdrawn, particularly around a particular adult.
Hackney, the Arizona mother, is accused of withholding food and water and bathroom access from her children when they failed to follow directions for their videos, according to the Maricopa Police Department. She is also accused of beating and pepper-spraying them from head to toe, and taking them out of school to make videos.
Police did not provide the age of her seven adopted children. The Arizona Department of Child Safety said all potential foster and adoptive parents "undergo a thorough vetting process," including quarterly home visits from licensing agencies in addition to monthly visits from the Department of Child Safety, before adoptions are finalized, and said it had removed the children from the home upon learning about the allegations.
Ryan Hanlon, vice president for the Washington-based National Council for Adoption and a former practitioner who used to vet adoptive families, said the screening process is so rigorous that it's uncommon for children to be placed into unsafe homes.
He said that parents with any sort of criminal history or background with child protective services are disqualified, and a thorough home study is done beforehand. Psychological assessments are sometimes conducted on every member of the family. References are also checked.
YouTube has taken down a channel called 'Fantastic Adventures' after allegations of child abuse against the performers' mother.via YouTube
"When this happens, it is surprising. Was there something in their past that was missed, or something that started later?" Hanlon said.
Carrie Goldman, a social media expert who used her own experience as an adoptive mom to also become an adoption advocate, said she feared that the complex emotions that come with being adopted may have made an already terrible situation even worse for the Arizona children.
"Adoptive children, in particular, are already more vulnerable to feeling like they have to earn their keep or to feeling like if they don't perform, that they'll be given back or given away," Goldman said. "I think with any kid who is a social media presence or star, it's healthy to regularly check back in with the child to make sure that they don't feel that their world and love is conditional on their performance."
The allegations stunned other YouTube stars. Tawny and Zeb Schnorr, who have a channel called "Extreme Toys TV," briefly collaborated with a couple of Hackney's children and noticed nothing suspicious.
"That's what hurts me the most is that I didn't see it," Zeb Schnorr said.
Signs of abuse are not always obvious. But oftentimes, trained professionals can spot red flags that would have gone unnoticed by the general public.
"YouTube is not in a position where they can anticipate what happens, so that's what an advisory committee could do."
Lynn Schofield Clark, author of "The Parent App: Understanding Families in a Digital Age" and professor and chair of media, film and journalism studies at the University of Denver, said she wondered if there is a need for some kind of independent agency that could serve as a watchdog for social networks — an idea recently floated in the United Kingdom by the London School of Economics and Political Science as a way to reduce the spread of misinformation online.
"A Band-aid solution would be to tell YouTube, 'you need to hire people with expertise in child abuse,' because I think someone would be able to flag this early on," she said. "But I think the larger issue is YouTube is not in a position where they can anticipate what happens, so that's what an advisory committee could do. They could think about the type of people who could be violated and will be violated in the future, and advise YouTube on who should be hired or what should be monitored."
The video platform has become a lucrative source of income for some users known as "influencers," who promote brands to a massive amount of followers in exchange for free products or money.
Stephanie Stabulis, senior strategy director for HireInfluence, an influencer marketing agency for Fortune 1000 brands that has never worked with the "Fantastic Adventures" family, said the amount of money a channel makes is typically based off of channel reach, engagement and views.
With the "Fantastic Adventures" videos averaging 1 million to 2 million or more views each and some reaching more than 6 million in recent months, "brands could be paying at least $10,000 to $20,000 per sponsored video based on fair market rates for this kind of video performance," Stabulis said, adding that family channels tend to price toward the higher end of that range due to demand from brands.
Henry, of BizParents Foundation, said social media has made it all too easy for people to skirt traditional production rules for protecting children — as their less costlier videos earn views and profits.
"If you have no money, but you have a cellphone, you can be monetizing from your home," she said. "And who's to say what you're doing in your house.
Instagram The Worst As Social Media Slammed As 'A Gateway For Child Abuse'
The leading U.K. children's charity, the NSPCC, has claimed that Instagram has become the leading platform for child grooming in the country. The research was based on freedom of information requests covering an 18-month period to September last year, during which there were more than 5,000 recorded crimes “of sexual communication with a child,” and “a 200% rise in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children.”
The charity's CEO, Peter Wanless, said that “these figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks. We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offenses on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.”
The primary age group being targeted was 12-15 years of age, although there were many victims under the age of 11 and some as young as five. The NSPCC expects the real number of cases to be much higher than those reported to the police. The charity has an ongoing campaign, #WildWestWeb, calling for statutory regulation of social media. “On average,” they claim, “ten online grooming offenses are recorded every single day by the police in the U.K. Social networks have become a gateway for child abuse. Unregulated and unsafe, they're simply not doing enough to protect children.”
The U.K.'s Net Aware service shows the two highest risk areas for Instagram as sexual content and bullying.
Is Regulation Now Inevitable?
Sky News quoted a spokesperson from the U.K.'s National Crime Agency spokesman saying: “It is vital that online platforms used by children and young people have in place robust mechanisms and processes to prevent, identify and report sexual exploitation and abuse, including online grooming. Children and young people also need easy access to mechanisms allowing them to alert platforms to potential offending.”
Last month, on ‘Safer Internet Day', Margot James MP, the U.K.'s Minister for Digital said that “online safety is a top priority for the Government and we want to make the U.K. the safest place in the world to be online. We will soon be publishing an Online Harms White Paper which will set out clear expectations for companies to help keep their users, particularly children, safe online.” She added that the White Paper “will set out new legislative measures to ensure that the platforms remove illegal content and prioritize the protection of users, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults.”
Also in February, 27-year-old Carl Hodgson and 38-year-old Carl Jones were both jailed in the U.K. for separate incidences of sexual contact with children. Both had used Instagram as part of their grooming campaigns.
“After 10 years of failed self-regulation by social networks,” the NSPCC's Wanless added, “it is crucial that the Government's imminent Online Harms White Paper includes new laws that tackle online grooming once and for all.”
More Of The Same
In January, Instagram was implicated in a number of teen suicides in the U.K., prompting the Children's Commissioner to write to social media organizations. “With great power comes great responsibility,” she told them, “and it is your responsibility to support measures that give children the information and tools they need growing up in this digital world – or to admit that you cannot control what anyone sees on your platforms.”
That followed a terrible 2018 for Facebook's PR machine: fake news; Cambridge Analytica; congressional hearings; the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram heading for the exit; data breaches and data leaks; and slowing growth. But then in January, the company's results for the final quarter were released, revenue and earnings were up ahead of consensus, and management, shareholders and analysts relaxed. “Facebook is done apologizing,” explained Bloomberg. “For a moment during the earnings call, I closed my eyes and swore it was the glory days of 2015.”
There was an acknowledgment with the results presentations of the value Instagram brings to the company and the need to bring it closer to the core, with a view that the photo-sharing platform could become the prime driver of Facebook's ad revenue growth in the coming years. Thus far, Instagram has pulled off the trick of appearing detached from Facebook. The ‘young and cool' are on Instagram, and whilst most also have Facebook accounts, they'll often tell you they no longer post or share on the platform. Even recent issues that have hit Instagram – a lack of transparency around paid-for posts, the hosting of dangerous imagery, the Fyre Festival – have more to do with the behavior of users than the activities of the platform itself.
But this appears to have changed. A spokesperson for Instagram has now said: “Keeping young people safe on our platforms is our top priority and child exploitation of any kind is not allowed. We use advanced technology and work closely with the police to aggressively fight this type of content and protect young people.”
An Industry Problem
This is an issue that extends across social media and is certainly not specific to Instagram. In the last few days, YouTube has responded to claims that its platform was being used to facilitate child exploitation. “We disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior,” they said in a blog post. “These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months. Over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.”
The clamor for regulation of social media gets louder by the week. According to Pew Research, almost half of American teens claim to be online “almost constantly”, with the social media platforms YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter predominating. Approaching 60% of teens have been bullied or harassed online, with 90% acknowledging it as a real issue.
In an interview with Business Insider this week, U.K. Minister Margot James has said that the threat of financial sanctions against the leading social media platforms is set to become very real if toxic content and bad behaviors are not brought under control.
Already in 2019, we have seen headline after headline around data exploitation and ruthless commercialization across social media, and now this. The question is around the level of intent on behalf of the platforms to change, despite the threat of regulation. There's a fear that restrictions are unlikely to carry much weight across hundreds of countries and billions of users. Instagram parent Facebook's answer to its PR challenges of 2019 was to post a set of record financial results.
And, ultimately, this is what carries the most weight.
Creator of YouTube channel abused 7 adopted children who starred in videos watched by millions, police say
by Katherine Lam
An Arizona woman's seven adopted children were a hit performing on her YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures” -- which had nearly 800,000 followers -- but behind the camera, the 48-year-old woman beat the kids, doused them with pepper spray and locked them in a closet for days without food, water or bathroom access, according to court documents.
Machelle Hackney was arrested last Friday at her home in Maricopa — where the alleged abuse of her adopted children occurred — on charges of child molestation, child abuse, unlawful punishment and child neglect. Hackney's two sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were also arrested for failing to report the abuse of a minor, FOX10 Phoenix reported.
Authorities began investigating the Hackneys on March 13 when they received a report regarding child abuse in the household. A person contacted police saying her adoptive sister was being pepper sprayed, locked in the closet — dubbed the green screen room — for days without food, water or access to a bathroom, court documents stated. The individual said her six other siblings were also allegedly being abused in the same way.
Police conducted a welfare check at Hackney's home and found a child wearing only a pull-up diaper inside a closet with a locking mechanism. The six other children in the house appeared to be malnourished.
The children, who were removed from the home, later detailed to investigators the alleged torture they endured in the house, including being drenched in pepper spray from head-to-toe, spanked and forced to take ice baths, FOX10 reported. Hackney would allegedly dunk the children's head underwater when they disobeyed, and forced them to stand in the corner with their arms raised above their head for several hours.
“I either get beat with a hanger or belt, or a brush, or get pepper-sprayed from head to toe,” one of the children told police, according to court documents.
Two of the children told authorities Hackney sometimes grabbed and injured their private parts. One girl recalled being in pain for four to five days, documents stated.
Authorities said the adopted children haven't been in school for years because Hackney needed them for her popular YouTube videos, which had more than 250 million views by Wednesday. The children said Hackney would discipline them if they didn't remember their lines or perform the way she wanted.
On the “Fantastic Adventures” YouTube channel that began in 2012, the children were painted in a vastly different light while acting out elaborate 10-to 15-minute skits. They're spotted sometimes eating, talking about homework, playing games in a fantasy world concocted by Hackney. The show's Instagram page also showed pictures of the children smiling, and in a February post, spoke about a girl's journey from foster care to Hackney's house.
Logan Hackney admitted his mother had abused the children and locked them in the closet for a long period of time. Hackney had denied the abuse allegations and said she only punished the children by making them stand in corners, spanking and grounding them, FOX10 reported.
YouTube said in a statement to the Arizona Republic that Hackney's channel was demonetized following her arrest. The channel will be taken down if she is convicted or pleads guilty to the felony charges.
"We take safety on YouTube very seriously," the statement read. "We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we're made aware of serious allegations of this nature we take action, which may include suspending monetization, or, upon conclusion of an investigation, terminating channels
Child abuse inquiry: Police 'not told' of allegations against MP
Claims of an MP's "penchant for small boys" were passed to security services but they did not investigate or report them to police, an inquiry has heard.
A 1986 letter implicated the late Tory MP for Chester, Peter Morrison, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard.
The inquiry is examining how various institutions responded to abuse claims, some made against prominent people.
Its latest stage is considering whether political parties "turned a blind eye".
Brian Altman, lead counsel for the inquiry, said some allegations had already been shown to be false.
Despite this, it was "both necessary and appropriate for this inquiry to investigate" the role of Westminster during the three-week hearing, he said.
Mr Altman said the inquiry would examine whether there were any attempted cover-ups.
How does the inquiry work?
The hearing on Monday revealed details of a 1986 letter by Sir Antony Duff, who was director-general of the security service at the time.
Mr Altman said the letter reported information from a member of the Westminster establishment that Mr Morrison had a "penchant for small boys". The informant had heard the allegations from two sources and passed the information to the security service.
Further documents obtained by the inquiry from the Cabinet Office and the security service refer to this correspondence.
"Those documents make it clear that neither the security service nor the Cabinet Office took steps to investigate this allegation, nor did they report them to the police," Mr Altman said.
As part of its investigation, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will examine the role of party whips - who help organise party business and have the role of persuading MPs and peers to vote along party lines.
It will investigate whether any whips became aware of allegations and "tried to turn such allegations to their advantage" to keep party colleagues in line.
Mr Altman said they will look at "whether it is true that the Whips' offices of any party failed to report or, worse, assisted in suppressing allegations or evidence of child sexual abuse".
It will also look at whether the "Westminster establishment sought to influence policing or prosecutors' decisions". There will be evidence on "whether there was a culture whereby people of public prominence were shielded from investigation and their wrongdoing tolerated at the expense of their victims", added Mr Altman.
The way political parties, "in particular the leadership of these parties", reacted to allegations of abuse made against their members will also be looked at.
The case of Mr Morrison is one of the three case studies. Another one will examine how the Liberal Party (now known as the Liberal Democrats) responded to allegations made against late MP Cyril Smith.
The third, most recent, case study will look at Green Party member David Challenor. He was jailed for 22 years last year after being convicted of sexual assault against a 10-year-old girl, the hearing was told. He was allowed to remain an active member of the party while he awaited trial, Mr Altman said.
They are "extremely serious issues", he added, telling the inquiry in central London: "The gravity of these issues in this investigation, we suggest, lies in the fact that they related directly to the alleged conduct of elected representatives."
He said a question by Labour's Tom Watson in the House of Commons in 2012, in which he said there was "clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10", could be seen as the "catalyst for the establishment of this inquiry".
While there have been critics opposed to the work of the inquiry, Mr Altman said it aims to address "outstanding issues of public concern".
The most serious allegations, from a man called Carl Beech - known by the pseudonym Nick at the time he made the claims to protect his identity - are not being considered by the inquiry.
Mr Beech is due to go on trial later this year , accused of fraud and perverting the course of justice. He denies the charges.
The Westminster part of the inquiry is set to last for three weeks. It is one of 13 strands being considered by the IICSA, which was set up in 2015 amid allegations a paedophile ring once operated in Westminster. Professor Alexis Jay is chairing the inquiry, which covers England and Wales.
Witnesses this month are set to include representatives of MI5, the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
As part of his opening statement, Mr Altman listed a string of allegations against MPs - without concluding whether they were true or false.
'Waste of money'
Before the hearing began, the son of the late Labour peer Lord Janner - who died before allegations of child sexual abuse made against him could be tried - accused the inquiry of being a "witch hunt against dead politicians".
Daniel Janner, speaking outside the inquiry's headquarters, said it would "unjustly trash" the reputations of people like his father as well as Sir Edward Heath and Lord Brittan, adding they "cannot answer back from the grave".
He described it as a "massive, out-of-control waste of money" which was "contrary to the basic principles of British justice".
Allegations involving Lord Janner are to be dealt with during a separate strand of the inquiry.
The inquiry says its Westminster investigation will cover:
allegations of child sexual abuse committed by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and how these came to light
the findings of relevant investigations
whether there is evidence of conspiracy, cover-up, interference or tolerance in relation to child sexual abuse committed by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster
whether governmental, political and law enforcement institutions were aware and took appropriate steps
whether there are adequate safeguarding and child protection policies in place within political parties, government departments and agencies
One area of inquiry will be the activities of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a campaign group which pushed for sex with children to be legal. There are allegations it had access to Home Office funding.
United Kingdom / US
Child sex images accused loses US extradition appeal
A man described as the world's "biggest facilitator of child pornography," has had his challenge against extradition to the US dismissed.
Eric Eoin Marques, of Mountjoy Square in Dublin, appeared before Ireland's Supreme Court on Wednesday.
He has Irish and US citizenship.
He is wanted by US authorities on charges including conspiring to distribute and advertise child pornography and advertising and distributing child pornography.
These relate to images on more than 100 "anonymous websites" described as being extremely violent and graphic.
The FBI believes he is the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site and the world's largest facilitator of the distribution of child abuse images.
He was arrested by gardaí (Irish police) in 2013 after a formal request from the US.
Mr Marques has brought a number of challenges against his proposed extradition to the US, including a challenge against the Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland for offences he is wanted for by US authorities.
'May be extradited immediately'
In dismissing his appeal, the judge said the DPP was allowed to decide not to prosecute Mr Marques in this jurisdiction for the offences and the Irish Minister for Justice was not under any obligation to seek reasons from the DPP for that decision.
He has also previously lost in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court in Dublin upheld those judgements.
The court did not impose any stay on the ruling, meaning Mr Marques may be extradited to face charges immediately.
Wales one step closer to making smacking illegal
by Katy Morton
The Welsh Government is introducing a Bill to end physical punishment of children
The Welsh Government is bringing its Children Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly.
If the Bill is passed by the Assembly, parents and other adults acting in a ‘parental capacity' will no longer be able to physically punish children. It will give children the same protection from physical punishment as adults.
Under the Bill, the common law defence of reasonable punishment will be abolished so any adult acting in a parental capacity cannot use it as a defence if accused of assault or battery against a child.
Across the UK
The move by the Welsh Government follows in the footsteps of Scotland. Last year, Green MSP John Finnie proposed and lodged a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault', which allows parents to use reasonable physical punishment on a child.
The Bill has passed the first stage of the legislative process and is expected to come into force next year.
In England and Northern Ireland, parents are allowed to use 'reasonable chastisement'. There are no plans to criminalise smacking.
Wales' deputy minister for health and social services Julie Morgan said, ‘We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales.
‘What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.'
Wales' legislation will be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents, aiming to help and eliminate the use and tolerance of physical punishment of children in the country.
Ms Morgan added, ‘More than 50 nations across the world have already responded to the international call to end the physical punishment of children.
‘With the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child this year, it is very fitting that Wales is taking this significant step in expressing our country's commitment to protecting children's rights.'
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said it was glad to see that the Welsh Government wants to give childen the same protection from physical punishment as adults.
President Professor Russell Viner said, 'When a parent raises a hand to a defenceless child - whether that's a smack, slap or another physically harmful behaviour - they have lost control. Research tells us that children who are physically punished are more likely to have poorer mental health and physical well-being and when they grow up, are more likely to engage in self-destructive or antisocial behaviour. Hurting a child isn't acceptable and it is a form of child abuse.
'It's time to change to the law to make it clear that physical punishment is unacceptable.'
29 Catholic Diocese of Peoria clergy accused of sexual abuse by law firm, Diocese responds
by Kevin Schwaller
CHICAGO - Twenty-nine priests who served in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria were accused of sexual abuse by a law firm on Wednesday.
Jeff Anderson and Associates is holding a press conference in Chicago to announce the 185-page report that lists the names of every Catholic priest and lay person in Illinois who has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct.
29 of those names on Anderson's Report are clergy from the Diocese of Peoria, and at least 11 of the clergy named are deceased.
The report identifies: Fr. John C. Anderson, Msgr. Charles J. Beebe, Fr. Walter A. Breuning, Fr. Edward E. Bush, Fr. Terry Cassidy, Fr. Louis M. Condon, Fr. Robert J. Creager, Fr. Francis Engels, Msgr. Norman D. Goodman, Fr. William Harbert, Fr. George H. Hiland, Fr. William Iserman, Fr. Duane Leclercq, Fr. Thomas W. Maloney, Fr. Frank R. Martinez, Jr., Fr. Thomas R. Miller, Fr. John M. Onderko, Fr. Toussaint J. Perron, W.F, Fr. Gordon J. Pillon, Fr. Jerry (Jerome) R. Pilon, Fr. Gregory J. Plunkett, Fr. Samuel D. Pusateri, Fr. Kenneth J. Roberts, Fr. Ronald W. Roth, Fr. Richard Slavish, Fr. Bernard (B.J.) Tomaszewski, Fr. John B. Turnbull, Fr. Michael R. Van Acker and Fr. William D. Virtue as those who allegedly sexually assaulted children.
Of the 29 listed, 22 have already been "credibly accused" by the Diocese.
In almost all 29 cases, abuse survivors claim their accusations happened years before any clergy were actually removed. Anderson met with sexual abuse survivors to tell the world how they feel now that the information has been released, and the response was one of relief that finally the men they they accused of abusing them are facing justice.
"The Catholic Church has been nothing but deceitful as you know, and lying for many many years. The priest that abused me was moved to 8 different parishes and he was moved to those parishes for what reason? Was it in the best interest of the Catholic children? Absolutely not, because he abused in every parish that he went to," said sexual abuse survivor Joe Lacono.
The report goes into detail regarding when they were involved with the diocese and their assignments. It also provides backstories about each of the allegations.
The Anderson Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese and Dioceses in Illinois also accuses priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Belleville, the Diocese of Joliet, the Diocese of Rockford and the Diocese of Springfield.
The report also accuses Religious Clergy and Lay Persons in Illinois, with eight priests or laypersons within the Peoria diocese listed.
"All I wanted, was for people to know he's still alive, he's in a parish with children, it's a parish connected to a school. And the parents there deserve to know," said survivor Cindy Yesko.
Just before 4:30 p.m., the Catholic Diocese of Peoria responded to the report:
Today, Attorney Jeff Anderson published a lengthy report providing the names of various priests across the state of Illinois that he claimed had allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
The section of this report that directly pertains to the Diocese of Peoria lists 29 priests. 26 of these 29 priests have been listed on the Diocese of Peoria website for some time and have been made publically known. These 26 priests have been reported to the appropriate State's Attorney.
It is important to note that the majority of the 29 names released today are deceased. Furthermore, the allegations of abuse dated back several decades.
The Diocese of Peoria offers the following comments on the remaining three priests.
Fr. Frank Martinez: He is a priest of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, and is listed on their diocesan website. The Diocese of Peoria has never received an allegation of abuse regarding Fr. Martinez.
Msgr. Charles Beebe: Jeff Anderson's report today stated that the Diocese of Peoria only reported this case after a lawsuit was filed. This is completely false.
In June 2018, the Diocese of Peoria received an allegation that Msgr. Beebe sexually abused a person in 1981 (37 years ago). Msgr. Beebe was immediately placed on administrative leave and cooperated with the investigation. This allegation was immediately reported to the Peoria Police Department. The police investigated this accusation and reviewed Msgr. Beebe's personnel file. They concluded their investigation and acknowledged the Diocese's cooperation in this matter. This allegation was taken to our Diocesan Review Commission. The Commission unanimously determined that the allegation was unsubstantiated and could not be deemed credible. Msgr. Beebe was reinstated in ministry. Msgr. Beebe is a retired priest since 2016. This case has been reported to the appropriate State's Attorney. All of these actions of the Diocese occurred months before any lawsuit being filed.
Msgr. Thomas Maloney: While Msgr. Maloney was alive, an allegation was received. He was immediately placed on administrative leave. This allegation was taken to the Review Commission and it was unanimously determined to be unsubstantiated.
Later after Maloney's death, the Diocese entered into a settlement agreement. As is often the case with settlements, the Diocese makes no admissions of liability. This case has been reported to the appropriate State's Attorney.
Under the direction of Bishop Jenky, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria remains committed to maintaining a safe environment to all children.
The attorneys have represented clergy abuse victims across the United States.
The Diocese of Peoria was established in 1887. There are approximately 197 priests currently in the diocese
Abuse survivor who intervened during alleged sexual assault of 5-year-old faces criminal charges for attacking suspected rapist: Report
by Jonathan Anderson
Authorities in Ohio are coming under fire for criminally charging a man who stopped a sexual assault of a child, WEWS-TV reports.
On Thursday, police in Eastlake, Ohio, arrested 20-year-old Richard Adams after he starting fighting a 17-year-old, whom Adams allegedly saw sexually assaulting a 5-year-old boy.
Adams was subsequently charged with felonious assault.
According to a police report obtained by WEWS-TV, Adams told investigators that when he walked into the living room of a house, he saw the teen on top of the boy, whose pants were located around his ankles.
Adams reportedly yelled that someone should call police, but he also physically intervened to stop the sexual assault.
“I didn't just call the cops and let it pursue,” Adams told the television station. “I stepped into action and stopped it.”
Adams said as a child he experienced something similar to what happened to the 5-year-old, and he felt he had to physically stop the act.
News of the charges against Adams has made national headlines, and Adams has received well-wishes from supporters and offers to pay for his legal expenses.
Adams says he should not have been arrested and charged.
“I don't feel like I should've been arrested in this situation,” Adams said in an interview with the news station. “I feel like if you're stopping a crime, that you should be able to walk free from helping someone who could not protect themselves in this situation.”
A petition has been started urging that the charges be dropped against Adams, who has a court appearance scheduled for April 2.
As for the teen, authorities say he has been charged with rape.
Eastlake, Ohio, is about 19 miles northeast of Cleveland along Lake Erie.