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Four more abuse allegations against former Cheyenne bishop

Cheyenne, Wyo., Aug 20, 2019 / 12:16 pm (CNA).- Four new sex abuse allegations have been raised against Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart, spanning his time both as a priest in Missouri and a bishop in Wyoming.

Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said the allegations were brought forward by either the alleged victims or their family members, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

He said the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph “has turned over all information we have about allegations pertaining to Bishop Hart to the Diocese of Cheyenne, which I understand they have shared with local law enforcement in Cheyenne.”

More than a dozen total accusations of sexual abuse have been raised against the former bishop. The new allegations come from his time in both Cheyenne and Kansas City-St. Joseph, although all of the alleged victims were Missouri residents.

Hart has been accused in lawsuits of taking minors on trips and giving them alcohol and marijuana, then abusing them.

Kansas City attorney Rebecca Randles, who has represented some of the individuals accusing Hart of abuse, said the bishop would party with two other priests in Kansas City who have also been accused of sexual abuse.

Police in Wyoming last week recommended that two clerics accused of sexually abusing male juveniles in the 1970s and '80s be criminally charged, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The clerics were unnamed in the report.

A press release from the police said its investigation “stems from a case initiated in 2002 that was reopened in 2018,” the Casper daily reported Aug. 14.

In July 2018 the Diocese of Cheyenne announced that Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting two boys after he became Bishop of Cheyenne in 1976, following an investigation of charges ordered by its current bishop.

In 2002, a Wyoming man accused the bishop of sexually abusing him as a boy, both during sacramental confession and on outings. The alleged abuse took place after Hart had become a bishop.

The Natrona County district attorney in 2002 had put forward a report saying there was no evidence to support the allegations that originated in Wyoming.

The Cheyenne diocese said in July 2018 that it “now questions that conclusion.”

According to the diocese, Bishop Steven Biegler, the present ordinary, had ordered a “fresh, thorough investigation” because the claims against Hart had not been resolved.

In December 2017, the bishop retained an outside investigator who obtained “substantial new evidence” and who concluded the district attorney’s 2002 investigation was flawed. The investigator concluded that Bishop Hart had sexually abused two boys in Wyoming.

The diocesan review board, after reviewing the report, concurred with the investigator, finding the allegations “credible and substantiated.” The diocese reported the alleged abuse to the Cheyenne district attorney in March 2018, and Cheyenne police opened an investigation.

The diocese said it reported the allegations of abuse as required by its own policy, the national Catholic Church policy, and Wyoming law.

In August 2018, the diocese announced it had found credible a third allegation of child sexual abuse committed by Bishop Hart.

“A third individual reported that he, too, was sexually abused by Bishop Hart in 1980,” the diocese said. This third person reported the abuse after the diocese's announcement there was “credible and substantiated” evidence that Bishop Hart had abused two Wyoming boys.

This third allegation was also reported to the Cheyenne Police Department.

Bishop Hart has denied accusations of abusing minors.

His first accusers came forward in 1989, when he was alleged to have abused boys while serving as a priest in Kansas City. Ten individuals named Hart in lawsuits related to child sexual abuse claims dating from the 1970s. These accusations were part of settlements the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached in 2008 and 2014, though Bishop Hart denied the accusations, the Missouri diocese said July 2.

Bishop Hart was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph in 1956, where he served until he was named an auxiliary bishop in Cheyenne in 1976, and appointed to lead the diocese two years later. He served as Bishop of Cheyenne until his resignation in 2001 at the age of 70.

In June the Cheyenne diocese released a list of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults. The release listed allegations against 11 clerics who had served in the diocese.

Charleston bishop stepping back to fight accusation

Charleston, S.C., Aug 20, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The bishop of Charleston, South Carolina announced he will reduce his public appearances after being named in a lawsuit filed in New York. Bishop Robert Guglielmone announced that he is stepping back from visible leadership of the diocese as he defends himself against an accusation of sexual abuse.

In a letter to the faithful of the diocese, dated Friday and intended for distribution to parishes ahead of Sunday Masses, Guglielmone insisted that he was wholly innocent of the accusation made against him and would fight to clear his name.

“As you know, a lawsuit has been filed against me alleging that I have committed a grievous act,” said the bishop in the Aug. 16 letter. 

“This false accusation against me has no merit whatsoever; I have vigorously defended myself and will continue to do so.” 

Guglielmone has repeatedly stated that the accusations are false and is said to be cooperating fully with a Church investigation. As this process continues, he said, his concern is that continuing in a visible role in the diocese would be a “distraction” from other diocesan priorities and he will “temporarily reduce” his public presence for the foreseeable future. 

“I do not want to distract the focus from the important ministries of the Church in South Carolina–including creating safe environments for our children,” he said.

In the letter, Guglielmone reiterated that all child abuse is “despicable.”

The suit against Guglielmone was filed on August 14, the first day of a one-year period where abuse survivors may file claims against their abusers or the institutions which shielded their abusers, regardless of the statute of limitations. 

This one-year period was created by the passage of the Child Victims Act, which changed New York’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. 

The suit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a young man over a period of years while he was serving as pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Amityville, starting in 1978. 

The Diocese of Charleston said that, when first made, the accusation was initially determined not to be credible, though civil law enforcement was notified of the claims. Following the re-presentation of the allegation, the Vatican was informed and has initiated a full investigation, with which Guglielmone is said to be “cooperating fully.”

It is not clear when the allegations were first made, and the diocese has not confirmed who is conducting the investigation.

Both the vicars general of the Diocese of Charleston have released a statement of support for the bishop, calling him “a trusted leader of our diocese for more than ten years.”

Msgr. Richard Harris and Msgr. Anthony Droze both said that they had “utmost faith in [Guglielmone’s] truthfulness and in his innocence.”

Guglielmone has been the Bishop of Charleston since 2009.

Title X: Protect Life Rule comes in as Planned Parenthood walks out

Washington D.C., Aug 19, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood will no longer receive Title X funds and has withdrawn from the program entirely. The decision took effect Monday, as the deadline passed for compliance with new program rules.

The organization, the nation’s largest chain of abortion providers, confirmed their withdrawal from Title X after a court refused to grant an emergency injunction against the Protect Life Rule, which bars fund recipients from referring women for abortions, prevents participating groups from co-locating with abortion clinics, and requires financial separation of government-funded programs from those that carry out abortions.

August 19 was the last day for the group to file a “good faith” undertaking to comply with the new rule.

The decision means Planned Parenthood will lose about $60 million in federal funding, about one-fifth of total Title X funds, and approximately 15% of its annual federal funding.

The organization’s acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said Monday that “The Trump administration has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X.” Johnson had previously called the Protect Life Rule an attempt by the president to “bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients.”

Calling the Protect Life Rule a “gag on health care providers,” Johnson said in a previous statement, issued last week, that the rule is “a blatant assault on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it.”

On Monday, Doreen Denny, Senior Director of Government Relations at Concerned Women for America, said it was “a day of reckoning” for the abortion provider.

“Planned Parenthood has no entitlement to federal funding, and they apparently have no plans to comply with federal rules either,” Denny said. “For years, Planned Parenthood has skirted federal law to promote its abortion business on the backs of the American taxpayer. 

“If Planned Parenthood truly cared about promoting health, it would stop peddling abortion and start supporting women. Planned Parenthood’s threat to withdraw from the Title X program proves one thing: health care is not their primary business; abortion is,” said Denny.

The abortion provider’s departure from the program altogether is a change from their initial response to the rule. Previously, the organization had intended to remain in the program, but refuse funding. HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Diane Foley called this arrangement “inconsistent” in a letter to the organization.

In guidance issued by HHS on Aug. 8, the department responded directly to Planned Parenthood’s objections to the rule, noting that the organization operated less than 10% of participating sites nationwide.

“To the extent that Planned Parenthood claims that it must make burdensome changes to comply with the Final Rule, it is actually choosing to place a higher priority on the ability to refer for abortion instead of continuing to receive federal funds to provide a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services to clients in need of these services.”

Despite operating less than 10% of the Title X fund recipient clinics, Planned Parenthood received about 15% of the country’s total Title X funds. 

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The administration previously said in June that it would delay enforcement of the rule, provided that fund recipients submitted a compliance plan and made a “good faith” undertaking to comply with most of the rule’s requirements as soon as possible. Facilities are required to end co-location with abortion sites by March 2020.

After protest, Buffalo diocese denies allegations of former seminarian

Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 19, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Amid a media firestorm and a small protest Sunday, the Diocese of Buffalo disputed allegations made in a letter published by a recently resigned seminarian.

“Earlier today, while many Catholics were attending Sunday Mass, three individuals chose to gather in front of St. Stanislaus Church and Bishop Malone’s residence. These individuals were within their rights, and displayed various poster signs. The Diocese of Buffalo, has responded to these topics previously and it is unfortunate that some have not received or understood the responses,“ the diocese said in an Aug. 18 statement.

The protest staged Sunday, according to local media reports, was attended by three people, one of whom is recently resigned Buffalo seminarian Stephen Parisi, who made headlines last week, when he published a six-page open letter, addressed to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, calling for the bishop’s resignation and accusing him of multiple offenses, which included allowing a priest to violate the seal of confession without consequence.

Malone was accused Aug. 6 by Marie Bojanowski, the mother of a Buffalo seminarian, of allowing a priest, Rev. Jeffrey Nowak, to remain in ministry despite allegations that he had violated the sacramental seal, groomed and sexually harassed her son, and abused minors.

A letter from seminarian Matthew Bojanowski to Malone, dated Jan. 24, 2019, is posted on the website of Buffalo television station WKBW. The letter details Bojanowski’s allegations of harassment, and indicates that Nowak disclosed that he had been accused of “inappropropriate actions,” with minors.

The Diocese of Buffalo removed the priest from ministry Aug. 7, and denied reports that Malone had covered up allegations of misconduct against the priest.

The diocese emphasized its response in its Aug. 18 statement.

“Bishop Malone has never allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abusing a minor to remain in ministry. He has stated it is his responsibility to lead the Diocese of Buffalo and he will continue to do so by continuing to offer opportunities to bring healing to victim-survivors of abuse and renewed trust to the people of the Diocese,” the diocese said.

“There has never been an accusation that Bishop Malone violated the seal of the confessional. Mr. Parisi and others make the outrageous and unsupported claim that Bishop Malone has not honored the seal and ignored a complaint that Fr. Jeffrey Nowak violated the seal of the confessional. Bishop Malone has never ignored this complaint.”

“To the contrary, Bishop Malone has initiated an investigation of the complaint. When the individual who made the complaint was first questioned, his response was vague and needed follow up. Fr. Nowak has been removed from ministry while the investigation continues,” the diocese said.

“The Office of Professional Responsibility has tried to contact the individual making this complaint but he has yet to respond. The Diocese will continue to pursue this claim and take additional action if necessary,” the statement added.

The diocese did not respond to all the complaints made by Parisi, which painted the picture of a seminary in chaos. The former seminarian alleged that seminary formators used information gained in the confessional to "blackmail seminarians," made lewd remarks in class, and encouraged seminarians to "shoot or break the kneecaps of protestors and/or the press."

The diocesan statement responding to his letter said that “Mr. Parisi was under investigation for academic dishonesty at Christ the King Seminary and his departure hinders any further inquiry.”

In his Aug. 15 letter, Parisi wrote that he did not plagiarize, only that after reviewing a fellow student’s paper in a “non-credit pre-theology class,” he “used the same quotes, in the same order but used my own thoughts and words to explain the quotes.”

Explaining that his parents are ill and that he had been struggling in the seminary, Parisi added that “I rushed to complete this paper and unfortunately, I forgot to put the opening summary in my own words. This was my fault, and I accept full responsibility for this error.” Parisi wrote in his letter that he had been for 24 years a consecrated religious brother in the Diocese of Buffalo. The seminarian was a member of the Brothers of Mercy, in which he was known as Br. Gabriel-Joseph Parisi.

Regarding academics, the former seminarian also exhorted the diocese to “STOP assigning pointless and tedious papers that do not help students comprehend class material and then not return work with valuable feedback,” to “STOP sending seminarians on summer assignments only to perform menial tasks instead of learning pastoral skills,” and to “STOP assigning endless papers, so much so that spiritual and human needs are neglected.”

The former seminarian urged other seminarians to contact law enforcement and the media if they encountered “inhumane, harassing or illegal behavior” at the seminary.

“I close by thanking Bishop Malone and the formation team for my time at Christ the King. The most valuable lessons I have learned at the seminary have not included how to properly write a paper, or even how to nurture a personal prayer life. By observing the behavior of most (not all) priests on the formation staff, I have learned how not to treat people,” Parisi wrote.

“Bishop Malone, for the love of God and for the sake of the faithful of the Diocese of Buffalo, please step down!”
 
Malone has come under fire in the last year, after his former secretary alleged in August 2018 that the bishop had omitted the names of some priests accused of abuse or misconduct from a list the diocese released last March.

The bishop has faced persistent calls for his resignation.

In April, Malone removed from ministry three priests who seminarians say engaged in salacious and inappropriate conversation during a party at a parish rectory. One of the priests temporarily removed from ministry was a formator at the seminary.

Also in April, Malone issued a statement defending himself against allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups.

The bishop said that he had not been part of any cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, and that he intended to be more transparent about clerical sexual abuse and its financial impact on his diocese.

Acknowledging that he had made mistakes, especially with his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors, the bishop offered an apology.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said April 11.

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse.”

 

Planned Parenthood whistleblower awarded $3 million

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 19, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- An Arizona court awarded a former Planned Parenthood clinic director $3 million in damages in a wrongful termination case, on Friday. Mayra Rodriguez claimed she was unfairly dismissed after raising concerns about ethical and legal breaches at abortion facilities run by the group.

In a decision rendered Aug. 16 at Maricopa County Superior Court, Judge Pamela Gates found in favor of Rodriguez, who worked for Planned Parenthood of Arizona for 17 years.

During her time with the country’s largest abortion provider, Rodriguez claims that she witnessed physician malpractice, illegal conduct of a doctor, falsification of affidavits and patient records, and failure to report a minor who had an adult partner. Following her complaints, she was terminated from her position in October of 2017, at which time she filed suit.

“I feel very, very happy, very, very blessed. It has been a very hard two years since we started this process,” said Mayra Rodriguez, former director of three Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona, in an interview with CNA on Monday.  

After managing a Title X location—where she said no abortions were performed—Rodriguez went on to manage three clinics, including one in Glendale which was one of the biggest abortion facilities in the area when she took it over in November of 2016.

There Rodriguez saw some “eye-opening” concerns, including higher complication rates from one abortionist who was also not properly charting the information of patients.

She also flagged to superiors that a minor with an adult sexual partner was not reported on their first day of contact with Planned Parenthood, as mandated by law and the organization’s own policy, and that affidavits and patient records had been falsified.

However, the organization did not act on her complaints. “And that didn’t happen because the person I was referring to was a powerful person,” Rodriguez said. “My motivation has always been to care for women, to help, that they are being taken care of, that they received the compassionate and high-quality care.”

“And so obviously, when I saw that was not happening, I was very concerned,” she said.

After she began voicing her concerns, she noticed that her superiors “were giving me a really hard time about common, normal daily stuff from other clinics.”

Then, she was told that narcotics had been found at her desk—on a week that she had not been working there, she said—and she was fired. “I tried to explain myself, but the decision had been made,” she told CNA.

Rodriguez decided to proceed with a wrongful termination lawsuit to clear her name, beginning an almost two-year legal battle.

“It has been a very rough two years. A lot of deception, and a lot of pain,” Rodriguez told CNA. “I lost a lot of friends throughout these two years, especially since I lost my job. People just stopped talking to me the moment they hear I submitted a lawsuit. Some of them still work there, so I understand. But there were others, formerly that used to work there, and ‘oh, I don’t want to be involved.’”

“It hurts, because there were some moments where you feel like you’re standing there alone,” she said.

Her undocumented immigrant status surfaced in court, with Planned Parenthood using it against her to discredit her as a “liar.”

“I never thought that would come through from an organization that stands for immigrant rights, but it did,” she said. “My kids were there, and it hurts. You don’t know that it’s like until you’re in the position we are.”

“When you’re called a liar for finding work to provide for your family, it’s hard,” she told CNA. Rodriguez said “some of them knew” at Planned Parenthood about her immigration status, although “they denied knowing.”

During the court process, Rodriguez said a mutual friend encouraged her to reach out to Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left the abortion industry and eventually founded the ministry And Then There Were None to help hundreds of abortion clinic workers also leave the industry. The film “Unplanned” that was released in theatres this year tells Johnson’s story.

Rodriguez  noticed that she shared some similarities with Johnson’s story—"we were kind of the stars of the organization, and then all of a sudden we just dropped to being the bad kids.”

Then on Friday, Rodriguez’s court battle came to an end—she was awarded $3 million in damages by a jury in a Maricopa County Court.

“There’s no words to describe” the faces of the jurors, Rodriguez said, ”the sympathy they had on their face at that moment, knowing what I had gone through and what they had seen—the sympathy.”

Johnson stated her solidarity with Rodriguez following Friday’s decision.

“When Mayra came to And Then There Were None with her incredible story, I felt solidarity with her, having gone through a similar situation when I worked for Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Standing with her through the trial and rejoicing in the ultimate victory has been amazing.”

NYC arts program rejects Mother Cabrini for statue

New York City, N.Y., Aug 19, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A New York City public arts program has said it will not build a statue in honor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, despite the saint receiving the most nominations in a public poll. 

She Built NYC was established in June of 2018 under the patronage of Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, to create more statues of women around the city of New York. The public were asked to nominate women for a potential statue and the campaign received over 2,000 votes for over 300 eligible women.

The results of the nominating period were published in December, with Mother Cabrini receiving 219 nominations - more than double the number received by second-place finisher, Jane Jacobs. 

Despite the public vote, the New York Post reported on Aug. 10 that the selection committee, led by McCray and former New York deputy mayor Alicia Glen, had excluded the first American saint from the planned statutes, instead choosing to honor Rep. Shirley Chisolm, Katherine Walker, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Billie Holiday, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias. They received the third, fifth, seventh, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 42nd-most nominations, respectively. 

LGBT rights activists Johnson and Rivera were biological males and will be featured together in a single statue. Both were self-identified “drag queens” and co-founders of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. The pair received a combined 86 nominations.

Rodriguez-Trias, the first Latina to be elected as the American Public Health Association, was one of the founding members of the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse, received just seven nominations to Cabrini’s 219. 

The She Built NYC program was created after Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a study into existing statues and monuments in the city, setting aside $10 million to craft new monuments better representative of the city’s ethnic and gender diversity. 

Of the 150 statues in New York City, only five figure women. She Built NYC will spend $5 million to build the new monuments.

A spokesperson for Ms. McCray told CNA that the public nominations process was not intended to determine which women would be honored, but only to inform the judgment of the selection committee.

“Nominations made by the public were the foundation of this entire process – only those submitted were considered by the advisory committee and the City,” Siobhan Dingwall, press secretary for the Office of the First Lady in New York City, told CNA in a statement. 

In addition to the public nominations, She Built NYC also considered other factors, such as proposed locations, existing monuments, and site availability when deciding who and where to erect new statues.

“Everyone agrees: there are countless New York City women deserving of recognition, and we look forward to continuing our work with New Yorkers to honor their contributions to our city,” said Dingwell.

New York City Councilman Justin Brannan told CNA that while he supports the core mission of She Built NYC, and is “delighted” that his “personal heroes” Chisolm, Holiday, Jennings Graham, and Rodriguez-Trias will be honored, he is “dismayed” that Cabrini was excluded.

“The will of the people was denied,” he said in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Mother Cabrini received more nominations from New Yorkers than any other woman during the process but these results have been completely ignored,” he said. 

“Why open this up for a public vote and then ignore the results? I would hate to see a meaningful campaign undermined by a process that tries to appear to value public opinion without ever actually doing so.”

Cabrini, an Italian immigrant, arrived in New York City in the late 19th century. She founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and opened many schools and orphanages in New York City. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946, who named her the patroness of immigrants in 1950.

Kentucky again denies abortion clinic's license

Louisville, Ky., Aug 19, 2019 / 03:24 pm (CNA).- Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s administration has reportedly denied a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Louisville its license to perform abortions, doing so for the second time.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Adam Meier, secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, informed Planned Parenthood via a letter on Friday that the state is denying the license because the clinic performed 23 abortions without a license between December 2015 and January 2016.

The state first denied the clinic’s license to perform abortions under a 1998 law requiring abortion providers to have what are known as "transport" and "transfer" agreements with an ambulance and hospital in the event of a medical emergency. A U.S. District Court Judge struck down that law in 2018 as unconstitutional, a decision the state has appealed.

The clinic opened in December 2015 and began performing abortions the following month.

In January 2016, acting state Inspector General Stephanie Hold ordered the clinic to cease performing abortions and the Bevin administration subsequently sued the clinic in February 2016, stating that abortion facilities are not allowed to commence performing abortions without a license. That lawsuit is currently pending in county court.

The clinic claimed at the time that it had received emails from the state saying that it could perform abortions while awaiting a state inspection of the clinic. The state responded saying that former inspector general for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Maryellen Mynear, was “wrong” when she told the clinic that they would have to be operating— i.e. performing abortions— for a state inspection to take place.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers had in June ordered the state to expedite its review of Planned Parenthood's license application and report back to him no later than Aug. 19 with a decision, the Courier-Journal reported.

Planned Parenthood is challenging the licensing issue in federal court.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law in March a bill prohibiting abortions based on the race, gender, or a disability diagnosis of an unborn child. The law’s implementation has been blocked while legal challenges play out in court.

Federal Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky in March blocked a law that would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The state's only clinic licensed to perform abortions is EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, which performs over 3,000 a year.

After investigation, Memphis bishop defends priest accused of racism

Memphis, Tenn., Aug 19, 2019 / 11:10 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Memphis is supporting a pastor whose staff denied a job to a black housekeeper on the grounds that his dog was racist. The diocese says the dog had a history of aggression and tended to become agitated around strangers with dark skin.

“Although the parish staff member’s choice of words was highly unfortunate and imprecise—they were not motivated by racial animus,” said Bishop David Talley of Memphis in an Aug. 16 letter.

“Rather, the concern by all involved was the safety of these women, one of whom was a stranger to the dog, and they knew that attempting to crate the dog would be dangerous when its owner was not present. Their concern was to prevent the cleaning company employees from being injured.”

Fr. Jacek Kowal, pastor of the Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, has been accused of turning away LaShundra Allen as a housekeeper because she was black.

On May 3, Kowal’s housekeeper, who is white, arrived at the rectory, announcing that she was quitting her job. She had brought Allen, who is black, with her, and asked if she could train Allen as her replacement.

Staff members at the rectory consulted with Kowal, who was at the church preparing for a May Crowning ceremony and then returned to the rectory.

According to a letter from the women’s attorney, they told the two women, “I’m sorry, we are not trying to be rude, but the dog doesn’t like black people,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

“The cleaning company employees interpreted this incident as a pretext by Fr. Kowal, motivated by a desire not to have an African American housekeeper. This is simply not true,” said Bishop Talley in his letter, noting that Kowal employed an African American housekeeper for the entire five-year duration of his previous assignment as pastor.

Following the conclusion of diocesan investigation, Talley said he believes Kowal and the parish staff were trying to be cautious, since Kowal’s dog – a German shepherd named Ceaser – was out of his crate and was “very protective of his home.”

The priest would have been concerned about the dog being out of his crate around any stranger, Talley said.

“The staff were aware that years ago the dog had been threatened by a person who happened to be African American, causing the dog to be somewhat more agitated initially around strangers with darker skin, until the dog gets to know them,” the bishop said. “The replacement employee who was planning to enter the rectory was an African-American person the dog had never met.”

In addition, “the parish staff were aware that in 2017 Fr. Kowal had been bitten on the hand by the dog while trying to crate him in an agitated state.”

For these reasons, the bishop said he believed “that the claims of racial bias and discrimination are unfounded, and that Fr. Kowal did nothing wrong.”

The two housekeepers, however, say the priest made no effort to contact Allen afterward and that no offer was made for Allen to come back on another day when Kowal would be available to introduce her to the dog. They say they will continue pursuing legal action.

The cleaning company that employs the two women has terminated its contract with the church, the Washington Post reports.

In his letter, Bishop Talley emphasized “that all human persons are created in the image of the one God and enjoy an equal dignity. Therefore, all forms of racial discrimination are sinful and wrong.”

However, he reiterated, “after our thorough investigation, I find these particular allegations of racial discrimination to be unfounded.”
 

Cincinnati priest arrested and indicted for sexually abusing minor

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 19, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- A Cincinnati priest removed from ministry last month for grooming behavior has been indicted on nine counts of raping an altar server.

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested Aug. 19 on allegations dating back 20 years, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at a local parish, prior to his ordination as a priest. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

Drew was removed from ministry last month, after allegations surfaced that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old boy. A history of similar allegations against Drew was then confirmed by the archdiocese.

In a statement released Aug. 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati acknowledged the charges and urged anyone with information concerning the allegations to contact local law enforcement.

“Today, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati learned that a Hamilton County Grand Jury returned a nine-count indictment against Fr. Geoff Drew stemming from alleged crimes during his time at St. Jude Parish,” the statement said.
 
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so.The protection of young people is of paramount importance and can never be compromised. We urge anyone who has any information regarding the accusations against Fr. Geoff Drew to please report it to Cincinnati Police.”

Drew worked as music minister at the parish of St. Jude in Bridgetown, Ohio, from 1984-1999. During that time he was also a music teacher at Elder High School until 1991. He entered seminary in 1999, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2004.

The archdiocesan statement emphasized that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr were aware of the rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal last month.

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati was made aware of these allegations after Archbishop Schnurr removed Fr. Drew as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish on July 23” the statement said.
 
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told local media that Drew’s alleged victim came forward last month to report the rapes, calling the case “incredibly disturbing.”

Prosecutors also say it is likely the priest has had other victims.
 
The archdiocese indicated earlier this month that they had referred to law enforcement some allegations of Drew’s misconduct stemming from his time as a high school music teacher to law enforcement. Those allegations reportedly arose during a 2018 investigation into other complaints against the priest.

CNA reported earlier this month that complaints were raised to at least one archdiocesan official about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with teenage and pre-teenage boys as early as 2013. Complaints were made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, who is the archdiocesan vicar general, in 2013 and 2015.

Binzer referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity. 

Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Dennis Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.

Drew’s 2018 request for a transfer from one parish to another was approved without any member of the board - apart from Binzer - being aware of the previous complaints.

One month after Drew’s arrival at his new parish, a parishioner at his previous church resubmitted a 2015 complaint made about the priest. The complaint was again reported to Butler County officials, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Sources close to the chancery told CNA that because Binzer failed to notify the archbishop or the priest personnel board about the previous allegations he had received, the accusation was believed by them to be an isolated incident.

The priest was asked to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned to meet regularly with a “monitor,” but school faculty and administration were not told about these restrictions, or the reasons for them.

Sources have told CNA that Drew was on the verge of being sent to an inpatient treatment center for priests at the time he was arrested and charged with rape. 

Binzer was removed from his position as head of priest personnel for the archdiocese earlier this month, but remains vicar general of the archdiocese. 

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed to CNA that following the initial reports of Drew's removeal from ministry, Bishop Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection.

Following questions submitted by CNA, the archdiocese confirmed that the committee were informed of the resignation on Aug. 6.

Binzer had previously served as the representative for Region VI of the U.S. bishops’ conference, including the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

This post has been updated to reflect that Bishop Binzer has resigned from the USCCB's child and youth protection committee.

'Unplanned' actress establishes scholarship for pregnant women

Columbus, Ohio, Aug 18, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie “Unplanned,” has helped establish a scholarship for women pursing an education during an unexpected pregnancy.

“Women can pursue their careers, live out their dreams, and have richer, more fulfilling lives while balancing motherhood. Sometimes, it just takes a little help,” Bratcher said in a recent press release from Heartbeat International.

“I wanted to be a part of empowering mothers to chase their dreams and to provide a means for those who choose life to continue their educations.”

The scholarship, called the Unplanned Movie Scholarship, will give $5,000 annually for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. It can go toward educational educational opportunities including college or trade school.

The project is backed by Heartbeat International, a pro-life agency providing pregnancy resources to expecting mothers in over 2,000 locations worldwide.

“Not only will the scholarship financially support the decision of mothers to continue their education, but it will also connect them to an organization that will support them throughout their pregnancy and beyond,” Bratcher added.

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, said the scholarship will help expecting mothers embrace education and life.

“Tucked into Unplanned is a vivid reminder that education can present an obstacle to accepting the new life within,” said Godsey.

“The Unplanned Movie Scholarship will be a lifeline to a young mom's future as she makes the brave choice to embrace motherhood.”

Bratcher played Abby Johnson in the movie, “Unplanned.” The story follows the life of Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood, who had a conversion experience after witnessing the horrors of abortion. Today, Johnson is a pro-life advocate and the director of And Then There Were None, a ministry that helps other abortion workers leave the industry.

Following the movie’s release, numerous women reached out to Bratcher to share their stories of difficult pregnancy situations. Andrea Trudden, director of communications for Heartbeat International, told CNA that many women shared a common conflict - they needed financial support to finish their education.

“After the release of ‘Unplanned,’ Ashley had a lot of different questions from moms who were reaching out sharing their stories about their unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

“The education aspect tended to be one of the hurdles.”

Trudden said the scholarship’s development is still underway. She said applicants will be recommended from one of the agency’s pregnancy help centers, where the mothers’ needs will be best addressed.

“[Pregnancy centers] provide parenting classes and financial classes. We are able to couple what we do through these pregnancy health organizations with the woman who wants to continue her education,” she said.

“We are really looking at exactly how to partner with our pregnancy help organizations in order to provide the funds to the women.”

She said the scholarship will begin accepting applicants at the end of this year, after the organization receives enough funds. The scholarship is now accepting donations at www.UnplannedMovieScholarship.com.

Trudden said the opportunity will provide women the support they need to pursue their education, but it also presents a bigger message.

“Women can have careers, they can have fulfilling lives and be mothers. It’s not an either-or situation,” she said.

“We want to do everything we can to support the mothers during these hard decisions, to help prepare her for motherhood and … [provide her with] everything she needs to get through her pregnancy in a loving and caring way so she can positive choices for her life.”