Important Events of 2007
presented by BishopAccountability.org
This page summarizes 19 important stories of 2007 with links to investigative reporting, documents, and streaming video. What lessons do you see, and what omens for the new year? Roll your mouse over the photos to view captions. Email us with comments, stories we should have included, and commentaries that moved and informed you in 2007. We’ll post your favorites next week.
| Hand of God | Gumbleton Resigns | Cleveland Financials | Teczar Convicted | CNN’s Tom Roberts | Maiello Verdict | Spokane Bankruptcy Ends | Few Portland Documents | Delaware Child Victims Act | Los Angeles Settles | San Diego Settles | Aguilar Documents | Giuliani and Placa | Jesuit McGuire Indicted | USCCB Elects George | Jesuits Settle Alaska Claims | Davenport Settles | Providence Files | Franciscan Newman Indicted |
Hand of God Shows Worldwide on NPR’s Frontline
The story of survivor Paul Cultrera and his family’s search for the truth about Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham. This award-winning film by Cultrera’s brother Joe shows how Birmingham abused boys in a tight-knit Italian community north of Boston, how Paul confronted Bishop John B. McCormack, and how Joe confronted Bishop Richard G. Lennon during the filming. View the video. See also our collection of documents and background for the movie, including statements by Paul Cultrera and archdiocesan documents.
Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton Is Removed from His Parish
Gumbleton testified on 1/11/06 in favor of statute of limitations reform in Ohio, describing his own abuse by a priest when Gumbleton was a teenage seminarian. His resignation as auxiliary bishop of Detroit, tendered at age 75, was forthwith accepted, and on 1/21/07, Gumbleton was removed from St. Leo’s parish, where he was pastor. See a report with video of Gumbleton’s sermon on that day, and Cardinal Maida’s letter removing Gumbleton. See also Gumbleton’s 2006 testimony and an article about it.
Financial Documents Begin to Emerge in the Cleveland Diocese
On 2/16/07, Joseph H. Smith, the former chief financial officer of the Cleveland diocese, claimed in a court filing that former Bishop Anthony M. Pilla wrote checks and bought furniture from off-the-books church accounts. Filings on 3/15/07 accused Rev. John J. Wright, chief accountant of the diocese and Smith’s boss, of participating in the scheme to enrich himself and his girlfriend. See filings by Smith and Anton Zgoznik, and our collection of documents and articles.
Thomas Teczar Is Convicted of Sexual Abuse
Teczar was convicted of sexual assault and indecency and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for molesting and raping an 11-year-old boy in Texas. The conviction was made possible by the determination of David Lewcon (photo at left), a Teczar survivor from Massachusetts. The documents that emerged shed light on the diocesan traffic in accused priests. See an article on the Teczar conviction, a 1998 video report on Teczar’s Worcester victims, a series from Texas, and the Fort Worth documents.
Sins of the Father Shown on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360
Documentary about Michael Goles and Thomas Roberts, survivors of abuse by Rev. Jerome F. (Jeff) Toohey, Jr. See video 1 2 3 4 5 6 [total 47:24] with transcript and follow-up interview with Roberts on 3/20/07 1 2 [total 10:27]. See also Supporters Pray for Accused Priest, which is discussed in segment 4.
Jury Awards Two Maiello Survivors $11.45M
A Long Island jury awarded $11.45 million in damages to a young man and woman who were repeatedly raped by a youth minister as teenagers starting in the late 1990s. The jury found that the diocese of Rockville Centre, St. Raphael’s church in East Meadow, and its pastor were negligent in hiring and retaining Matthew Maiello. Hear a statement by one of the survivors with other links and read about the role of Maiello’s pastor Rev. Thomas Heggarty. See also articles 1 2 3.
Spokane Emerges from Bankruptcy Protection
The Spokane diocese emerged from bankruptcy protection 30 months after filing on 12/6/04. In the reorganization plan, $48M was distributed by mediation among 140 claimants. The settlement kept payouts, priests’ names, and diocesan documents confidential. During the bankruptcy, Bishop William S. Skylstad also served as president of the USCCB and was himself accused of sexual abuse. See articles on the end of bankruptcy, the filing, the settlement and payout plan, the secrecy, Skylstad’s USCCB post and allegation, and fundraising for the settlement.
Few Documents Released in Portland Bankruptcy Settlement
As part of his successful bankruptcy strategy, Archbishop John G. Vlazny settled on 4/13/07 with 150 victims of sexual abuse for $75M. The highly touted release of documents stipulated by the settlement came to nearly nought on 6/6/07 when the archdiocese released a few hundred pages from its voluminous files, including only 32 pages from the huge personnel file of Rev. Maurice R. Grammond, accused of molesting at least 59. See the documents with links to articles. See also articles on the 7/6/04 bankruptcy filing, Grammond, and the settlement, and comments by Marci Hamilton and Mark Chopko. See in particular a very useful study of Portland abuse cases based on bankruptcy documents and a chronology and photo album of some participants.
Delaware Child Victims Act Becomes Law
The act establishes a two-year moratorium on the statute of limitations in lawsuits for sex abuse. The law, whose chief sponsor was Senator Karen E. Peterson, passed unanimously in both houses of the General Assembly. It gives abuse victims until 7/10/2009 to seek damages, regardless of when the assaults occurred. This is the second such window in the nation – a one-year window took effect in California on 1/1/03, resulting in hundreds of survivors’ coming forward. See articles on the Delaware hearings, the bill’s passage and signing, and the first suit to be filed in the window. See also an article about the result of the legislation in California, and articles below about the settlements there.
Los Angeles Archdiocese Settles with 508 Survivors for $660M
On the day that the first trial was to begin, Cardinal Mahony settled with 508 survivors, the last of about 570 total claims against 221 priests, brothers, lay teachers and other church employees, many of them made possible by the 2003 SOL window. The archdiocese had previously made settlements totaling $114M. The settlement promised the release of archdiocesan abuse files, but none were released in 2007. See articles on the settlement 12, survivors’ assessments 1 2, the commitment to release the documents, a photo album, an editorial in Commonweal, and Thomas Doyle’s response. See also earlier articles by Timothy Lytton and Mark Sargent on litigation and the crisis.
San Diego Settlement Effectively Ends Bankruptcy Case
Judge Peter Lichtman apportioned $198.1M among 144 sexual-abuse plaintiffs, placing the specific amounts under seal. The awards effectively ended a troubled bankruptcy case that Bishop Robert H. Brom had filed on 2/27/07, as trials were set to begin. In closing the case on 11/1/07, bankruptcy judge Louise DeCarl Adler declared, “Chapter 11 is not supposed to be a vehicle, a method, to hammer down the claims of those abused.” See articles about the filing, the settlement, the awards, and the end of the bankruptcy. See also the filing itself, a list of diocesan properties, a two-part list of accused priests, a critique of the list, and a collection of bankruptcy documents.
|Mexican and Los Angeles Documents in Aguilar Case Are Released
September 11, 2007
SNAP released documents from Joaquín Aguilar Méndez’ suit against Rev. Nicolás Aguilar Rivera, who had been charged in 1988 of abusing 10 boys in Los Angeles. He allegedly raped the 12-year-old Aguilar Méndez in 1994, after he fled U.S. authorities and after Mexican bishops and civil authorities knew of the LA accusations. This suit alleges that Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Rivera conspired to protect the priest. See the documents with other links, the lawsuit, and an article on the significance of the case in Mexico.
Rudy Giuliani’s Shielding of Accused Priest Becomes Campaign Issue
Msgr. Alan Placa’s role in the Rockville Centre diocese’s abuse bureaucracy and the abuse allegations against him emerged in 2002 Newsday reporting and later in the 2/10/03 Suffolk County Grand Jury Report. Yet when Placa was suspended by Bishop Murphy on 6/13/02 after Richard Tollner’s allegation, Placa went to work for Giuliani Partners, and when Giuliani entered the presidential race, his protection of Placa became an issue. See Newsday 1 2 3 4 5, the Grand Jury report 6 7 (esp. p. 120), the NY Times 8, Newsday 9, Salon 10, Worcester Telegram & Gazette 11, and ABC 12.
|Prominent Jesuit Criminally Charged with Abusing Boy Abroad
November 1, 2007
Rev. Donald J. McGuire, S.J. was charged in federal court with the crime of transporting a male minor to Switzerland and Austria and sexually abusing the boy. Since the 1980s, McGuire was the spiritual director for Mother Teresa, her Missionaries of Charity, and many other groups. He would routinely abuse the boys who served without pay as his assistants. The Jesuits were told about McGuire’s abuse of boys on 11/28/69 and often thereafter but were unresponsive. See the criminal complaint in the federal case and an article about those charges. See also the earliest known complaint, a more recent one, and an NPR report on McGuire.
Cardinal George Enables Abuse but Is Named USCCB President
Cardinal Francis E. George OMI, archbishop of Chicago, was elected president of the USCCB by the bishops, although four boys say they were sexually abused by Rev. Daniel McCormack after George learned of abuse allegations in early 9/05, and after the cardinal’s own review board had told him on 10/15/05 to remove McCormack. The priest was arrested on 1/20/06; he pled guilty without apology on 7/2/07 to abusing five boys and was sentenced to five years in prison. The archdiocese faced no sanctions, though it had violated the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. See NPR’s reportCardinal George’s letter, and articles on the 2005 allegation, McCormack’s past and sentencing, and George’s election.
|Jesuits Settle Claims by 110 Alaska Natives for $50M
November 16, 2007
This settlement resolved complaints against 12 priests, 2 deacons, and a brother, who sexually abused children in the remote native communities of northwestern Alaska. The victims alleged that their communities were used as dumping grounds, that Jesuit attitudes about native populations figured in the abuse, and that the Jesuits placed managerial conversations under the seal of the confessional to conceal their prior knowledge of the abuse. See articles about the communities and the Lundowski survivors with map and photos, Jesuit attitudes and the Poole survivors, Jesuit vs. native culture, the secrecy issue, the genesis and history of these cases, and the settlement with background and comments by survivors with photos.
$37M Settlement with 156 Clears Davenport to Emerge from Bankruptcy
Davenport filed for bankruptcy on 10/10/06 – after a jury awarded Michl Uhde $1.5M for sexual abuse by Msgr. Thomas J. Feeney, once vicar general of the diocese, and just before Gould v. Bishop Lawrence D. Soens was scheduled to go to trial. A few days after he filed for bankruptcy, Bishop William E. Franklin’s resignation was accepted by the Vatican. Settlement monies will be apportioned in mediation, nonmonetary commitments have been made by Bishop Martin J. Amos, and a reorganization plan must be filed by 1/31/07. See articles and resources on the Uhde case and verdict, a statement of disputed facts in the lawsuit against Soens with affidavits, the Soens abuse cases 1 2, the bankruptcy filing with documents, the reaction of survivors 1 2, the settlement, and its financial implications.
|Abuse Files of Providence Diocese Are Scrutinized
December 2, 2007
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin began the year by claiming that it would be unduly burdensome to comply with a discovery request in a sexual abuse case. As many as 125 Providence priests had been accused of sexual misconduct, he said, and the files on these priests were perhaps 130,000 pages long. On 10/20/07, the Boston Globe showed that Tobin’s petition doubled the diocese’s previous count of accused priests in the John Jay report. Why the discrepancy? On 12/2/07, the Providence Journal used documents already public to demonstrate what waits in the still-secret Providence files. See Tobin’s petition, the Globe story with John Jay report, and the analysis in the Providence Journal.
Franciscan Accused of Abuse Is Indicted for Stealing $900K
A Philadelphia grand jury indicted Rev. Charles Newman OFM on theft and forgery charges. Newman had been fired on 11/20/03 for “financial improprieties” as president of the largest archdiocesan high school in Philadelphia. On 6/16/04 Arthur Basilice III filed suit, accusing Newman of sexually abusing him and getting him hooked on drugs. Newman’s superior was accused of pressing the victim to take hush money. Basilice died on 11/30/06. See the indictment. See also articles on Newman’s resignation, the suit 1 2 3 4 with the archdiocese’s statement, and the indictment 1 2 3. See also a tribute to Arthur Baselice III.