Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rockford Diocese Priest Arrested on Sex Abuse Charges

STATELINE (WIFR) – A priest in the Rockford Diocese has been charged with two counts of sexually abusing a child.

According to a press release from the Diocese, Father Alfredo Pedraza has been under investigation for two allegations in Kane County reported back in 2014.

Father Pedraza was arrested, Thursday, February 11 in his Rockford home. He came to the Diocese from Columbia, South America in 2013. The Diocese says he has been out of all ministry since the allegations surfaced in October 2014.

During Father Pedraza's time with the Rockford Diocese, he worked in Hispanic Ministry in the DeKalb Deanery and assisted at Sacred Heart Parish in Aurora and Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Aurora.

The Diocese says they are cooperating with authorities throughout the entire investigation process.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

‘Justice has been served’ – Bishop Conley on why he invited Bishop Finn to Lincoln

Justice has been served’ – Bishop Conley on why he invited Bishop Finn to Lincoln

February 5, 2016 by CNA Daily News

Lincoln, Neb., Feb 5, 2016 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln defended his decision to allow Bishop Robert Finn, former bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to take a position as chaplain of a community of religious sisters in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. saying that justice for his past negligence “has been served.”

“The Church in Lincoln is committed to serving and protecting our people,” Bishop Conley said in a Feb. 4 column in the Lincoln Journal-Star. “We will do that without further punishing those who have already met the demands of justice.”

In September 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese did not disclose that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City, in December 2010.

Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse and he retired from his position as bishop in April 2015.

“Because of serious acts of negligence under his leadership, Bishop Finn faced serious penalties,” Bishop Conley said.

“He faced a criminal court, and served the sentence he was given. He resigned his leadership position in the Church. He also accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has expressed sincere regret to those whom his negligence may have harmed,” he added.

In December 2015, Bishop Conley announced that he was inviting Bishop Finn to serve as a chaplain for a community of religious sisters who are long-time friends of his and who reside in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Allowing Bishop Finn to serve as chaplain for a community of religious sisters will in no way place him in “a position of authority, administration, or oversight.”

“He has a purely religious role, in an appropriate adult setting, which he has undertaken in humility,” Bishop Conley said. “Bishop Finn has not ever been accused of sexual abuse of children. His ministry as chaplain does not represent an issue for anyone’s safety.”

Since he became Bishop of Lincoln in 2012, Bishop Conley says that the safe-environment and child-protection policies in the diocese have undergone a “systematic review” from an independent review board made up of experts in criminal justice, psychology and education “to recommend enhancements to our background checks and training programs.”

He reassured parents that the Diocese of Lincoln is “fully compliant with the child-protection laws of Nebraska and the child protection policies of the Catholic Church.”

Some critics are angered by Bishop Finn being invited to spend his retirement in the diocese, which Bishop Conley said is “understandable,” especially for those who are themselves victims of sexual abuse or have relatives who are.

“Their pain is real, and the Church has an on-going duty to help them heal,” he said.

However, he added, Bishop Finn has paid for his negligence and justice has been served. To further punish him by refusing to allow him to spend retirement serving a community of religious sisters is not justice, “it is malice.”

“… those who have acknowledged and paid the penalty for past actions, who seek to serve in humility, and who pose no on- going danger to anyone, have a right not be harassed and disparaged once justice is served,” he said. “To do otherwise is not justice; it is malice. And it   is not worthy of our community.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has extended an invitation to meet with these critics, which has been turned down.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seattle archdiocese publishes list of clergy accused of sexual abuse of minors


Dan Morris-Young  |  Jan. 27, 2016 NCR Today


The Seattle archdiocese published Jan. 15 a list of clergy and religious "accused of sexual abuse of a minor who have served or resided in Western Washington," according to an archdiocesan press release.

"The individuals named on the list posted to the archdiocesan website have allegations that are either admitted, established or determined to be credible," the release said.

According to the release, "Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain apologized for the actions of those who abused minors" and said publishing the list builds on the archdiocese's efforts at transparency, accountability and urging victims to come forward.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), however, issued a press release the same day, saying "every time a predator's name is publicized, kids are safer," but also charging it "suspects this is an incomplete list that was prompted by external pressure."

"Seattle Catholic officials should have disclosed and posted these clerics' names long ago. Now, they should put it in each parish bulletin, several times a year, and permanently on each parish website," Seattle SNAP officials said, adding, "About 30 U.S. bishops have taken this step, almost always belatedly, grudgingly, incompletely and only because parishioners, prosecutors or lawmakers prod them to do so."

The Seattle Archdiocese was embarrassed and harshly criticized in May 2014 when it came to light that a priest who had been removed from ministry a decade earlier had nonetheless continued to wear clerics, socialize with parishioners, and perform some baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Members of the archdiocesan review board for sex abuse cases had strongly recommended in 2004 that the name of Fr. Harold Quigg be made public. Now-retired Archbishop Alexander Brunett rebuffed the recommendation.

The U.S. bishops' conference website carries the names of archdiocese's Safe Environment Program coordinators.

The National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators Leadership Conference is scheduled May 15-18 in Denver.

How well officials, notably bishops, are doing on addressing sex abuse within the church remains under criticism, including a request for Vatican investigation of the U.S. bishops' policies and actions, reports NCR's Brian Roewe.

One victim of priest sex abuse, Monica Collins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has expressed both frustration and hope for the work of that Vatican body.

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is]

Saturday, January 23, 2016

100 years ago, Americans talked about Catholics the way they talk about Muslims today


Updated by German Lopez on December 9, 2015, 3:00 p.m. ET @germanrlopez


About a century ago, millions of Americans feared that members of a religious group were amassing an arsenal of weapons for a secret, preplanned takeover of the United States.

The feared religious group was not Muslims. It was, as the Los Angeles Times's Matt Pearce wrote in a great new piece on Wednesday, Catholics:

Hatred had become big business in southwestern Missouri, and its name was the Menace, a weekly anti-Catholic newspaper whose headlines screamed to readers around the nation about predatory priests, women enslaved in convents and a dangerous Roman Catholic plot to take over America.…

America's deep and widespread skepticism of Catholics is a faint memory in today's post-Sept. 11 world. But as some conservative politicians call for limits on Muslim immigration and raise questions about whether Muslims are more loyal to Islamic law than American law, the story of Aurora's long-ago newspaper is a reminder of a long history of American religious intolerance.

Today, there are calls for federal surveillance of mosques in the name of preventing terrorist attacks; a century ago, it was state laws that allowed the warrantless search of convents and churches in search of supposedly trapped women and purported secret Catholic weapons caches.

This may seem absurd today, but there was a real fear among Protestant Americans back then that Catholics were planning to take over the country. As Pearce reported, the fears led to serious violence: Lynch mobs killed Catholic Italians, arsonists burned down Catholic churches, and there were anti-Catholic riots. It was a similar sentiment to the kind of Islamophobia today that's led many Americans to call for shutting down mosques, forcing Muslims to register in a national database, and even banning Islam.

The point of the comparison is not to say that the US faces the same problems today as it did a century ago, or that the discrimination toward Catholics back then and Muslims today is exactly the same. But when looking back at the history of the US, it's easy to see a pattern of consistent xenophobia and fears of outsiders.

Xenophobia makes a regular appearance in US history

In response to terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, much of the conversation has focused on refugees and immigration. This conversation has been tinged with xenophobia toward Muslims — with many Republican presidential candidates going as far as saying the US should ban Muslim refugees, people from Muslim-dominated countries, or Muslims altogether.

But this sort of rhetoric is not new to the US. As the Pew Research Center found, Americans have generally opposed taking in refugees even as they went through abhorrent, well-known crises. (Vox's Dara Lind noted that America even rejected some Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.)

Americans have regularly opposed refugees from other countries. Pew Research Center

Xenophobia has fueled other policies, too. In the late 19th century, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to stop the flow of Chinese laborers into the US. During World War II, the US put Japanese Americans in internment camps after the country declared war on Japan. Throughout the war on drugs, lawmakers have regularly tapped into xenophobic sentiments to prohibit certain drugs — such as when San Francisco banned opium smoking that was perceived as popular among Chinese immigrants, and when prohibitionists built up opposition to marijuana by fearmongering about its use among Mexican immigrants.

Throughout all of these periods and policies, the public and lawmakers cited genuine policy interests: national security, keeping American laborers competitive in the job market, and preventing drug abuse. But underlying such policy stances were obvious signs that Americans were simply scared of foreigners who weren't like them.

By and large, we tend to recognize the underlying xenophobia today, and that the policies it produced were wrong, bigoted, and self-destructive.

As Islamophobia rears its ugly head in the US again, it's worth thinking about how we now look back on those moments of American history — and whether we're making the same mistakes again.

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