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Tuesday, April 05, 2016


A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight.- By Mary Kane 

Mary Kane is a freelance reporter who lives in Arlington.

Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for “Spotlight” and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.

I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective.

Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.

I moved away long ago, but I still have family there. I visit regularly, and my mom was a devoted parish volunteer during her lifetime. I figured I might recognize a few of the accused or some of the churches. I quickly realized things stretched far beyond that.

The names of priests and parishes from my childhood appeared, one after another, all familiar. My grade school priest. Not one but two pastors from my neighborhood parish, a half block from my childhood home. The principal, vice principal and music director from my high school. A priest I once met with to consider officiating my wedding. The priest at the church my four nieces and nephews attended. The chaplain of the nearby Catholic hospital, where my mom volunteered.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Two of the priests, leaders at Bishop McCort High School, where my parents sent me and my three brothers in the 1970s to receive a quality religious education, were “sexual partner[s]” who worked together to molest a 13-year-old boy, the report said. They coordinated visits to his house. Once one priest had “satisfied himself,” the report said, the other “took advantage of a victim he believed to be compliant.”

One had been my religion teacher.

First, I called my brothers, to vent. Then I tried comprehending the scale of the abuses. The Spotlight team identified about 80 predatory priests in an archdiocese of 1.8 million Catholics. The grand jury report found at least 50 priests and religious leaders in a diocese of fewer than 100,000. That was stunning enough. But there was more.

“Spotlight” depicted the Catholic clubbiness of Boston that allowed for abuse. In small-town Pennsylvania, corruption extended into all corners of the community. The church exercised “overwhelming access and influence,” even handpicking community leaders, including the police and fire chiefs. “The mayor would have them come to me, and I would interview them and I would tell him which I would pick,” a top bishop’s aide testified.

I appreciated how “Spotlight” highlighted the crucial role that journalism plays in challenging the powerful. In my home town, however, I saw how it sometimes falls short. George Foster, manager of an outdoor billboard advertising company and a former high school classmate of mine, emerges as the hero — not an investigative reporting team.

Foster’s brother was a priest; the two heard rumors of abuses and began looking into them. In 2002, Foster wrote an op-ed for the local paper, calling on the church to clean up its house.

Immediately, he was inundated with tips and evidence from victims, attorneys and even the police. He also did something no journalist had: He went through the files at the Blair County Courthouse from the 1994 civil trial of the Rev. Francis Luddy, a priest accused of molesting boys. The lawsuit against Luddy was filed in 1987, but records were sealed at the church’s request. They became public during the trial.

Foster found in the files documents showing church officials knew of credible allegations against many additional priests but kept them secret. He confronted then-Bishop Joseph Adamec. If this were a movie, outraged authorities would have taken action. But that didn’t happen. Adamec rebuffed him.

Finally, in 2014, state investigators in a different child abuse case contacted Foster, and he provided his files. The report cited them extensively and called Foster’s actions “nothing short of heroic.”

I wondered where the journalists had been. Local media covered the Luddy trial, and the Johnstown paper, tipped off by Foster, wrote about the Luddy files in 2002. But none of it drew national attention. I called Richard Serbin, the attorney in the Luddy case, who regularly represents clergy sex-abuse victims. There wasn’t a paper with the prestige of the Boston Globe to make an impact, Serbin said. It happened in a small community in decline, and few noticed or cared. “The facts were all there, back in 1994,” Serbin said. “And no one bothered to look at them.”

“Spotlight” ends with a lengthy list of investigations of church abuses worldwide. In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report offers prayers that the current bishop makes the right choices going forward. I hope that works. I’m not exactly in the mood for prayer.



Guilty 50 times: 'Father F' will soon learn how many years he must spend in jail

IMAGE TAKEN FROM the article entitled, Priest John Denham abused more than 50 children in parishes across NSW, a court has heard. - CLICK HERE TO READ THE WHOLE STORY

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 2 April 2016)

Father John Joseph Farrell (sometimes referred to, for legal reasons, as "Father F") was a Catholic priest in northern New South Wales in the 1980s (and later in western Sydney until 1992). He committed numerous sexual crimes against young boys and girls. He has recently been convicted for 50 of these incidents and he is now locked up in custody, awaiting details of his sentence. In April 2016, a Sydney judge will hold a hearing to calculate the exact number of years which Farrell must spend in jail for all these crimes.

Farrell (now aged 62 and no longer a priest) has pleaded guilty to 40 of these 50 crimes, thus avoiding a jury trial on those offences. However, he contested the remaining charges by lodging a plea of "not guilty", thus necessitating a jury trial on those charges. On 16 February 2016 a jury found him guilty of ten additional charges.

In Sydney's Downing Centre District Court in April 2016, Judge Peter Zahra will hold a pre-sentence process regarding all the 50 offences. The judge will begin by hearing submissions from the prosecutor and the defence about what kind of jail sentence Farrell should receive. Any of the victims has the right to submit an impact statement to the judge, explaining how the abuse (and the cover-up) affected their later lives. Afterwards, the judge will announce his decision about the exact sentence.

John Joseph Farrell was born on 4 July 1953 in Armidale (470 kilometres north of Sydney), in a Catholic family belonging to the cathedral parish in that city. He grew up closely associated with priests. In the late 1970s he trained for the priesthood, and in 1981 he became ordained as a priest of the Armidale diocese in north-western New South Wales.

The Armidale diocese is one of the eleven Catholic dioceses into which the state of New South Wales is divided. The Armidale diocese includes two dozen parishes, covering an extensive region around the New England Highway — including towns such as Tamworth (in the south of the diocese) and Moree, Narrabri and Inverell (in the north-west). This diocese extends as far north as the Queensland border.

The town of Armidale is merely where the bishop and the cathedral are situated (and it is also the town where Farrell was living, as a private citizen, after he ceased working in parishes some years ago).

How the case began
In July 2012, the NSW Police Sex Crimes Squad established a special team of detectives (named Strike Force Glenroe) to investigate the allegations concerning John Joseph Farrell. This unit is based at NSW Police Headquarters in Parramatta, Sydney.

Later in 2012, police arrested Farrell at his home in Armidale. He was taken to Armidale Local Court, where prosecutors filed the first batch of charges. This was the first step in what would be a complex process. A magistrate ordered that, until further notice, the media must not publish the defendant's name. The prosecutor objected to this non-publication order but the order remained in force for the next two and a half years during the Local Court processes.

During this name-suppression period, there were about two dozen occasions when various parts of the Farrell case were listed in court for a particular procedure. On the court's daily schedule, this defendant's name would be listed simply as "JF". And people sometimes spoke of him as "Father F". The media referred to the defendant only as "a former priest" or "an ex-priest".

In January 2016 the case finally proceeded to a judge in a higher court, the Sydney District Court, where it is now in the hands of Judge Zahra. In February 2016, after the jury's "Guilty" verdict, Judge Zahra lifted the name-suppression order, and therefore the media could refer to "John Joseph Farrell".

Further details about John Joseph Farrell will emerge when Judge Zahra begins his pre-sentence proceedings in April 2016. Judge Zahra will sentence Farrell for all his charged offences, including those for which Farrell pleaded guilty as well as those in the jury's verdict. - CLICK HERE AND CONTINUE READING...
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