LEWISTON The Diocese of Portland is investigating a local pastor who it created a sexually explicit website that served as a photo gallery and email directory for gay priests. Several other local priests were also involved, a diocesan spokesman said.
Fr. John Harris, 45, was ordered by Bp. Joseph Gerry to shut down the site after its existence was exposed by a conservative Catholic watchdog group, said Marc Mutty, spokesman for the diocese. Harris has since been sent to an out-of-state program to reflect and decide whether he will continue in the priesthood.
"The bishop is shocked and obviously very upset about this," Mutty said. Portions of Harris' website and another related site visited by the priests were "highly offensive and in some cases obscene," Mutty said.
Harris created the website, called "St. Sebastian's Angels", last summer, Mutty said. His site was the outgrowth of another website where about 55 gay priests and other Catholic clergy from around the world posted email messages and photos, he said.
The pages of the site pictured photos of more than a dozen priests and their email addresses. The site also included a video loop of masturbation. The logo on the home page featured a color rendering of a bound St. Sebastian, a martyred Roman archer shot with arrows after a Roman emperor learned he was a Christian.
When quizzed about the pornographic portion of the site, Harris had told Gerry "it was intended to humor and shock," but he later removed it realizing it was "over the edge," according to Mutty. Harris also had claimed authorship of an expletive-filled email message sent to the watchdog group, Mutty said. An anonymous priest at Roman Catholic Faithful, a nonprofit organization based in Springfield, Ill., had emailed Harris, calling the content on the site "a scandal." Steven Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful, said his group was trying to protect the parishioners served by the priests.
"Our concern is the innocents, the little boys these guys might be hearing in confession," he said. "It really scares me what effect these guys will have on the so-called faithful." The group had sent letters to diocesan bishops who supervised the priests involved in the email website, urging them to take action.
Mutty said Harris admitted his role to Gerry only after the Illi. group had threatened to expose him.
A second priest, retired Fr. Antonin Caron, 57, had a website similar to that of Harris, which Gerry also ordered shut down, Mutty said. In addition, Caron was pictured on Harris' site along with his email address. Like Harris, Caron emailed other priests at a related site.
Mutty said the diocese will not reveal the name of a third priest who was less involved in the matter.
Like Harris, Caron participated in email exchanges with other priests at the related email site called the Onelist, Mutty said. When "things went awry" and priests began posting nude photos and crude messages critical of the pope, Caron tried to put a stop to it by expressing his objections, he said.
Although he is not attached to a particular parish, Caron remains a priest and his behavior is subject to discipline by the diocese, Mutty said. He has been told not to do any more public ministry.
Mutty confirmed that Caron had been found innocent in 1994 on charges of sexually molesting a 15-year-old girl. At the trial, a psychologist said it would have been out of character for the priest to molest the girl because Caron was a homosexual and a passive man by nature. Mutty said he did not think Caron's retirement was connected to the trial. He said the priest retired several years ago for reasons of "emotional health."
Neither Harris nor Caron could be reached for comment. All 3 of the priests
linked to the websites cooperated with the diocese's investigation, Mutty
said. None has continued contact with the sites, he added.
Sun Journal, 3/17/00, 3/16
BOSTON Two former parishioners of St. Ann's Church in Dorchester have filed a lawsuit against a Catholic priest who once served there, accusing him of sexually molesting them when they were children.
William and Paul Oberle, who are brothers, allege that Fr. Paul Mahan engaged in a "pattern and practice of explicit sexual behavior and graphic sexual conversation" with them in 1969, when they were 12 and 7, respectively.
They allege that Mahan fondled their genitals, spoke to them about pornography, and offered them pornographic materials, according to the lawsuit. The Oberles, now 42 and 37, allege that the misconduct usually took place on Mahan's boat, at the church, and on Boy Scout outings.
The Archdiocese of Boston did not return calls seeking comment on the
Oberles's lawsuit. Mahan, whose last known address was in Arlington, Va.,
could not be reached for comment. According to the Official Catholic
Directory, Mahan was on sick leave in 1997. The 1999 directory no
longer lists him as a priest.
Sean Murphy, 35, his mother, Sylvia, 57, and Byron Worth, 41, have been indicted on conspiracy and attempted larceny charges. The trio claimed that Worth, Sean Murphy and his brother were sexually abused by a priest when they were children, said the State Attorney General. In 1998, Sean Murphy allegedly sought $850,000 from the archdiocese.
Police determined that at the time of the alleged abuse, neither Murphy nor Worth lived in the community where the abuse supposedly occurred. To support the scheme, Sylvia Murphy created phony school records showing that the family had lived in the town more than two decades ago, the DA's office said.
An archdiocesan spokesman said no payments were made. Murphy's brother,
whose name was not released, was not charged.
"You filthy pig," Paul Mendez, now 35 and an alleged victim in one of the civil cases, shouted as Geoghan was led out of a courtroom. "I hope you burn in hell," another yelled.
Over the past several years, the Archdiocese of Boston reportedly has paid millions of dollars to settle nearly two dozen sex abuse claims against Geoghan, who served as a priest at 5 parishes in Boston, Saugus, Hingham and Weston between 1962 and 1994.
Geoghan pleaded innocent in to assaulting two children. Later in the day, he pleaded innocent in another court to improperly touching a third boy at a youth club.
Though Geoghan is suspected of having molested more than 100 children, these indictments mark the first time he has been criminally charged. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
Geoghan, who was stripped of his priestly duties in 1998, also faces dozens of lawsuits by people who claimed he molested them as far back as the 1960s. Boston Card. Bernard Law said he was anguished and sickened by the charges. But he refused to say the Church did anything wrong.
Mendez, a Boston postal worker, said he was abused for 5 years, between the ages of 9 and 14, at a church.
The judge released Geoghan on personal recognizance, despite saying he found the facts of the cases "absolutely sickening" and appalling.
According to court documents, a Boston boy was repeatedly raped over the course of a year in the early 1980s, when he was approximately 7 years old. Much of the abuse occurred during trips to a high school swimming pool, in the basement of the priest's family home and in the boy's bedroom, authorities said.
Another boy was allegedly molested repeatedly in 1995 and 1996 when he
was approximately 10.
AP, 12/10, 12/3
DETROIT Kevin Cain, 37, a Salvation Army choir director, has been charged in 5 separate cases of sexual abuse involving 8 boys, all of whom are expected to testify. One case dates back more than 8 years.
He faces 21 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 3 other sex-related charges. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of just one first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
Cain gave the youths money, clothes, alcoholic drinks and marijuana in exchange for sex, according to Detroit police. When police began investigating Cain last Aug., he fled but turned himself in this Jan.
He has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the county jail. The Salvation Army has fired Cain, who was a part-time employee.
Police said Cain has no known convictions.
Free Press, 2/23/00
NORTHFIELD Pastor and youth minister Grant Junior Grayson,
32, was sentenced to 9 months in jail after pleading guilty to sexually
assaulting a 12-year-old boy whom he took to his house and on church trips.
He will be on probation for up to 25 years, must pay over $6,000 in fines
and restitution, register as a sex offender, refrain from drugs and alcohol
and complete treatment.
AP, 2/12/00, 12/7/99
NEW BRUNSWICK A former priest from Schenectady, NY, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old boy. Michael Santillo,
who left the priesthood 7 years ago, pleaded gulty in June to one count
of aggravated sexual assault against the youth in 1987.
ALBUQUERQUE A woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually molested at age 15 by Fr. Paul Baca, 75, and then in 1989 began a sexual relationship with the longtime popular pastor. Stella Tafoya, 41, says in her lawsuit that she secretly videotaped a conversation with Baca in her home in which he admits to "repetitive sexual contact" with her in the past.
A review of the tape and transcript by the Journal doesn't show Baca directly admitting sexual acts, but he repeatedly apologizes and asks Tafoya what it is she wants him to do about, in her words, "what happened between us." Baca appears on the tape to vehemently deny that he touched Tafoya "in any way" when she was younger. Baca who last year celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, didn't return phone calls for comment.
The lawsuit, which alleges sexual abuse and negligent professional counseling on the part of Baca, also names the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, disgraced former Abp. Robert Sanchez and current Apb. Michael Sheehan as defendants. .The lawsuit is the first to be filed against the archdiocese in about 5 years by local attorney Bruce Pasternack, who initiated a series of priest sex-abuse lawsuits in the early '90s that resulted in the toppling of Sanchez and more than 180 claims against the church.
Pasternack said in an interview he has turned away many new cases alleging priest abuse in the past 5 years, but he broke his self-imposed moratorium because of Tafoya's suicide attempt in Oct. The lawsuit claims that at the time of Baca's alleged molestation of Tafoya in 1973, the archdiocese was "infected with a culture of sexuality," and that the then-new Archbishop Sanchez "like Baca, was sexually active with teen-age girls."
In 1993, when Sanchez resigned after his "own sexual improprieties" came to light, he was replaced by Sheehan, who publicly promised to stop the abuse, the lawsuit says. But, it alleges, Sheehan "tolerated the continuation of the culture of sexuality." However, vice-chancellor Sr. Nancy Kazik said, "The Archdiocese of Santa Fe does not tolerate sexual misconduct and does not cover up."
Tafoya alleges in her complaint that in 1973, when Baca was pastor of Queen of Heaven Church, he performed "a variety of nonconsensual sex acts" on her, "telling her that by having sexual contact with him, she was serving and pleasing God" and helping him be a better priest. Tafoya, 15 at the time, was an active churchgoer, attending Mass daily and helping Baca in a variety of tasks. And even after Baca moved from Queen of Heaven to Risen Savior in July 1979, the lawsuit says, he continued to serve as Tafoya and her family's priest, performing baptisms, first Communions, funerals and her own wedding.
In 1989, she went to Baca for counseling for "extreme grief and depression" after her father's death, according to the lawsuit. But, it alleges, Baca "used the counseling to once again take advantage of her fragile and wounded emotional condition" and "to coerce (her) to again begin having sex with him."
In late 1989 and early 1990, "Baca engaged Stella in sexual contact repeatedly," but when a series of lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse of children by priests began to be filed in the spring of 1990, he stopped, the suit alleges.
As the scandal broke, Baca "began a prolonged and intense campaign of regular, continuing psychological manipulation" to protect himself and prevent Tafoya from reporting the abuse, according to the complaint. Tafoya continued to see Baca for counseling throughout the '90s as "her life was descending deeper into depression and emotional chaos." The counseling continued until last year, when Tafoya shot herself in the abdomen in a failed suicide attempt, according to the suit.
It was only following the suicide attempt that Tafoya was able to disclose the alleged abuse. According to the lawsuit, Tafoya "knew that Baca would likely deny having sexual contact with her if she simply pursued a claim against him." So Tafoya arranged to have a conversation with Baca surreptitiously videotaped during one of his "many trips to her home," according to the suit.
Baca celebrated his final Mass as a pastor before unexpectedly retiring
to a standing ovation. Afterwards, some parishioners handed out a church
bulletin with a statement from Baca.who said he had always acted "with
the respect demanded of me by my priestly vows, and would defend himself
"in due time". Some parishioners spoke in his favor to the media,
one woman saying, "He's been crucified. It's been like I've had a death
in my family." Since then, another woman has come forward alleging
abuse, but has not filed a lawsuit.
Journal, 1/17/00, 1/13
BROOKLYN Three men, former students at St. Cecilia's School, have come forward to speak about what they charge was done to them around the early 1980s by the school's then-administrator and supervisor of altar boys, Fr. Patrick Sexton, 49.
One of the former students said that when he was 12,Sexton lured him to his bedroom in the church rectory. He said the naked priest had him strip and adopt poses while snapping photos.
One of the men, Daniel Dugo, has gone to the police and to the district attorney, charging that when he was 8, Sexton fondled him while nibbling his ear. He first approached the Brooklyn Diocese, which offered him offering $15,000 in exchange for silence.
The police and the district attorney told Dugo that even if the nearly 20-year-old charges are true, there is nothing they can do. The statute of limitations is up. However, a police source familiar with the case said the district attorney is continuing to investigate. No longer a practicing priest, he lives across the street from a playground and a public school in Queens. A neighbor said he gives music lessons after school to boys.
Sexton said he denies all the charges and doesn't understand why the
3 former students remember things the way they do. He denied acting in a
sexually inappropriate way. "What happened 20 years ago is all in memory,
and memory can do what it wants," Sexton said. "Their memory is
not accurate. If I'm affectionate, then they are remembering affection as
RALIEGH Non-denominational minister Howard Hunichen, 36, pleaded for nearly an hour in his own defense, imploring a judge not to believe he is a "cruel, evil beast" who beat infants senseless and raped people. But Superior Court Judge Henry Hight Jr. imposed the maximum sentence of 6 years in prison as soon as Hunichen finished speaking and said it was not enough.
Hunichen was found guilty of shaking, stomping and hitting 7-month-old Zachary Fortner to force him to crawl and walk and be quiet. The boy was left with severely limited mental and physical abilities, and is not expected to recover.
His parents, Kevin and Lisa Fortner,
face felony child abuse charges and their 2 daughters have also been removed
from their custody. During the trial they testified that Hunichen assaulted
them and forced Lisa to have sex with him. The district attorney, however,
is not considering bringing rape charges against Hunichen.
News & Observer, 1/21/00
CLEVELAND Rev. Charles O. Clarke, 74, pastor
of Freedom Chapel, was placed on 5-years probation for molesting 5 boys
during the last 18 years. He pleaded guilty in Oct. to 5 counts of gross
sexual imposition as part of a plea agreement. Judge Janet Burnside said
she gave that sentence because Clarke is not a pedophile and unlikely to
repeat the offense. She said and investigation had disclosed his preference
was for age-appropriate women. He does, however, have to register with law
enforcement authorities every year for the next decade.
Plain Dealer, 11/30/99
WARWICK Citing the "gross physical problems and mental frailties" of convicted rapist, Msg. Louis Ward Dunn, 79, a Superior Court judge sentenced the retired priest to remain at the nursing home where he now lives, and register with the state as a sexual offender.
Judge Stephen Fortunato Jr. imposed a 10-year suspended sentence with probation for Dunn, on one count of first-degree sexual assault for raping a woman in 1982, when she was 21.
He must remain at St. Antoine's Home in North Smithfield, and he may not leave the state save for medical treatment, and only with court permission. Dunn has been living there while free on $10,000 bail. Indicted by a statewide grand jury in 1996, Dunn was convicted by Fortunato in June 1997.
"I wish, I wish that I could do something" to assuage the victim's emotional pain, Fortunato said, "but I am powerless."
The sentencing ended a legal saga that stretched back almost 4 years - including Fortunato's overturning his own decision and granting a motion for a new trial. But the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction this year.
The woman, with a history of childhood sexual abuse, went to Dunn as a teenager for help. She testified that he took advantage of her trust and coerced her into sexual activity, but not intercourse, over a 4-year period preceding the rape.
Fortunato spent at least 20 minutes during the hearing outlining the thinking that led to his decision. At one point, noting that Dunn has received considerable support from former parishioners, he said that though some might think otherwise, he has not been influenced by pressure from the Church, and that Dunn "gets no better treatment because he was a priest."
Fortunato also underscored that the conviction and sentencing are confined
to one incident, despite the prosecution's reference to long-time sexual
abuse of this victim and Dunn's sexual relations with other women. Those
relations were cited in testimony in this and another rape case against
Dunn, which ended in acquittal.
AIKEN A former youth minister who admitted to molesting church members on camping trips and manipulating neighborhood boys with money and gifts during 3 decades has received a 30-year prison sentence.
Robert Dorsett, 65, pleaded guilty to 15 sex crimes involving children during an emotional hearing in which the offenses were read in detail to a hushed courtroom. Some of Dorsett's victims - who range in age now from 9 to 43 - attended the hearing and asked the judge to keep Dorsett from abusing more children. Friends and family members of Dorsett attended the hearing, lining up to speak on his behalf. Many were neighbors or co-workers who called him a father figure and hard worker.
But the judge was not moved by their comments, calling Dorsett a "pitiful old man" whose only good deed was pleading guilty and sparing victims a trial. The sentence makes Dorsett eligible for parole in 10 years, but he is not expected to be paroled that soon.
Dorsett, who was a chemist, admitted to abusing 7 children between 1970 and 1998. None of the offenses was reported to police until 1998, mostly because the children were too embarrassed or were coaxed into not telling, police said.
Dorsett met many of his victims while he was a training director at First Baptist Church in Aug.a years ago. During trips in a church program, he would organize shaving cream fights and have the youths shower together, police said. He encouraged them to go streaking.
One of his victims was a man who grew up to become a doctor. He took his own life 4 months ago after battling depression all his life, according to his sister, who appeared at the hearing, looking directly at Dorsett as she spoke.
The break in the case came last year when a 9-year-old neighbor of Dorsett's told his parents the man had placed his hands on the boy's private parts while he was at Dorsett's house playing video games. The boy also informed officials that a friend had received a Penthouse magazine from Dorsett. That friend later told officials that Dorsett paid him $20 and promised to buy him expensive clothes in exchange for allowing Dorsett to rub the boy's feet and shoulders.
During a search of Dorsett's home, sheriff's officers found a brown suitcase containing X-rated videotapes and magazines along with candy, cookies and other items he gave the children, police said.
Investigators found notebooks where Dorsett kept track of neighborhood boys and their telephone numbers. Publicity about his arrest last year led to new allegations by victims who had tried to forget the abuse, police said.
Dorsett apologized briefly before he was sentenced. He pleaded guilty to 9 counts of child sexual abuse charges and 6 of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The judge sentenced him to 125 years in prison, but all of the sentences
will run concurrently with the 30-year sentence on first-degree criminal
sexual conduct with a minor.
Augusta Chronicle, 11/30/99
NASHVILLE A $35 million lawsuit alleges that two dioceses and Nashville's city government failed to protect boys from a former priest's sexual abuse.
The suit charged that the Nashville and Knoxville dioceses and the city failed to protect a boy, now 16, who was molested and raped repeatedly by former priest Edward McKeown over a period of years
An attorney filed a second suit demanding another $35 million on behalf of another boy and his mother from the Nashville diocese and the city's government, and said there may be additional plaintiffs.
McKeown was sentenced to 25 years in jail without parole last year after confessing to molesting at least 20 minors. McKeown, first employed as a priest in Nashville in 1971, admitted committing acts of sexual battery and rape. The first suit said that in the mid-1980s, the diocese became aware of McKeown's sexual misbehavior and sent him to Conn. for treatment for 6 months after which he returned to Nashville.
But the suit alleged he continued to molest boys in both Nashville and Knoxville, where he served as a priest for a time, and was forced out of the priesthood only after giving a schoolboy a condom as a Christmas gift in 1989.
Also named as a defendant was Frank Richards, a former priest now living in Palm Beach, Flor. The suit alleged he failed to report McKeown's acts to the proper authorities.
In early 1990, McKeown worked at the juvenile court in Nashville, where fellow workers became aware of his past, the suit said. It alleged that city authorities failed to act on the information and permitted McKeown to work with juveniles and even gain custody of one boy whom he abused sexually.
According to court documents, police briefly investigated McKeown but dropped the matter. After the mother of the boy pushed for action, McKeown was arrested and confessed.
"In essence, then, the mother, armed with knowledge of sexual abuse by Mr. McKeown, took appropriate action which led to Mr. McKeown's arrest in less than 72 hours. The Diocese of Nashville, armed with similar information for over 13 years, never took such action," the lawsuit alleged.
Each suit asked for $8 million in compensatory damages for the boys and
$2 million for their mothers plus $25 million in punitive damages.