Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

April –
October 2000


  • China
  • France
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • United Kingdom



    BEIJING — A priest belonging to the underground Catholic church in eastern China has been sentenced to six years in prison for printing Bibles and religious tracts without authorization, court officials said.

    The priest, Jiang Shurang of Cangnan county in Zhejiang province, appealed the sentence handed down after he was found guilty of illegally operating a business and illegal publishing, said a court official.

    Jiang is among 6 priests who have been detained in recent months in Cangnan, according to the Hong Kong-based group Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China.

    The arrests come amid a nationwide tightening of controls on unauthorized religious activities that has coincided with the banning of the popular Falun Gong spiritual movement.

    Many residents in Cangnan are Catholics who have remained loyal to the Vatican, said a spokesman of the Information Center. China and the Vatican broke formal relations in 1951, when the Communists kicked out missionaries and forced Catholics to sever ties with Rome and declare their loyalty to an officially sanctioned church.

    Chinese Catholics who accept papal authority as part of an underground church loyal to Rome frequently suffer harassment and arrest.

    According to the Information Center, at least 7 Catholic churches in Cangnan have been closed since Feb. for refusing to confirm their allegiance to the state-run Catholic church.
    AP 5/27/2000



    CAEN - A French court sentenced a Catholic priest to 18 years in prison for raping and molesting teen-agers and children entrusted to his care.

    Fr. Rene Bissey, 56, former abbot of Caen and Mondeville parishes in Normandy, had been formally charged in 1998 with raping and sexually abusing 11 young boys. He had confessed to the charges.

    At the close of the five-day trial, Bissey asked his victims for forgiveness.

    "Thanks to prison and doctors, I realized that I was a criminal," said Bissey, who has already served some jail time for the charges. "I'm asking forgiveness for what I have done from the children and the families of the children who are here."

    One victim, now 24, broke down in tears, covering his ears to block out testimony. He has said he was 12 years old when eight years of abuse began.

    "We refuse to accept this request for pardon, which comes a bit late," said the lawyer for the families of the victims. Bissey is expected to appeal the court's decision.

    Two psychiatrists who examined Bissey described him as an intelligent but calculating and obsessive man. One told the court that Bissey felt no guilt after molesting his victims but was disturbed to have shaken the trust of their parents. Another said Bissey displayed a "total lack of morality or sense of guilt ... and a total indifference toward his victims."

    "Mr. Bissey is a true, perverted sexual pedophile," she told the court.

    During the trial, Bissey testified that his confessors pardoned him and told him that "things would work out." Bp. Pierre Pican, who was placed under investigation for allegedly ignoring signs of Bissey's pedophilia, testified also, but refused to discuss any prior knowledge of the crimes.
    AP 10/6/2000



    AMRITSAR — A rift between two of Sikhism’s top leaders deepened when the religion’s top administrator ousted a high priest who had earlier excommunicated her.

    The power struggle between Jagir Kaur and High Priest Giani Puran Singh has already led to open violence between the rivals’ supporters.

    A committee run by Kaur voted 8-0 to remove Singh from his post. Seven other members of the committee that administers all Sikh temples were not present for the vote in Amritsar, a town 235 miles north of New Delhi where the religion has its headquarters.

    Kaur was excommunicated by Singh in Jan., accused by him of undermining Hindu-Sikh relations and defying the authority of the priests by altering the timing of Sikh festivals, which traditionally have been celebrated according to the Hindu calendar.

    However, she has defied Singh’s demands that she pay penance to be reinstated, and accused him of “acting against the principles of the Sikh faith and issuing verdicts” against her. Kaur immediately appointed an acting head priest in Singh’s place.

    Singh said Kaur had no authority to oust him, but refused to discuss what future action he might take.

    The rift between the two leaders erupted March 12 into an exchange of blows between about 150 men from the two sides armed with traditional swords and brandishing pistols.

    Sikhs follow a monotheistic religion that combines elements of Islam and Hinduism. Members of the group make up about 60 percent of the population of Punjab state and are prominent in Indian business circles and the military.
    AP 3/28/2000



    DUBLIN — A retired priest was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to abusing altar boys, court officials said.

    Fr. Eugene Greene, 71, had admitted to more than 40 charges of indecent assault, buggery and gross indecency at a court hearing in the town of Donegal in northwest Ireland. Most of the 26 victims were altar boys who served with the priest in the Donegal area between 1965 and 1982.
    Reuters 4/6/2000



    LAGONEGRO — The archbishop of Naples went on trial in a massive loan-sharking case, accused of appropriating a fortune in church funds.

    Card. Michele Giordano, 70, is the highest-ranking church official in Italy to stand criminal trial. At the first hearing, charges against 6 of the 19 defendants were dismissed. Prosecutors presented new evidence, including testimony from several witnesses and bank records, and the case was adjourned to July 3.

    Giordano, a popular cleric known for his blasts against usury, has denied wrongdoing. However, he has also said he gave his brother, who is also on trial, blank checks to help him out of financial troubles.

    Giordano’s supporters claim that prosecutors are trying to embarrass the church.

    The Vatican has made no comment on the merit of the allegations, although it protested the handling of the two-year investigation after investigators searched the archbishop’s office and bugged his phone.

    Prosecutors allege the cardinal supplied about $800,000 to finance a loan-sharking ring run by his brother, Mario Lucio Giordano, and appropriated another roughly $500,000 in church funds. He is charged with involvement in usury and unlawful appropriation.
    AP 6/17/00



    MEXICO CITY — Body organs are being sold here for close to $1 million, according to a Spanish documentary transmitted in Mexico that showed a local priest negotiating the sale of a kidney.

    Mexican broadcaster Televisa 2 aired what it said were exclusive scenes from the Spanish documentary made by Antenna 3, which was shown in Spain the night before.

    Using hidden cameras, two Spanish reporters posed as potential buyers of organs and filmed a Mexican priest called Friar Martin agreeing to find them a kidney.

    The clips also showed a doctor at the Santa Fe Hospital in a smart neighborhood of the capital on film agreeing to participate in the selling of the kidney, for which a price of $900,000 was agreed.

    A statement from the Mexican health ministry said it was investigating allegations of a link between the hospital and human organ traffic but had so far not discovered any irregularity.
    Reuters 5/10/2000



    ABERDEEN, Scotland - A nun who was convicted of cruelty charges against children is to go on a three-month holiday to the US for a period of "rest and recovery".

    Marie Docherty, 58, also known as Sr. Alphonso, was found guilty of 4 charges of cruel behavior towards girls in her care at two children's homes in Midlothian and Aberdeen during the 1960s and 1970s. Her conviction left the Church facing a flood of claims for damages running into millions of pounds.

    But she escaped jail after Sheriff Colin Harris decided at Aberdeen Sheriff Court that because of the nun's age and heart condition a custodial sentence was not appropriate. Docherty originally faced 23 charges but was found guilty of only 4 at the end of her six-week trial. She was earlier acquitted on the other charges she originally faced on the direction of Harris. They included allegations of forcing children to sleep with the body of dead nun, imprisoning a girl in a cupboard and forcing an epileptic into a cold bath during a fit.

    It was confirmed by the Roman Catholic Church that Docherty will continue to work for her order, the Sisters of Nazareth. However, a spokesman said it was "very doubtful" that she would continue in her current role of looking after elderly people. He added that she was a "multi-talented nun" and alternative work would be found for her.

    News of the nun's foreign break came as it emerged that the battle for compensation by her victims, who resided at Nazareth House homes, could take more than two years.

    Solicitor Cameron Fyfe has been acting on behalf of the women hoping to win a civil suit against Docherty's order. Fyfe said that some of his clients were angry to hear that the nun had escaped a prison sentence and been admonished due to ill health. But he added: "Most have simply welcomed the jury's decision to convict, that is what they were mainly concerned with."

    In total, Fyfe represents 420 people who have alleged that they were treated cruelly while being brought up at six children's homes in Scotland run by two orders of Catholic nuns. He said: "My clients' accusations are against 20 to 30 nuns in total.

    "The claims amount to saying that there was a regime of abuse in these homes - four Nazareth House-run ones and a further two run by another order.

    "All of the allegations are very very similar. And they are similar to allegations which have been brought in both Ireland and Australia."

    He added: "These people have not been motivated by money - they wanted to be believed and if possible to have an apology from the church.

    "It is going to be a long process, it could be two years before we get anywhere. Our first major hurdle is to convince the court that these cases should be proceeded with."

    The Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, Mario Conti, expressed sorrow for any actions which had left a mark on the lives of vulnerable individuals.

    But he said he could confidently restate that cruel and unnatural treatment did not form part of any official policy of discipline promoted or accepted by the Sisters of Nazareth or the church then or now. And Bishop Conti added that the convictions did not invalidate the great good that was done by the Sisters of Nazareth. However, he was claimed during the trial to have told one of the alleged victims: "We are an autonomous organisation and we are accountable to nobody."
    BBC 9/29/00, The Scotsman 9/20

    LONDON, England - A Roman Catholic priest was jailed for 30 months for sexually abusing seven boys at his church in south London between 1977 and 1983.

    Fr. James Murphy, 53, admitted 11 charges of indecent assault at Inner London Crown Court, including one incident when he groped an 11-year-old boy after conducting a funeral mass.

    The case will heap more embarrassment on the Roman Catholic Church after Abp. Cormac Murphy-O'Connor admitted last week that he made a mistake in the 1980s by allowing a pedophile to carry on working as a priest.

    But Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the church in England and Wales, defended the decisions he made during his previous appointment as bishop in southern England. He said they were not irresponsible given the facts then available to him.

    The priest, Fr. Michael Hill, was jailed in 1997 for abusing nine boys over a 20-year period.

    The BBC said it had “unequivocal, damning evidence” that Murphy-O’Connor was well aware of warnings about Hill's activities and the “high risk” that he would reoffend.

    The revelations could not have come at a worse time. Anger at pedophiles is running higher than ever in Britain over the disappearance and murder of 8-year-old Sarah Payne, whose naked body was found in a field on July 17, 16 days after she went missing.
    Reuters 7/28/2000, 7/19



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