November 2000 March 2001
QUITO - A bishop accused of providing Colombia's biggest left-wing guerrilla group with weapons failed to convince local authorities he was wrongfully arrested and will remain in jail for the time being, police said.
Bp. Walter Crespo was arrested for allegedly giving land mines, dynamite, grenades and other explosives to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), charges he challenged by filing a petition of habeas corpus claiming he was wrongfully detained.
Quito Deputy Mayor Efren Cocios denied Crespo's appeal for his release, according to a municipal resolution.
Crespo is the bishop of a splinter Anglican church in the Ecuadoran capital. Fr. Luis Yaguana, a priest at the church, said the group was not affiliated with the Church of England but was an "independent church that conserves the tradition and doctrine of the Anglican church."
According to police, Crespo is accused of providing the FARC with three tons of dynamite, 4,000 grenades and 1,100 pounds of other explosives in 1998. Police said he more recently supplied the FARC with rockets and mines.
Yaguana said he did not believe Crespo gave the FARC weapons but rather was being persecuted by the Ecuadoran authorities for his opposition to the "Yankee empire."
Crespo was detained along with two members of the Ecuadoran air force and one civilian, all of whom were accused of involvement in the arms trafficking.
Ecuador, a traditionally peaceful nation of 12.4 million people, shares a 370 mile border with Colombia, which for the past 40 years has been immersed in a conflict among leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and Colombia's military.
The advent of Bogota's Plan Colombia, a program to eradicate drug trafficking and the groups that profit from it, has many Ecuadorans worried that drug production and violence will be pushed across the border. The anti-drug effort is being supported by $1.3 billion in U.S. aid.
The government's decision to let the U.S. Air Force fly anti-narcotics surveillance planes from a coastal base has angered Ecuadorans, who feel they could suffer retaliation attacks by powerful groups involved in the drug trade.
PARIS - A French Roman Catholic bishop has been charged with failing to turn in a priest after allegedly discovering in the confessional that he had sexually abused young children, lawyers said.
It was the first time French justice had moved against a churchman in this way, raising legal questions about the traditional secrecy of the Catholic confessional.
Bp. Pierre Pican of the northern town of Bayeux is expected to stand trial in June, a justice official said.
Magistrates allege Pican heard Fr. Rene Bissey's confession and discovered that he was abusing minors. Instead of making him go to the police or reporting him, the bishop temporarily relieved him of his duties, prosecutors say.
Pican's lawyers said in a statement the trial presented the court with a dilemma, pitting the rights of children against the custom of professional secrecy.
Bissey was sentenced to 18 years in jail last Oct. for the repeated rape of one boy and the sexual abuse of 10 others between 1989 and 1996 in a case that shocked France.
The priest stood trial after one of the main victims, now in his 20s, filed a formal complaint with police.
Testifying in Bissey's case, Pican declined to say if he had known about the assaults and insisted that the confidentiality of the Catholic confession box, where believers confess their sins to a priest and normally receive absolution or forgiveness, was paramount.
Lawyers for the families of the boys believe Pican knew of Bissey's sex crimes in 1996, two years before the priest was finally arrested.
"I am waiting for the responsibility and guilt of the bishop to be recognised. This recognition of guilt could give the church an opportunity for a great debate," Jean Chevais, a lawyer for the families, said.
Bissey was in charge of a parish near the northern city of Caen until 1996 when he was suddenly relieved of his duties after meeting Pican and sent to a religious retreat.
Six months later he was given a new parish in the northern Calvados region, where he again had contact with young people although none of the abuse charges related to this period.
Pican is the second senior French churchman to run into a scandal over his handling of a case of alleged pedophilia.
Last Dec., the former bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot, admitted entrusting a parish to a Canadian priest in the late 1980s despite knowing that he might have pedophile tendencies.
Gaillot was sacked from his diocese in the Normandy town by the Vatican five years ago because of his unorthodox views on social issues.
Chastened by the growing accusations of pedophilia in its ranks, the French Roman Catholic Church made the issue a central theme of a national conference last year and issued a statement saying it would not tolerate cover-ups of criminal acts.
LAGONEGRO - The cardinal of Naples was acquitted of loansharking and taking church funds, in a case involving the highest ranking church official to ever stand trial in modern Italy.
Prosecutors had claimed that Card. Michele Giordano, 70, supplied about $800,000 to finance a loan-sharking right run by his brother that allegedly charged exorbitant rates of interest. The cardinal was also accused of appropriating another $500,000 in church funds.
Judge Vincenzo Starita, who tried the case without a jury, found Giordana innocent. His nephew, Nicola Giordano, was also acquitted. His brother's case was being prosecuted separately.
Giordano, was known for his preaching against loan-sharking, a frequent racket of gangsters in the underdeveloped south. He insisted throughout that he was innocent.
Giordano exercised his right under Italian law to be absent from the courtroom in Lagonegro in southern Italy.
The Vatican expressed satisfaction at the verdict. But repeated its protests against the search of the cardinal's office and the bugging of his phone.
Some in Naples said a traditional test of divine favor conducted the weekend before didn't bode well for Giordano. Priests and faithful gathered in the city's cathedral to exhort the contents of a vial believed by some to hold the clotted blood of Naples' patron saint to liquefy. The ritual failed. For Neapolitans, that traditionally foretells bad luck for their city.
AP 12/22/2000, 12/17
BELFAST, N. Ireland - A Crown Court judge told Br. Brendan John Halpin, 54, that he had exploited his welcome in the victims' home to gratify his sexual urges.
Halpin, of west Belfast, pleaded guilty to 25 counts of sexual abuse against two sisters and their brother between 1975 and 1981, and was given two years.
Although the victims indicated in court that they were prepared to waive their right to anonymity, Lord Justice McCollum did not give any direction.
Outside court, one of those Halpin abused from the age of eight spoke of his "disgust" that lawyers for the accused had asked that reporting restrictions be placed.
The abuse against the family only came to light last Jan. when the older sister and her brother lodged a complaint with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The woman, who was 12 when the abuse began in 1975, described how Halpin repeatedly took her back to his room for sex.
Stephen Fowler, prosecuting, said: "By the time she was 13 they had established a relationship which was unhealthy and sexually orientated." Halpin also subjected her younger sister to a similar ordeal from the age of 11.
"On one occasion he used both girls at the same time," the prosecutor said.
In 1976 he then widened his abuse to the girls' younger brother after becoming friendly with the family. This continued until 1981 when, at the age of 13, the boy was taken into foster care.
The court heard that Halpin had expressed "utter and genuine remorse". He had committed himself to celibacy after entering religious life at the age of 13.
He must sign the sex offender's register for the next 10 years.
BIRMINGHAM, England - A priest sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing boys in his care has been removed from the priesthood.
Eric Taylor no longer has rights as a Catholic priest and is returned to the status of a lay member of the Church.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, Apb. Vincent Nichols, said the Decree of Laicisation had been accepted by Taylor and sanctioned by the Pope.
Taylor, now 80 and infirm, was convicted at Warwick Crown Court in 1998 of 18 sexual offences against young boys at the Fr. Hudson's Homes, a Catholic orphanage in Coleshill, Warwickshire.
Sentencing him, Judge Martin Coates said: "You are a disgrace to your cloth and the Church you proclaim."
Several of his victims have since mounted legal action for compensation against the Father Hudson's Homes claiming that the charity failed in its duty of care to protect them.
They have also alleged that figures at the Archdiocese of Birmingham were aware of Taylor's proclivities and a previous criminal conviction for indecent assaults on boys in 1975 before he was sent to the children's home.
Announcing the decree, Nichols said: "This is a moment of profound sadness for it underlines publicly failure in the life of a priest, the deep distress suffered by those who were abused by him and the sense of shame and sorrow carried by many Catholics.
"I again express my sorrow and regret for the events that took place. I assure all concerned that I will do everything I can to bring about reconciliation and a new start."