Clergy Crimes

September 1997 –
January 1998


  • Austria
  • Australia
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • United Kingdom



    VIENNA — Cardinal Hans Groer, 71, forced to resign in 1995 as archbishop due to allegations of past sexual misconduct, has stepped down from his position as prior of a Benedictine monastery amid fresh allegations from the past concerning adults. He had been hospitalized several times recently due to unspecified illness.

    The claims of sexual abuse that forced his earlier resignation concerned five young boys under his care at a school two decades before. The cardinal never definitively refuted or admitted to the allegations. (1/23)



    SYDNEY — A former religious brother, priest and high school principal pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 6 teenagers and a 21-year-old man who were considering vocations between 1973 and 1992. Fr. Peter Pritchard, 53, was also accused of abusing a teenage cadet during the time the priest served as a naval chaplain. Pritchard once served as vicar general of the Society of St. Gerard Majella, which was dissolved 3 years ago. (10/3)

    BRISBANE — Fr. Leo Daniel Wright, 59, a repeat sex offender, pleaded guilty to four counts each of indecent treatment and indecent assault between 1971 and 1976. He had molested a 12-year-old girl after Mass while a parish priest in an Aboriginal community.

    He was given a further 18-month sentence, suspended after six months, on top of the three years he is already serving for child-sex offenses committed between 1968 and 1970.

    Archbishop John Bathersby said he was "deeply sorry" for what had happened to those hurt by Wright, avoiding mention of claims that he had confessed his sexual activities in 1972 to a bishop who transferred him but took no further steps.

    Wright's attorney told the court that Wright had approached another bishop in 1993 but was transferred again without any offers of psychiatric help. In 1994, the director of St. Luke's Institute toured Australia. At a meeting, Wright made a public declaration of his problems and became an in-patient at the clinic. (9/20)



    DUMKA — A priest charged with sodomy was beaten and paraded naked three miles through the main streets of this eastern Indian city. Fr. Swaminathan Christudas was beaten and stripped by students after a boy accused him of sexual molestation. Police took him into custody after the Sept. 2 incident and was finally granted bail over two months later.

    During his incarceration, church groups demonstrated in a number of cities to demand his release. Diocesan authorities called the allegation as "fabricated" and the Indian bishops' conference has appealed for federal government intervention. Parading people naked is commonly reported in northern India, often in the context of high-caste members punishing lower-caste women. (12/15)



    JAKARTA — Police have arrested a self-proclaimed sorcerer on charges that he raped at least 200 women over 33 years. Abdul Wahid Waro told the women they would have good health and prosperity if they had sex with him, charging them about $30 each for the privilege, police said. (9/6)



    TUAM — Fr. Martin Greaney, 56, has been sentenced to 7 years in prison for indecently assaulting 8 girls whose average age was 12. He pleaded guilty to 13 sample charges from several Irish counties between 1979 and 1990, but his victims probably number 30 or so.

    Greaney, described as having a "magnetic personality" was always surrounded by children, whom he abused in a number of houses, his home and in school. On two occasions he assaulted one of the girls in a choir loft. On another occasion he fondled a girl while talking nonchalantly with other children. One was molested in a neighbor's house after Greaney had said a Mass there.

    The abuse first came to light via a Dublin psychologist who treated one of the victims. Suspended in 1995, Greaney had been receiving counseling at a center in Stroud, England. In Oct. 1996, he admitted assaulting 4 girls in Co. Mayo and media reports of his court appearances led to other victims contacting the gardai (Irish police). (12/19)

    Co. KERRY — A bishop has apologized for his predecessor's failure to take appropriate action following the allegation of sexual abuse of a young girl by a priest. The statement by Bishop William Murray followed the sentencing of Fr. John Brosnan, 48, to four years in jail after he had pleaded guilty to 13 charges of sexual abuse against four girls and a boy between 1977 and 1985 while serving as a school chaplain. He would summon the victims from their classrooms and assault them in his school office and even fondled some victims in front of other children. One of the victims approached now-deceased Bishop Dairmuid O'Suilleabhain who did nothing. When the case was reported to Murray in April 1997 he immediately suspended Brosnan. (11/22)

    DUBLIN — An article in the official bulletin of the National Conference of Priests of Ireland complains that accused priests are being made scapegoats in the same manner as Jews and witches used to be. It claimed that procedures used by the Catholic Church "unintentionally endanger" the reputations of the accused priests who have had to seek protection from false allegations from secular law rather than the Christian community. The writer said that priests have been removed in cases where there is no basis in civil law, even against the wishes of the bishop's representatives, and thus have no chance of a fair hearing. The bulletin was distributed at a priests' conference in Dublin. (9/18)



    ROME — Police are hunting for the killer of one of the pope's gentlemen-in-waiting who was found battered to death in his apartment surrounded by his Vatican medals and with a gay pornographic cassette in his VCR.

    Papal official Enrico Sini Luzi, 67, was found dressed in his underwear with a silk scarf tied around his neck, lying face down on a velvet cushion. The back of his head had been smashed in by a brass candelabrum found nearby. Police said that there were marks on his body consistent with sadomasochistic foreplay and that the theft of his cash and some of his coin collection was a diversion, as many other valuable items were left untouched.

    Luzi, in his day garb of white tie and tails bedecked with papal decorations, served as an escort for bishops, ambassadors and heads of state who came to the Apostolic Palace for audiences with the pope. At night he was a well-known figure in Roman male-only bars. He was the latest of 19 suspected gays who have been murdered in Rome since 1990. There has been some speculation that some or all of the 11 unsolved killings are the work of a serial killer, as a number of victims were found with scarves tied around their necks. (1/11)

    PALERMO — A Discalced Carmelite priest who worked for years in a drug- and crime-infested neighborhood in this Sicilian town was arrested on charges of aiding a fugitive Mafia boss. Fr. Mario Frittitta, 58, admitted meeting crime boss Pietro Aglieri and celebrating Mass for him and his men on Christmas 1996 and Easter 1997 at their hideout. Aglieri was wanted for involvement in murders, money laundering schemes and other crimes. Police said Frittitta lied when questioned about Aglieri's whereabouts before the Mafia chief was arrested in June.

    The priest claimed he had helped Aglieri after being asked by a parishioner and that the mob boss "showed the desire to redeem himself." Frittitta denied being a mafioso himself. (12/14)

    LIVORNO — A woman is at the center of a national drama when she told a magazine that she had a 20-year sexual relationship with her bishop. Laura Magrini, 53, described the affair with Bishop Alberto Ablondi in the popular weekly Oggi ("Today"), later claiming that if she had not consented to the interview, the magazine would have published transcripts of her phone conversations with Ablondi, some of which were erotic in nature.

    Despite an anonymous tip last spring, the editor of the weekly did not pursue the story until Sept. when 3 cassettes of their conversations were mailed to him. The editor, Paolo Occhipinti, claimed that he had "never made so many verifications as we did for this story," but stopped short of contacting Ablondi out of fear of reprisals by the church.

    Ablondi, vice president of the Italian bishops' conference, said he became Magrini's confidant 20 years ago as she was struggling to overcome depression as her marriage dissolved. He claimed he gently distanced himself from her once he noticed that her attachment to him had become romantic. He attributed the claims to "injured feelings" and "pure fantasy." (12/5)

    ROME — A former nun is suing her old convent for $1.12 million (Canadian) in back pay for running two kindergartens and a popular private clinic in Italy. Identified only as Sister Maria, 60, she left the convent of the Sacred Heart in l'Aquila northeast of Rome in 1991, tired and embittered after 35 years of service.

    She claims her decision to quit was based on the advice of her doctor and spiritual adviser who were concerned at her growing bouts of fatigue and and bickering with other religious. After renouncing her vows, she asked the convent for a form of "liquidation," but since they only offered her a "symbolic" amount, took them to court.

    Her attorneys were offering the convent a chance to settle out of court for $3,375 a month for life. The case involves both Italian civil and canon law and is believed to be unprecedented in this strongly Catholic country. (10/28)



    LUBLIN — Eighteen priests from the archdiocese here face jail sentences of up to five years after being charged with illegally importing and selling Western luxury cars. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said 43 vehicles had been bought in Germany, Austria and Holland, then resold in Poland between 1992 and 1996. He added that duty-free customs clearance had been obtained for the cars using forged bishops' signatures and other falsified documents. Archbishop Jozef Zycinski said that after he took office in mid-1997 he immediately suspended the alleged ringleader, identified in the press as Fr. Eugeniusz W., but would await the outcome of civil court hearings before taking further action.

    The case is the latest of several similar scandals in Poland where a 1989 law exempts vehicles donated to the church from customs duties. (1/23)



    LIVERPOOL, England — A vicar who sexually assaulted boys during holidays with a church youth group has been convicted to three years in jail. Fr. David McIntosh, 52, pleaded guilty to seven indecent assault charges. (12/13)

    SWANSEA, England — An Anglican vicar who jumped bail and fled to the Czech Republic while awaiting sentencing after admitting taking indecent photographs of young girls in his Welsh vicarage has begun a 15-month prison term — a year for the seven counts of sexually explicit photos and another three months for fleeing. First arrested after taking film to a local photo shop to be developed, a search of the vicarage revealed thousands of photos and slides depicting nude girls and women.

    Fr. Merlyn Roberts, a 62-year-old grandfather and former chaplain at two English top-security prisons, spent more than a year on the run. He was finally spotted by a Welshman working in Prague who recognized his picture in a newspaper. Roberts was arrested at an boys' school where he worked and was extradited to Britain after being held for 18 weeks.

    The sentencing judge also ordered the confiscation of Roberts' photos and ordered him to register with the police as a sex offender upon his release.

    Another Anglican priest was arrested in Romania on suspicion of having had sex with a local boy. Fr. Michael Taylor, 34, was found with a 14-year-old boy in an apartment near the Bucharest train station. Romania is said to have become a magnet for pedophiles because of the widespread poverty and the large number of runaway children who frequent the rail stations. (11/25)

    GLASGOW, Scotland — Two orders of nuns here are facing a growing number of demands for compensation from people who claim to have suffered child abuse in the homes they ran. The claims, numbering 250 at last report and still growing, involve two homes in Aberdeen and Glasgow run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth House and two others run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, characterized as a "sadistic regime" going back to the 1950s.

    Punishments consisted of alleged constant beatings with sticks and broomhandles, plunges into boiling water, being forced to re-eat inedible food that had been vomited and severe humiliation.

    A criminal investigation is underway. Settlements could run into millions of pounds but the Catholic Church has elected to fight it out in court. Further claims are being pursued in Durham, Birmingham and Belfast by victims of convicted pedophile priests whose dioceses deny liability for their actions. (11/8)

    LONDON — The Church of England is facing a series of allegations by the wives of clergy who claim their husbands violently and sexually abused them. One spoke of violence when her husband's parochial church council meetings had not gone well, involving "smashing everything in sight," being dragged by her hair and kicked. Another spoke of being strangled during love-making, raped, and having her body marked "in a foul way." They claimed that their appeals for help from the church were initially ignored.

    The women decided to speak out after a decision by the Church of Scotland to open a care line for the battered wives of clergy, which followed a study by Edinburgh University which suggested that clerical wives are as likely to suffer assault as those in the general population, where it is thought 1 in 10 may be abused. The report cataloged abuse by ministers and included instances of wife beatings, damage to internal organs, kickings, and sexual advances made by clergy towards other women who sought counseling.

    Lesley Macdonald, author of the study, said some of the women accused the church of "closing ranks" when faced with their complaints. "The status of clergy has dropped," she said. "Often wives take the flak for the minister's economic inadequacy and irresponsibility. The violence has been caused in some cases by the minister's lack of self-esteem."

    Since the study of 25 women, she has been contacted by more than 40 abused wives of clergy from other parts of Britain. (10/5)

    PRESTON, England — A Jesuit priest who sexually abused boys at a top English boys school has been sentenced to 5 years in prison. Fr. James Chaning-Pearce, 57, molested four teenaged boys at Stonyhurst College while he was a teacher between 1987-95. The boys were assaulted in his study and in a two-story treehouse, described as a "den of iniquity," that he built on school grounds. He had previously admitted three charges of indecent assault on three boys, but denied all charges involving the fourth.

    None of the boys dared report him until he left the Lancashire school in 1995, when the authorities there were notified by a Zimbabwean that he had been abusing students at his previous post in Harare. The Society of Jesus there had received anonymous complaints but failed to warn Stonyhurst. Now they blame faulty communications between branches of one of the most tightly-knit religious orders in the world.

    After being kicked out of Stonyhurst he had been sent by the Jesuits to Canada for psychiatric treatment, later to Our Lady of Victories, an austere retreat for fallen priests in Chalford, Gloucestershire, and finally to St. Beuno's College, another Jesuit retreat in North Wales. There police found a photo in his room of naked boys beside a waterfall in Zimbabwe.

    Chaning-Pearce will be entered on the new British pedophile register but remains a Jesuit. A spokesman for the order said, "If we can't believe in the possibility of repentance, who can?" (9/20)



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