Tag: Pope Francis

Pope Francis Horowitz Law

Pope Francis Has an Enormous Job But Should Make Some Simple Changes

Pope Francis has an enormous, complex job. Still, some parts of it can’t be that complicated or difficult, especially some of the parts that relate to child safety.

In that context, here are a few questions we’ve wondered about.

—Last month, a priest in Virginia was arrested for reportedly molesting at least one child. For years, he was in charge of his diocese’s handling of all abuse reports.


How hard would it be for Pope Francis to just forbid bishops from putting priests in charge of dealing with abusive priests? There are tons of lay people who have more qualifications and who spent years studying more helpful subjects than church history or church music or church

Plus of course being parents or potential parents, these lay people would bring a different perspective to abuse issues than most clerics have or can.

In fact, let’s go a step further. How hard would it be for Pope Francis to specifically hire non-Catholics to handle abuse claims?

That would no doubt inspire considerably more confidence in the flock, knowing that outside perspectives, from people with less chance of being conflicted or biased, are looking at abuse cases. And that would also get more victims to come forward, knowing that they would be reporting to potentially more objective staffers.

—Also last month, a bishop in Australia told his lawyer to – or at least let his lawyer – insist on questioning a victim about an abortion she had.


Even worse, news accounts say that “the church accepted she was sexually assaulted by (the) priest” and her abortion, unrelated, took place “a decade after the abuse stopped.”

How hard would it be for Pope Francis to just forbid bishops from telling or letting their lawyers treat victims so viciously?

And again, one step further: How hard would it be for Pope Francis to publicly blast and discipline this bishop, and then say, “I will immediately defrock the next bishop who acts with such cruelty in court towards an abuse victim.”

—Earlier this month, a bishop in Poland told or let his lawyer “ask a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay, and whether the sexual contact may have consequently been pleasurable for him.”

Yes, you read that correctly: A church lawyer wants to know an abuse victim’s sexual orientation and whether, as a youngster, he may have “enjoyed” being sexually violated.


How hard would it be for Pope Francis to denounce this, and other, savage legal maneuvers?

A step further: How hard would it be for Pope Francis to discipline this bishop, insist that he fire his lawyer and again, expressly pledge to fire any other bishop who acts like this?

Incidentally, such merciless legal tactics have been used by Catholic officials for decades. Check out this 1993 Wall Street Journal examples for several horrific US examples:


And to learn more about these cases we’ve cited, here are a few particulars: The Virginia priest is Fr. Terry Specht of the Arlington Diocese, which is headed by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. The Polish bishop is Roman Pindel.

The Australian bishop is Peter Comensole of Melbourne and his predator priest is Fr. Francis Thorp.


Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva

Masturbating Bishop Story is About Much More Than Him

A Catholic bishop was caught masturbating on a Zoom call. So what? In every barrel, there are bound to be some bad apples.

But look at the ‘apples’ above and around now-disgraced Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva of Brazil.

(Though he resigned, he still retains his title. That’s why we continue to call him ‘bishop’ here.)

Almost every awful aspect of the clerical abuse and cover up crisis is on display in this one seemingly isolated scandal.

First, let’s look at the bishop’s Vatican supervisors.

At nearly every turn, they repeatedly try to reassure us that now they take sexual misdeeds seriously. In recent years, they’ve ‘learned’ and ‘reformed,’ they insist.

So why let this Brazilian bishop resign? Why not fire him? Why not strip him of his title and privileges?

That kind of discipline would be far more powerful in convincing parishioners and the public that there’s no place in the church for sexual wrongdoing.

Second, the Associated Press reports that “Since 2015, Bishop Ferreira da Silva had reportedly been investigated by the Vatican for other accusations, including allegedly ignoring reports of sexual abuse in his diocese.”


Six years he’s been under investigation? How does that square with church hierarchy’s pledge to take sexual misconduct “seriously”?

And why does the AP say “reportedly?” That can only be because the so-called ‘investigation’ must have been secret. Had it been publicly announced, the AP would have indicated that.

So why do Vatican bureaucrats once again launch a secret internal probe and spend six years on it without apparently making any kind of decision or levying any kind of discipline?

Now, let’s look at the Brazilian bishop’s peers.

“The Vatican, the Brazilian bishops conference and Ferreira’s home diocese all announced the resignation but provided no details on the cause,” according to the AP. Good!

But “None of the three responded to emailed questions about whether the bishop was the man in the video or what was behind his departure.”

Well, local media reported that the bishop admitted that WAS him in the video. And a Catholic source wrote “Bishop Ferreira da Silva reportedly told the Brazilian network Globo that he is the person in the video.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/248724/brazilian-bishop-resigns-after-leak-of-explicit-video

(Indeed, a Brazilian newspaper quoted the prelate as saying he’s planning to ask for police help in figuring out who ‘leaked’ the incriminating video.)

Again, the AP writing about the same Brazilian church colleagues: “They also didn’t respond to requests for comment or background on news reports the bishop had been previously investigated by the Vatican.”

So even after a brother bishop publicly admits humiliating and inappropriate sexual behavior, his colleagues refuse to comment and won’t even confirm that he was under investigation?

An official Catholic institution, the Catholic News Agency, tells us that the Brazilian bishop “has been investigated multiple times by the Vatican for alleged sexual misconduct or for covering up sexual misconduct.”

The CNA also adds some interesting detail: In 2015, he was accused of having a romantic relationship with his driver. Three years later, the diocese was investigated amid reports that the bishop had failed to investigate reports of abuse. He further was accused of sending sexually explicit messages to an adolescent.

As is the case with so many sexually troubled clerics, there are also allegations of financial misdeeds. Six years ago, Bishop Ferreira da Silva. One news source reports that he “was reportedly accused of taking a large amount of money from the church and giving it to his driver, with whom he allegedly had a romantic relationship.”

To the casual reader, this story could seem to be just about another bad bishop. But to us at Horowitz Law, it’s also about continuing self-serving secrecy within the ranks of bishops as a whole And, of course, it’s about continuing inaction by Pope Francis and his staff, all of whom ‘talk tough’ about cracking down on abuse, misconduct, and cover ups, but seem to only follow up on their promises when offenders make front page news.

celebrity sex abuser

He Did Great Things. He Can Still Be an Abuser or Harasser.

Harvey Weinstein made great movies.

So did Roman Polanski.

So did Woody Allen.

Michael Jackson made great music.

So does R. Kelly.

Bill Cosby made millions laugh.

So did Louis C. K.

So did Al Franken.

We could go on and on.

The pattern is clear. Incredibly talented individuals aren’t always saints. In fact, sometimes their outward search for achievement and accolades masks inner demons that stay hidden for years until finally they surface.

(Just now, we noticed the obituary of James Levine, “the guiding maestro of the Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years and one of the world’s most influential and admired conductors until allegations of sexual abuse and harassment ended his career.”)


We bring this up now because of reports of sexual misdeeds against popular New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

To millions, during the early days of the Covid pandemic, Governor Cuomo was a hero. He calmly kept the public informed about the progress his administration made in battling the virus, using facts and science and reason (unlike President Donald Trump).

And more relevant to us at Horowitz Law, he signed the Child Victims Act into law that is, right now, helping thousands of wounded New York adults who were molested as kids. It’s also helping warn thousands more about child molesters who’ve long flown under the radar.


Then, when the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc on the Court system, Cuomo went further, and extended the Child Victims Act one more year, again giving abuse survivors more time to come forward.


For this, we at Horowitz Law are grateful, as are many who care about kids and victims.

But at the end of the day all of this, and everything else Cuomo may have achieved over his long career, is irrelevant to the charges that he sexually harassed women. It’s apples and oranges.

No one denies that Cuomo often had successes. But no one should assume that because of those successes, he doesn’t or didn’t also have failures. . .or problems. . .or has engaged in sexual wrongdoing.

This pattern – widely=recognized accomplishments AND long-hidden wrongdoing co-existing in the same individual – is true for many predators. But it’s also true for many enablers.

Take Pope Francis for example. Early on, he won massive praise for carrying his own luggage moving into simpler living quarters and saying of gays and lesbians “Who am I to judge?”

Still he protects child molesters and those who cover for child molesters.

Still, eight years into his papacy, as former SNAP co-director David Clohessy noted on Twitter recently, Pope Francis hasn’t defrocked a single bishop for committing or concealing child sex crimes.

A few enabling bishops have voluntarily stepped down from their positions, while still retaining their emeritus titles and salaries and perks and all the rest.

Even fewer enabling bishops have been prodded to step down.

But virtually none have been fired.

So can we please, once and for all, walk and chew gum at the same time?

Can we please acknowledge that many are capable of BOTH wonderful behavior or achievement in public AND horrific behaviors and shortcomings in private?

Can we avoid the temptation to immediately and hurtfully take the side of the accused, over the accuser, just because the accused has managed to write great films, sing great songs, and even take heroic actions?

Resignations Just Don’t Cut It Anymore

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Sadly, the popes of the Catholic church seem incapable of learning this lesson.

Last month, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of French Cardinal Phillipe Barbarin who was convicted in early March of refusing to report child sex crimes by a serial predator priest (Fr. Bernard Preynat) to legal authorities.


And way back in 1997, Australian Bishop Robert Mulkearns submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul after being investigated by police for covering up the crimes of Fr. Gerald Ridsdale, who raped and sexually abused more than 50 kids.

In between, bishops in Austria, Canada, Wales, Argentina, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Brazil, and Paraguay did likewise.

Seven bishops resigned in Ireland.

Just a year ago, EVERY ONE of Chile’s 31 bishops did the same.


Finally, in just one COUNTRY, (the US), in just one SEASON – the spring of 2015 – Pope Francis accepted the resignations of three bishops: one from Missouri (Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph) and two from Minnesota (Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, both of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese.

STILL, clergy sex crimes and cover ups continue. Evidently, letting bad bishops resign is not doing the trick.

Why? In part, because of the wise observations by the brilliant staff at BishopAccountability.org who write:

“In all cases, the disgraced prelate retained the title of bishop and remained active in the church. To date, no pope has confirmed that he removed a culpable bishop because of his handling of offending clergy.”


(Perhaps the most famous case of coddling a corrupt Catholic prelate: Boston’s disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, who later headed one of four prominent ‘papal basilicas’ in Rome and participated in the 2005 papal conclave).


Since resignations aren’t deterring wrongdoing, what might popes do instead with members of the church hierarchy won’t behave?

How about firing them?

Or demoting them?

Or demanding they work a year in a soup kitchen, if they want to keep their salaries and benefits?

Or, for starters, how about just publicly saying “Bishop John Smith is being disciplined BECAUSE he knew of or suspected child sex crimes and hid them instead of reporting them?

(Compare this straightforward approach with the incredibly vague statements popes have repeatedly isued when they accept bishops’ resignations: “It was announced today that the Holy Father has accepted the resignation tendered by the Most Reverend XX, in accordance with Canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law.”)

Or, how about yanking many if not most of the perks of their positions?

But again, no matter how it’s done or phrased, letting bad bishops resign isn’t preventing bad behavior. Expecting resignations to do so ignores Einstein’s wisdom.

Popes, starting with Francis, must find the backbone to forcibly and publicly oust them.


Tidbits of Encouraging News

In this era of political, environmental and public health difficulties, we can all use some positive news!

–On Tuesday night, progressive challenger Marie Newman won her primary against longtime Illinois incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski. Marie is the founder of an anti-bullying nonprofit and signed on to lead a coalition of 70 anti-bullying groups working nationwide.



–Prosecutors in Pittsburgh are appealing a judge’s decision to vacate the conviction of Fr. Hugh Lang, who is accused of having assaulted a boy in 2001.

Judge Anthony Mariani had ruled earlier that the priest had been denied a fair trial because the previous judge had let prosecutors submit evidence that Fr. Lang had searched the internet for ‘defense attorney’ before the 2018 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of clerical sex abuse.

Just to be clear, Judge Mariani had sentenced Fr. Lang to 9-24 months in jail, but is delaying implementation. Now, there’ll be a second trial.


In a situation like this, neither a re-filing or re-trial are guaranteed. Sometimes, a DA or his/her staff decide the case is too complex, the victim is too fragile, the law is not sufficiently clear or their resources are too limited. So they don’t continue seeking justice.

We at Horowitz Law applaud the Allegheny County prosecutors’ office and wish them well in this effort.

–A former Nittany Lions football player is suing Penn State charging that he was a victim of hazing and harassment in 2018, some of it sexually suggestive, by his teammates.

Why is this good news? Because many assume that once a scandal-ridden institution settles some abuse cases and promises some reforms, everything magically gets better.

We believe this new lawsuit will help shatter that dangerous illusion, and will remind the public that once an irresponsible culture is allowed to fester in a school or church or program, reversing that takes a long time and a concerted effort.

We wish the alleged victim, Isaiah Humphries from Sachese, Texas, well in his case.


–A new survey shows Pope Francis’ approval rating has slipped again, to 52.2%, down from 56.6% in November 2019. (It was 64.4% in 2018.)

The poll found that Francis received his least favorable results when it comes to addressing the clergy sex abuse scandals, according to Crux.


Why is that good news? Because it shows that the image of a once-almost-universally-beloved figure will suffer if he refuses to effectively tackle a child sexual abuse and cover up crisis. (We hope leaders of other institutions are paying attention and realize that the old, passive patterns of doing a poor job of protecting kids now carry real penalties.)

(Even among U.S. Catholics, his job approval is 74.6%, down from 78.1% in November 2019.

–Finally, even a bevy of smart, aggressive and expensive lawyers can’t keep Harvey Weinstein out of jail (he’s just been moved from Rikers’ to Fishkill) and yet another civil lawsuit against him was filed today. Both developments help keep others safe and bring relief to his victims.


New Poll Reveals American Catholics Displeased with Handling of the Sex Abuse Scandal

New Poll Reveals Catholics Displeased with Bishops’ Handling of Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

EWTN News and RealClear Opinion Research partnered to conduct an in depth survey on Catholic voters’ attitudes prior to the 2020 election. When it came to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the survey reveals that American Catholics are overwhelmingly displeased with the handling of the scandal by their local Bishops. Only 30% of Catholics approve of the Bishops’ handling of the scandal, compared to 55% who disapprove. Their view of the Pope’s handling of clergy sexual abuse was only slightly  better than their ranking of their own local Bishops. 44% of Catholics approve of the Pope’s handling of the crisis, while 41% say they disapprove.  This data reflects the vast amount of American Catholics who are angered by the sexual abuse crisis and the inability of Church leadership to address the problem and the spiritual needs of their parishioners. 

As the American Catholic landscape has evolved there has been a sweeping desire for modern reformation in the Church beyond just controlling the rampant sex abuse crisis. According to the poll, the majority of Catholic voters are in favor of allowing priests to marry (64% of all Catholic voters) and for women to be ordained as deacons (69% of all Catholic voters). 

“This data poll confirms the differences in ethnicity, age, and ideology within the Catholic community that make it such a pastoral challenge for bishops and such an electoral opportunity for politicians,” said John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

The role of pastors in the church is to support the spiritual needs of their parishioners. Education and often counseling and guidance in times of need are responsibilities with which they are entrusted. A trusted clergyman who sexually violates young children has no place working in the Church. Any ministry in which such a crime is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential priests and protect their parishioners. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the United States. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped or sexually molested by a priest or other clergy, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.