Monthly Archives: September 2008

Priest Abuse Diocese of Scranton Comes Clean on Abusive Priest-30 Years Later

The Pennsylvania statute of limitations is in their favor and they know it. They are dismissive of priest abuse victims who come forward knowing that as the law stands they will not be held accountable for hiding and transferring their abusive priests. I’m talking about the Diocese of Scranton in Pennsylvania but the same holds true for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the other Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania-Pittsburgh, Erie, Altoona-Johnstown, Harrisburg, Alltentown, and Greensburg. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has remained unchanged even after the scathing Philadelphia Grand Jury Report condemned their criminal behavior.
And now the Diocese of Scranton releases information about a sexually abusive priest, Rev. Robert Gibson who abused a young man in the early 1970’s. The victim, now a grown man, reported the abuse in 2007 but didn’t know that his was not the first report against this priest. The Diocese of Scranton had received at least one earlier report and had actually sent the sexual offender priest to a treatment facility a decade earlier. Yet now the Diocese of Scranton decides to release information about Rev. Gibson. According to the article in the Scranton Times-Tribune, here’s what the church knew and when they knew it:
“In 2007, Michael Baumann, who now lives in Chesapeake, Va., told the diocese that the Rev. Gibson had sexually abused him in 1973 and 1974, when the Rev. Gibson was his eighth-grade religion teacher at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg.
Mr. Baumann describes the experience as “nine months of pure hell,” during which he was repeatedly abused in a church rectory and while on a trip with the Rev. Gibson to Disney World.
He never spoke of the experience, but neither did he forget about it. Now, he said, “I’m tired of being embarrassed and ashamed of it. It took me a long time, but it finally dawned on me that I’m not the one to blame for this.”
When Mr. Baumann made his report, he found he was not the first person to come forward about the priest’s actions. The Rev. Gibson had been transferred a decade before to a monitored Missouri treatment facility for troubled Catholic priests, including pedophiles and other sex offenders.
In a statement to The Times-Tribune, William Genello, a diocese spokesman, recounted that past:
On Jan. 5, 1995, the diocese was approached by an attorney for a man who claimed he had been sexually abused by the Rev. Gibson 20 years earlier.
The priest admitted the abuse and four days later resigned as the pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Canadensis, where he was stationed at the time.
The diocese sent the priest for treatment at the Villa St. John Vianney
Hospital in Downington, a behavioral health center for members of the clergy. After the Rev. Gibson was released, the diocese instructed him to continue therapy and assigned him to live under supervision, and without a pastoral role, at the St. Ignatius Rectory in Kingston.
In the spring of 1997, a mother reported that the Rev. Gibson was paying a troubling amount of attention to her son. After an internal investigation, the diocese found the priest was “likely ‘grooming’ the boy for improper activity.” In September, the diocese’s Clergy Review Board, a group of clerics and lay people that reviewed such allegations, determined that the Rev. Gibson “could not be trusted to have any public ministry or reside in any Diocesan facility.”
On Feb. 1, 1998, the Rev. Gibson was placed at the St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo., the residential treatment facility run by a religious order that ministers to troubled priests. Bishop James C. Timlin, the head of the diocese at the time, barred the Rev. Gibson from wearing clerical clothes outside the center and stripped him of his priestly faculties. For the last 10 years, he has had no public ministry or contact with young people and has been monitored 24 hours a day.
In all, four people have reported to the diocese that they were abused by the Rev. Gibson, a number Mr. Baumann suspects is “very low.”
What troubles him about the diocese’s response is that the accusations against the Rev. Gibson have never been publicly investigated, despite the fact that the church considers the priest a threat.”
As history and experience has shown, the Catholic Church won’t move on such an issue unless and until it is forced to by the civil authorities. This isn’t a case dating back to the 1950’s where the Church claims it didn’t know how to deal with such an issue. They heard reports about this priest a decade ago and never did anything. He was never reported to law enforcement. Some things never change until society demands a change.

US Senator Confronts Heart Doctor for Crossing Ethics Line

A Tufts University professor has drawn the ire and critique of US Senator Charles Grassley for simultaneously working for the federal government, Tufts University Medical Center, and a heart device company. According to a Boston Globe report, “The specialist, Dr. Marvin Konstam, was hired in January as a senior adviser to the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, wrote Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, in a letter sent yesterday to Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health.
But just last week, Grassley noted, Orqis, the private California company where Konstam is medical director, sent out a press release in which Konstam praised one of its products, a minimally invasive device for helping heart-failure patients. The press release identified Konstam as a professor of medicine at Tufts.”
The question the public needs to ask, who’s the doctor working for? It seems quite clear he shouldn’t be the medical director for a private medical device company as well as drawing compensation from the government and an educational institution both of which are either supposed to be watchdogs for the public or committed to unbiased medical research. This is an example of how doctors can become entangled and conflicted when they are compensated as pitchmen for a medical device or drug while at the same time responsible for research and an unbiased judgment on the efficacy and safety of the same medical device or drug.

Monsignor Dale Fushek to Face 5 Trials for Sex Abuse

While it sounds like it’s a burden for the former Life Teen founder, it’s actually going to work in his favor. An Arizona court has ruled that Monsignor Dale Fushek will be tried separately for molesting 5 boys back in the 1980’s. However, the county attorney is rightfully upset with the ruling since the separate trials denies the prosecution the ability to explain to a jury what was Fushek’s pattern and practice of abuse. This is a central point in the criminal proceedings just as it is always important in priest abuse civil lawsuits. If the jury doesn’t hear about a priest abuser’s pattern and practice and doesn’t hear about how the bishops covered it up by moving the offending priest, the jury never gets the full picture of what happened. The same is true when victims are not allowed access to the internal church files documenting the abuse and the bishop’s modus operandi of covering it up by transferring the priest. Church documents can show that the diocese knew that the particular priest was an abuser and that the diocese chose to ignore such information. In New Hampshire, a review of internal church documents revealed that the bishop had promised the offending priest that he (the bishop) would destroy psychological records that showed the priest was a danger to the community. This is the stuff we find in the internal documents of the church when we actually are allowed by the courts to review the documents.

52 Bay Area Motorcycle Accidents This Year

In Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, and HIllsborough Counties there have been 52 motorcycle accidents resulting in 40 deaths just this year. That’s an alarming statistic and the number of motorcycle accidents appears to be growing at a rapid rate this year.
This in spite of the fact that the Florida Legislature passed mandatory motorcycle safety training prior to obtaining a motorcycle endorsement or motorcycle only license in Florida. The training courses spans 15 hours of safety programs. However, the course can’t take into account other drivers’ inattention to motorcycles.
With fuel prices continuing to rise, especially after Hurrican Ike, there will undoubtedly be more motorcycles on the roads. This coupled with heavy traffic in the Bay area has resulted in these tragic statistics.

Bad Medical Devices and Pre-Emption

Wyeth Lawsuit Supreme Court Ruling March 2009
Wyeth Lawsuit Supreme Ruling March 2009
This fall, the US Supreme Court will hear cases involving medical devices that have caused injuries in spite of the fact that they were approved by the FDA. The Court already ruled in favor of pre-emption on February 29, 2008 in Riegel v. Medtronic. In that case, the court stated that if the FDA approves a medical device that later turns out to injure a person that person is barred or “pre-empted” from bringing a lawsuit in state court. This is obviously a huge victory for businesses, especially huge medical device companies. On the other hand, it is very unfair for those with valid claims whose pursuit of justice is now short-circuited by the Supreme Court’s decision.
One of the more interesting cases on the Supreme Court docket this fall is Wyeth v. Levine. Drug manufacturer Wyeth (the same company that produced the harmful diet drug Fen-Phen) will argue that it can’t be sued for mislabeling its drug Phenergan in spite of the fact that this mislabeling directly resulted in Ms. Levine’s loss of her right arm. Wyeth’s argument rests solely on the fact that the drug Phergan had been previously approved by the FDA and is therefore immune from any lawsuit brought in state court.
Aware of the injustice and inequity of the Supreme Court’s Riegel decision, Congress is working on legislation to fix it. The proposed legislation is called the Medical Device Safety Act of 2008.
In the Levine case, the issue boils down to this: Do the FDA and other federal regulatory agencies set minimal standards which states are free to strengthen or do federal agencies make judgments about safety standards that states are required to follow?
This will be a very important case for advocates of consumer justice. Will the Supreme Court bar injured victims, who, through no fault of their own, are severely injured by bad medical devices or will the Court side with the consumer recognizing that the courts are their only avenue to pursue justice?

Ecclesiastical Two Step

The Catholic Church has figured out how to spin the priest abuse scandal so that it has minimal damage to its reputation. Initially, the Church played the “blame the liberal media” card. When that got old, it moved to “blame the lawyers”. Now, they moved to another phase which can best be described as a public relations two step. Church officials, namely bishops will proclaim from the rooftops that they have established best practices when it comes to ensuring the safety of children and vulnerable populations. Their lawyers then fight behind the scenes to keep their internal documents from public view. Take for example what’s happening in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of San Diego. Both defendant dioceses settled their lawsuits over a year ago. Part of the settlement agreement, arguably the most important part of the agreement, was the dissemination of the church’s internal documents concerning their conspiracy of secrecy and coverup in dealing with sexually abusive priests. To date, both Los Angeles and San Diego are fighting to keep those documents from the public! It’s clear they don’t want their secrets and their practices out in the public arena. The fact that these documents remain hidden constitutes a clear and serious danger to the safety and welfare of all children. The abuse doesn’t stop until the secrets reach the light of day. Bad priests, even when removed from the priesthood, will continue to prey upon young victims if the truth about them is not known. The documents must be given to the public. It’s time to stop this ecclesiastical two step.

US Senator to Investigator Cardiac Docs and Heart Research Group

The American College of Cardiology recently signed a 5 year partnership with the non-profit Cardiovascular Research Foundation. On the surface, this seems a natural mix-a group of cardiologists collaborating with an academic not for profit research foundation. Yet, a US Senator has opened an investigation for potential conflicts of interest regarding the ties between them and the medical device community. It’s an ongoing saga of financial entanglements between doctors and either pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers that’s drawing Congressional attention. This time, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herb Kohl is looking into the relationship, especially the financial aspects of the partnership.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the relationship may underscore a potential conflict. The Star Tribune reports, “Noting that the foundation receives funding from a variety of medical device manufacturers, ‘the potential for this partnership to influence clinical practice raises questions concerning the continued impartiality of your organization,’ Kohl wrote ACC President Dr. Douglas Weaver in a July 22 letter. A conference organized by CRF annually counts Fridley-based Medtronic Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp. as sponsors.”
Last year, Kohl co-sponsored legislation requiring pharmaceutical and medical device companies to list any financial contributions, payments, or gifts made to physicians.
Congressional oversight and regulation of these relationships is a good thing for consumer safety. The public has a right to know the relationships doctors have with drug companies and/or medical device manufacturers. Transparency can only protect consumers from undo influence as well as keep the medical community focused on patient safety rather than the corporate bottom line.

FDA Reports Deadly Brain Infection with Rituxan

The FDA has posted on its website reports of a woman’s death from a brain infection a year after taking the arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan and warned doctors to cease using the drug if any symptoms of the brain infection appear. The drug, co-marketed in this country by Genentech and Biogen, has been very popular for the treatment of arthritis and certyain forms of cancer.
While the FDA posted the information on its website, the link between the drug and brain infection is still tenuous. The infection is known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML and has no known cure. The infection is caused by a reactivation of a common virus in the central nervous system of those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include weakness or paralysis, vision loss, impaired speech, and cognitive deterioration.
Cases of PML had been reported in patients who were using it for which the drug wasn’t approved such as Lupus. According to the FDA, this is the first report for a patient taking Rituxan for arthritis.

Bishops and their role in the Priest Abuse Scandal

Only a handful of bishops have been implicated as sexual abusers of minors since the priest abuse scandal hit the front pages in 2002. Such names as Bishops Juan Arzube, Tod Brown, Paul Dudley, Thomas Dupre, Joseph Ferrario, Louis Gelineau, Timothy Harrington, Joseph Hart, Howard Hubbard, Anthony O’Connell, James Rausch, George Rueger, Daniel Ryan, William Skylstad, and Lawrence Soens have been accused of sexual abuse of minors. That’s only 19 bishops. Statistically, they are not the abusers. However, more importantly it’s the other bishops whom we know have covered up sexual abuse of priests that’s the real issue. Bishops are like CEO’s of large corporations. They’re in charge of the overall administration of the particular diocese of which they’re in charge. They have supreme authority over the finances, personnel decisions, and the priests who run the individual parishes. And some have been particularly dreadful when it comes to transferring and covering for sexually abusive priests in their charge. Some well known names come to mind: Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Cardinal Law formerly of Boston, Cardinal George of Chicago, Cardinal Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, Bishop McCormack of Manchester to name a few. These bishops are documented as those who covered up for abusing priests. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Grand Jury reports concerning their behavior. If there’s no Grand Jury report you can find, check out their deposition testimony. These aren’t the only bishops who knew about abusive priests and transferred them anyway. The priests continued to abuse and when the priests were caught, the bishops feigned ignorance or hid behind their lawyers who cited 1st Amendment rights. There’s no Gospel or Jesus talk here, just bare fisted lawyers brawling to protect the institution of the church against the poor survivors of sexual abuse. It’s a sad story, a story that one could have never imagined. Yet, that’s the state in which we find ourselves. Instead of protecting children, we’re fighting over the legalities of church documents (most of which are buried) that show the depth of the corruption. A cynic may be tempted to ask the bishops what would Jesus do?

McCain Ad an Insult to Sex Abuse Victims

I’ve seen a lot of political attack ads in my time where the truth is twisted or distorted. However, John McCain’s ad regarding Barack Obama and sex education is an outright lie and an insult to the thousands of victims of sexual abuse. The ad states that Obama’s one legislative accomplishment in the Illinois legislature was sponsoring sexual education for kindergartners. In actuality, the legislation was aimed at providing awareness of inappropriate touching and sexual predators. This program, which teaches children in an age appropriate fashion, the difference between good touch and bad touch. This is part of a nationwide effort to prevent further child sex abuse. If children know the difference between an affectionate hug and a sexual touch, they are more likely to feel empowered to tell their parents who in turn can call law enforcement.
I’m outraged that McCain would stoop so low as to lie when it comes to protecting our children. I would hope that every victim of sexual abuse as well as those of us fighting to protect children from sexual predators would let McCain know this is an absolute outrage and demand an apology. Perhaps he could donate the money spent on the vicious ad to donate to a non profit for children.
Obviously, John McCain doesn’t have a clue about the pain and trauma caused by sexual abuse. But, is he that out of touch that he doesn’t realize the further pain he’s caused victims?
I guess that’s family values for you.