Sex Abuse in the Church

Accused Priest Working at Miami VA Hospital

Priest once accused of sex abuse is working at Miami VA hospital
BY ALEXANDRA ALTER
aalter@herald.com
A Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct with a minor in the 1970s began work this week as a chaplain at the Miami Veteran Affairs Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The Rev. Brian Bjorklund, a Roman Catholic priest since 1966, was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2003. The church placed Bjorklund on administrative leave as it investigated an allegation that he committed sexual misconduct with a minor during his early years in the clergy. Bjorklund was working as a Navy chaplain in California at the time of his suspension.
In February 2004, the Vatican restored Bjorklund to the priesthood, stating that the alleged victim was not considered to be a minor under church law in the 1970s.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said his group will contact the VA hospital and Miami Archbishop John Favalora to seek Bjorklund’s removal from ministry.
”We’re very troubled,” he said. “It’s shocking to have an accused molester who has been rejected by his home diocese wind up with the VA in Miami.”
Susan Ward, a spokeswoman for the VA hospital, confirmed that Bjorklund began work Tuesday. She said the hospital conducted a criminal background check and nothing came up. She noted that the hospital treats only veterans, not juveniles.
Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Miami archdiocese, said Bjorklund does not have priestly faculties under the archdiocese of Miami and must undergo a background check before he is granted those powers.

Hare Krishna Child Abuse Lawsuits

A lawsuit pending in the 192nd Dallas State District Court has prompted payment for child abuse victims worldwide. The case, filed in 2001 against the Hare Krishna religious organization, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, caused several Krishna Temples to file for Bankruptcy in Southern California and West Virginia.
As a result, the original 95 Dallas plaintiffs grew to 535 abuse victims asserting claims in the Bankruptcy Court. The original defendants were joined by other Krishna organizations to fund a partial settlement of $9.5 Million for the victims. The remainder of the case, which is against several insurance carriers, is expected to provide additional funding for the abuse claimants. The Court approved the reorganization settlement today.
The confirmation of this settlement by the Bankruptcy Court, combined with the explicit apology, issued today to the victims, where Krishna acknowledged wrongdoing, helps provide validation to these innocent young people. Many of them were terribly abused, sexually, physically, and emotionally, for years in various Krishna Boarding Schools. One of the worst abusing schools was operated in Dallas, TX.
While the money received by these victims will be of help in securing needed therapy, and for many, vocational training, more important is the self-validation of their own worth brought about by these payments and the unequivocal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and apology by this religious organization.

Danville Woman Claims Nun Abuse

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A Danville woman who claims she was sexually abused by a nun has sued a Sisters of St. Francis order, alleging the order was negligent and failed to investigate or address the allegations.
Christine Bertrand filed her lawsuit Tuesday in Olmsted County District Court. It seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
“The whole topic of nun abuse is just starting to come forward,” Bertrand said.
Leaders at the Sisters of St. Francis said there is no evidence of wrongdoing and they will defend against all claims.
Bertrand, 50, claims when she was a student at St. Juliana’s School in Chicago she was sexually abused by Sister Benen Kent, a music teacher and member of the Third Order Regular, Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as the Rochester Franciscans.
Bertrand, who owns a marketing business in Danville, claims the incidents occurred between 1962 and 1967.
She also claims she was sexually abused by Kent during a visit to Assisi Heights motherhouse in Rochester in 1967.
Bertrand said she had forgotten about the abuse until about three years ago.
Kent died in 2003 at age 85.
Also Tuesday, Bertrand demanded the resignation of Sister Dolore Rockers, president of the Franciscan sisters.
Leaders of the order said the allegations of misconduct were brought to their attention in 2002 and that policy in reviewing and responding to the allegations was followed. The leaders said intermediary attempts to resolve the issues failed.
The statement does not address Bertrand’s demand that Rockers resign.

Cardinal Ratzinger Successor Dogged by Abuse files

When Archbishop Levada assumes Pope Benedict XVI’s old position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sometime this summer, he’ll be faced with more than 700 clergy abuse files. The backlog is partly blamed on the US Bishops’ 2002 zero tolerance policy in which allegations of clergy abuse are sent to Rome for trial. We have a similar case in our office. We represent a victim of Father Richard Emerson who abused a young boy while stationed as a Catholic priest in Orlando Florida. A lawsuit has been filed in Orlando and we are aggressively investigating on behalf of our client.

New Pope, Different Results?

Many Catholic watchers groaned in disbelief when new Pope Benedict XVI chose San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to replace him as chief doctrinal watchdog. One of Levada’s new responsibilities will be to oversee the clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the United States and Europe. Levada drew mixed reviews at best in handling cases of abuse in San Francisco and Portland Oregon.
Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II often looked the other way when confronted with the mounting priest abuse scandal.
However, according to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Benedict XVI promised George that he would take the abuse crisis seriously. For the victims’ sake, let’s hope so.