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After Philadelphia police shootings, Chaput calls for 'sensible solutions' to violence

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 15, 2019 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- After a standoff between police and a gunman in Philadelphia yesterday, in which six officers were shot, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has praised the work of the responding officers and called for solutions to root causes of violence.

“The terror that filled yesterday serves as a stark reminder not only of the fragility of life but also of the clear and present danger that illegal drugs and illegally obtained firearms pose to our community,” Chaput said in a statement.

“In addition to our prayers, let’s work together toward sensible solutions that address the root causes of continued violence and seek to lift up those struggling with addictions.”

According to NBC News, police were attempting to serve an arrest warrant at a house in northern Philadelphia on Wednesday when the suspect, who had prior arrests for undisclosed infractions, opened fire.

Hours later, shortly after midnight on Thursday, the suspect surrendered and was taken into custody. All the officers that had been shot were released from the hospital late Wednesday night, including an officer and father who suffered a graze wound to the head, NBC reported.

“We should all be grateful for the daily self-sacrifice of our law enforcement community as well as the perseverance and professionalism of those who worked to bring yesterday’s standoff to an end without loss of life or further violence,” Chaput noted.

The standoff came less than two weeks after mass shootings left 31 people dead in an El Paso Walmart and Dayton, Ohio bar the weekend of August 3-4.

“In reflecting on violent acts in our country a short time ago, I remarked that we’d soon be on to the next crisis—and it unfolded right here in our city,” Chaput said, who added that he watched the news of the standoff unfold with “growing anxiety and sadness” on Wednesday afternoon. 

“In the aftermath, let’s pray that God will aid the swift recovery of the injured officers, that He will guide the hand of the medical professionals treating them, and that He will pour His comforting grace upon all those suffering burdens of fear and grief,” Chaput noted.

“Let us resolve each day to treat our brothers and sisters with dignity, charity, and respect. May we all embrace that which is good so that the light of Christ will prevail in a world where evil often rears its head.

Promising clinical trial for Ebola drugs brings hope to DRC

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Aug 15, 2019 / 02:03 pm (CNA).- Scientists are hopeful after a clinical trial of two experimental drugs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) showed promise in treating the deadly Ebola virus.

Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 and a monoclonal antibody known as mAb114 were among four experimental drugs being tested in a recent DRC trial, Reuters reported. Both were developed from the antibodies of people who had survived Ebola.

The other two products being tested displayed less success in the clinical trial, and further testing of them has been discontinued.

Ebola is a deadly virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding.

The virus can be fatal in up to 90% of cases. However, patients in the clinical trial who received REGN-EB3 had only a 29% fatality rate, and those on mAb-114 had a 34% fatality rate, the BBC reported.

Among patients with only a low level of the virus in their blood, survival rates were even better, around 90%.

Experts hailed the study as a step toward finding a treatment for Ebola and preventing major outbreaks.

Mike Ryan, who leads the emergency program for the World Health Organization, called the news “fantastic,” telling journalists that while the drugs alone will not stop Ebola, the study “gives us a new tool in our toolbox.”

Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the leaders of the trial, emphasized that “we do now have what look like (two) treatments for a disease for which not long ago we really had no approach at all,” according to Reuters.

The drugs will now be widely available to patients in the DRC, which is battling the second largest Ebola outbreak in history. More than 2,500 people in the country have been infected, and more than 1,800 killed, since the outbreak began last August.

Last month, the World Health Organization labeled the DRC outbreak an international health emergency, only the fifth time in history that the designation has been used.

The declaration, which critics called overdue, designates “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

The declaration was made after a priest died from Ebola in Goma, a city of some 2 million residents, which serves as a major crossroads on the border with Rwanda.

Risk of the virus being transmitted to neighboring countries is “very high,” WHO officials said, although outside of the immediate region, risk remains low.

Two Ebola fatalities were confirmed in Uganda in June, after the victims returned from a funeral in DRC. Kenya and Rwanda have also been on high alert for signs that the virus may have entered the country.

Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by misinformation and distrust on the part of local communities, who in some cases have retaliated against health teams by attacking them. Nearly 200 attacks on medical centers and staff have been reported this year, according to the BBC. This has limited many of the health services that non-governmental organizations are able to provide.

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting local Caritas partners in responding through education campaigns to help residents know how to prevent and respond to the virus.

More than 160,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine, which is 99% effective, according to the BBC, but many more are fearful of it and refuse to receive it. In addition, violence in the eastern part of the DRC has made it difficult to reach some areas of the country, and difficult to monitor the virus as it spreads.

During the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa, the worst in history, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas worked to treat those who were infected, support Ebola orphans, provide food support and educate people on hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with dead bodies.

Hundreds of lawsuits filed on first day of NY litigation window

Albany, N.Y., Aug 15, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Over 400 lawsuits were filed in New York state on the first day of a one-year window in the statute of limitations, allowing abuse survivors to file suit against their abuser or the institution where the abuse occurred. 

The lawsuits include an allegation against a sitting bishop and a RICO suit against the Diocese of Buffalo and the Northeast Province of the Jesuits. Other suits were filed against laicized former archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and against retired Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany. Hubbard has denied the allegations.

The one-year window was created through the Child Victims Act, which altered New York’s statute of limitations for filing criminal claims and civil claims for survivors of child sexual abuse. Previously, a survivor had until they reached the age of 23 to file either claim. This has now been changed to 28 for criminal charges, and 55 for civil cases. 

The one-year window began six months after the passage of the law. The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and the state’s public schools all stated they were prepared for a potentially large number of abuse survivors to file lawsuits.  

It is unclear how many of the 427 suits concerned the Catholic Church or a member of the clergy, and some lawsuits contained multiple plaintiffs making a claim against the same person. 

Over 45 patients filed a lawsuit accusing an endocrinologist at Rockefeller University Hospital of sexual abuse. An additional suit was filed by a woman who says she was raped by recently-deceased convicted sex offender/financier Jeffrey Epstein and three of his associates. 

The most high-profile Catholic accused in a suit is Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina. Guglielmone is accused of misconduct dating back 40 years ago, when he was a priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which comprises most of Long Island.

The suit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a young man over a period of years while he was serving as pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Amityville.

Previously, the accusation had been determined by Church authorities to not be credible, according to a statement released to local media in Charleston, though the diocese stressed that civil law enforcement had been informed. 

A new, Vatican-ordered investigation is now underway, though it is unclear who is undertaking the investigation.

In a statement, Guglielmone denied all the accusations and said that he was looking forward to establishing his innocence.

“I offer my prayers daily for those whose lives have been hurt or devastated by the actions of a member of the clergy or by any other persons, especially all abused children and other vulnerable persons,” Guglielmone said.

“It is particularly tragic when the abuse is at the hands of a priest in whom their spiritual care and well-being has been entrusted.”

RICO suit against Buffalo diocese alleges conspiracy in sexual abuse casesĀ 

Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 15, 2019 / 11:55 am (CNA).- Twenty-two plaintiffs filed a lawsuit Aug. 14 against the Diocese of Buffalo, a province of the Society of Jesus, multiple priests, eight parishes, three high schools, a seminary, among others, alleging “a pattern of racketeering activity” that enabled and covered up clerical sexual abuse.

The lawsuit was filed on the first day of a legal “window” allowing for sexual abuse lawsuits to be filed in New York even after their civil statute of limitations had expired.

Among the plaintiffs, who are not named, are several alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse. The lawsuit alleges specific instances of sexual abuse by priests, and claims that the diocese failed in its duty of care towards children by allowing abusive priests to have contact with minors through parishes and schools.

The suit says that priests named in the lawsuit, “used their positions of authority and trust over Plaintiff(s) to sexually abuse and injure them.”

“All the Defendant(s) knew and/or reasonably should have known, and/or knowingly condoned, and/or covered up, the inappropriate and unlawful criminal conduct activities” of sexually abusing priests, the lawsuit says.

Calling the diocese and affiliated organizations an “association in fact” for the purposes of federal racketeering laws, the suit alleged “common purpose” in “harassing, threatening, extorting, and misleading victims of sexual abuse committed by priests” and of “misleading priests’ victims and the media” to prevent reporting or disclosure of sexual misconduct.

The suit claims that the various diocesan persons and agencies are legal “alter egos” for the diocese, completely under diocesan control, and were used to “transfer, assign, commingle and conceal assets” totally $90 million dollars, and that the diocese violated federal racketeering laws by using the internet and mail to “deceive the public about the illicit sexual conduct rampant within the Diocese of Buffalo.”

“Within the Diocese of Buffalo there was a common communication network by which co-conspirators shared information on a regular basis. The Diocese of Buffalo used the common communication network for the purpose of enabling the criminal sexual activities of the priests within the Diocese of Buffalo,” the lawsuit says.

Two of the plaintiffs claim to be whistleblowers against the diocese. Described as former employees or volunteers, the suit alleges that they became aware of “wrongful contact” by some priests in the diocese and were terminated by the diocese after reporting it to Church authorities.

On that front, the diocese is alleged to have engaged in “interstate commerce,” and did so “concerning the investigation, slander, blacklisting, of victims and/or employees (whistleblowers) who sought to thwart, hinder or stop the illicit activity carried out by the Diocese of Buffalo, and its employees and priests.”

Federal racketeering laws, called RICO statutes, have been used in lawsuits against dioceses previously. In 1993, a New Jersey lawyer won a seven-figure settlement in a RICO-based lawsuit against the Diocese of Camden under the RICO act. Other lawyers followed, and RICO provisions have become used, to varying degrees of success, in lawsuits filed against other dioceses.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Buffalo told CNA Thursday that “The Diocese has received a document from the media which is filled with procedural deficiencies and irresponsible claims against parties, some unnamed, who have no connection to the Child Victims Act.  If the claim is pursued, the Diocese and all related entities will respond appropriately.”

CNA verified that the lawsuit was filed Aug. 14 with the Erie County Clerk of Courts.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Northeast Province of the Jesuits said that it was “fully cooperating with all civil authorities and legal counsel on all matters regarding allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

“Any instance of abuse by a religious person is a profound violation of trust that causes pain and damage for the abused and their families, local communities and the Church at large. The Jesuits stand by all victims and encourage them to come forward to report any instance of abuse in their efforts to seek justice and healing.”

Legal experts have discussed in the last year, since the sexual abuse scandal stemming from allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick began, whether federal RICO statutes could be used to bring criminal charges against diocesan leaders, or to allege a criminal network of conspiracy involving mutliple dioceses.

Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania reportedly considered the possibility of bringing a RICO case against dioceses in that state after the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report last August, but no such charges have been filed.

Malone has come under fire in the last year, after his former secretary alleged in August 2018 that the bishop had omitted the names of some priests accused of abuse or misconduct from a list the diocese released last March.

The bishop has faced persistent calls for his resignation.

In April, Malone issued a statement defending himself against allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups.

The bishop said that he had not been part of any cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, and that he intended to be more transparent about clerical sexual abuse and its financial impact on his diocese.

Acknowledging that he had made mistakes, especially with his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors, the bishop offered an apology.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said April 11.

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse.”

This story was updated after publication with comment from the Diocese of Buffalo.

South Carolina bishop named in New York abuse lawsuit

Charleston, S.C., Aug 15, 2019 / 07:38 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, SC, has been named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed in New York. The accusations contained in the suit concern the bishop’s time as a pastor in the Diocese of Rockville Centre forty years ago.

The suit was filed after new legislation in New York came into force Wednesday, adjusting the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and filing civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions.

According to a report carried by the Charleston Post and Courier, the suit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a young man over a period of years while he was serving as pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Amityville.

In a statement released by the diocese to local media, Guglielmone denied all the accusations and said that he was looking forward to establishing his innocence.

“I offer my prayers daily for those whose lives have been hurt or devastated by the actions of a member of the clergy or by any other persons, especially all abused children and other vulnerable persons,” Guglielmone said.

“It is particularly tragic when the abuse is at the hands of a priest in whom their spiritual care and well-being has been entrusted.”

According to the Charleston diocese, when first made, the accusation was initially determined not to be credible though civil law enforcement was notified of the claims. Following the re-presentation of the allegation, the Vatican was informed and had initiated a full investigation, with which Guglielmone is said to be “cooperating fully.”

It is not clear when the allegations were first made, and the diocese has not confirmed who is conducting the investigation.

The lawsuit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a boy for several years, beginning in 1978, when the boy was eight years old. The suit, filed by the now adult man, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for “catastrophic and lifelong injuries.”

Guglielmone has served as Bishop of Charleston since his installation in March, 2009. Prior to that, he was assigned as rector of the cathedral in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

 

Following recent clerical sexual abuse scandals throughout the Church in the United States, Guglielmone released a list of 42 clerics “credibly accused” of sexual abuse over a period of decades. The diocese also said the bishop had held several “town hall” style meetings to meet with members of the faithful to hear their concerns and work towards healing.

Both the vicars general of the Diocese of Charleston released a statement of support for the bishop, calling him “a trusted leader of our diocese for more than ten years.”

Msgr. Richard Harris and Msgr. Anthony Droze both said that they had “utmost faith in [Guglielmone’s] truthfulness and in his innocence.”

The suit was filed after the passage of the Child Victims Act by the New York state government in January of this year.

The legislation opened a one-year window allowing adults in the state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers. The window opened six months after the passage of the law, coming into force on Wednesday, August 14.

Those who were sexually abused now have a one-year break in the state’s statute of limitations to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions where the abuse took place.

Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.

The Catholic dioceses of the state, Boy Scouts of America, and the state’s public schools have all said they are preparing for a potentially large number of abuse survivors to file lawsuits.