Archive for Sunday, August 29, 2010

Church fails to verify priest’s status

August 29, 2010


The Abuse Puzzle

Open and transparent. That’s the wording of reforms within the Catholic Church promoting openness with the public about cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy. But a two-year Journal-World and 6News investigation into the Kansas Catholic Church shows that church officials continue to keep the public in the dark about some cases of abuse.

New statements from Catholic Church officials fail to verify the status of a former Kansas priest who was “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.

Orestes Huerta, a Catholic priest who served temporarily in the Dodge City diocese, was named by church officials last May as one of three priests who had worked in the diocese and had “credible” allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them.

In July, a Journal-World article revealed that when Huerta left the United States, he returned to the Phillipines, where he remains in active ministry with the Diocese of Boac.

On Tuesday, an article by the Catholic News Service reported that the bishop of Boac said he would not investigate sexual abuse allegations made against Huerta “based on hazy and unverified reports from the Internet.”

In a phone interview, Reynaldo Evangelista, bishop of Boac diocese, told the Journal-World that Huerta did not have a pastoral assignment, but resided at a diocesan pastoral center and continues to perform Mass. However, Evangelista would not comment on allegations of sexual abuse against Huerta and would not say whether Huerta is prohibited from contact with children.

Huerta’s case, detailed as part of a follow-up to a Journal-World feature in June on sexual abuse in the Kansas Catholic Church, highlights a loophole in reforms within the church designed to address sexual abuse, said Teresa Kettelkamp, director of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Kettelkamp’s organization created the current reforms in the church following the national sexual abuse scandal in 2002.

In the U.S., if allegations of sexual abuse committed by a priest are substantiated by an independent review board, that priest is removed from ministry. That does not pertain to dioceses in other countries, Kettelkamp said.

“They flee. ... They run back,” said Kettelkamp of priests who leave the U.S. after sexual abuse allegations surface.

That situation could place more children in danger, she said. “If (a priest) does have a pedophiliac mindset, he’s not going to stop,” she said. “That’s what predators do.”


parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if there is a Catholic Church near Ground Zero?

christy kennedy 7 years, 10 months ago

Good point, parrothead.

And, please pardon me, but I've been around and around on this one to no avail with some folks for a while now. So for those of you who think parrothead's comment is a condemnation of the Catholic Church and Catholics everywhere, it's not. The point is that those who condemn ALL Muslims because of the violence caused by Muslim extremists and fanatics generally do not condemn ALL Catholics because of pedafile priests and higher ups who protect them. Yes, you can go around and around about how the comparisons are not good or fair or equal. Point is, those who have committed crimes are criminals. Everyone else of that particular faith who has not committed any crime, is not.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

First of all, there is no comparison. Neither the "pedafile" [sic] nor the bishop was claiming their actions were done in God's name, through some divine edict or for some glorious reward in the afterlife.

As for the specifics here: "Credible allegations" are just that - allegations. Credible allegations are the same as when a grand jury or a judge at an arraignment decide there's enough to go forward with a trial - it is not a final verdict of "guilty". Credible allegations are the grounds for SRS (or DFS in Missouri) to open a case, to pursue an investigation, and possibly to place the children in state custody temporarily - they are not verified or substantiated claims or grounds for termination of parental rights.

When a police officer is involved in a shooting, it's standard practice to place them on administrative duties or leave while the event is investigated. That does not mean it was a 'bad shoot' or that the officer was guilty of anything. According to the story, the Phillipino bishop stated Fr. Huerta does "not have a pastoral assignment". Maybe he didn't want to specify whether the priest was allowed to be around children because he didn't want to give the priest-bashers more fuel for their torches, based on nothing more than allegations.

whats_going_on 7 years, 10 months ago

there is a basic correlation...both have certain members committing crimes. Whether or not they used the wording "for our God" or not, both of them have those bad apples, and its unfair to judge all Muslims when one doesn't judge all Catholics in the same way.

And in this case, whether or not the allegations are "credible..." the church should look into it. What's it going to hurt? Nothing. He might be cleared, and thats fine, GREAT actually, for the church and for non believers who are now weary about the organization. It would clear his name and prove that there are good priests among the perverts we've seen so much recently.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

"there is a basic correlation"

Correlation in and of itself is meaningless. It is merely two events taking place together. Perhaps you've heard another word for that: Coincidence. The difference lies in the reasons for the events. I'll bet I could find a number of factors that you have in common with those priests, wgo - should we look at that correlation as a meaningful comparison?

"It would clear his name and prove that there are good priests among the perverts we've seen so much recently. "

"So much", wgo? Really? How many Catholic priests are there? How many have molested children? What's the percentage? It must be quite high, what with all "the perverts we've seen so much recently".

I've seen many, many more stories about schoolteachers recently than priests, wgo. All those perverts we see so much lately ...

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

And here I thought you weren't reading my posts, eddie. It's heartwarming, really.

Are you a Muslim, eddie? Are you a schoolteacher? Are you gay? I seem to recall you defending members of all those groups. Oh, that's right, it's perfectly okay to defend the rights of a group in which you have no personal stake - as long as that group isn't Catholics, right, eddie-boy?

What a cretin.

Not that it's even the slightest bit any of your business, eddie, but when I feel the urge to attend a service on the weekend, I attend any number of different types, most of them Christian. Currently I occasionally visit a nearby Catholic church, a Baptist one that's a little closer, and a Methodist one that's a little farther. Hope that answered your question.

christy kennedy 7 years, 10 months ago

Did you miss this part?:

Yes, you can go around and around about how the comparisons are not good or fair or equal. Point is, those who have committed crimes are criminals. Everyone else of that particular faith who has not committed any crime, is not.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

No, I didn't miss that part. I said the comparison has no basis, period. You still haven't said one word regarding the fact that the Muslim extremists are acting (however misguided it may be) in the name of their religion when they commit those acts. The priests were not.

seriouscat 7 years, 10 months ago

Everyone is open to critisism and no one is above reproach.

What is it about the institution? What policies, doctrines and attitudes are present that are condusive to the undesired behavior? Catholic leaders have a responsility to their followers and to society to examine what it is that makes it so prevalent. If there is a pattern, then there is something more than individuals acting on their own impulses at play.

People inside and outside of all faiths should be free to take an unflinching look at the realities of said faith and openly state any misgivings that arise, without being condemend as bigoted against said religion.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

"Everyone is open to critisism and no one is above reproach. "

I completely agree. Everyone, however, is also entitled to the same consideration of 'innocent until proven guilty' and to not be labeled a pedophile or have their lives ruined based solely on allegations.

"What is it about the institution? What policies, doctrines and attitudes are present that are condusive to the undesired behavior?"

Are you serious? You really think this is a Catholic Church problem? Do a little Googling, and I think you'll find plenty of cases of abuse perpetrated by ministers of other churches, too. And, um, what about school teachers?

seriouscat 7 years, 10 months ago

You may have thought my response was to you, but I posted it before I saw yours and it was really a response to Ms. Kennedy.

Nonetheless, I think it's possible that it is a Catholic church problem; there is a pattern there. However I don't know enough about it to say either way.

All insitutions should be equally scutinized with the same ctiteria. No I take that back. As a matter of policy, schools funded by the public should be under even more intense scrutiny, and the patterns of abuse that are present need to be condemned even more loudly due to the fact that most people don't get much choice in whether their kids will be exposed to these institutions.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

I knew you were responding to ck.

I completely agree that all institutions should be open to scrutiny, but as I also said, they should also be entitled to the same presumption of innocence.

As for a pattern, is it so prevalent in the Catholic Church, or do we just hear about it more? How many times have you seen a story about, say, a teacher having sex with a student, and after the story breaks, suddenly there are four or five others who come forward? This is normal for trauma survivors - it's easier to deal with the shame and speak out when they realize they're not the only ones.

Overall, the number of boys who report being molested has skyrocketed over the past few decades, closing in on the number of girls - does that mean it's happening more often, or is it just reported more often?

seriouscat 7 years, 10 months ago

I certainly hope it's because it's reported more often! The cynical side of me says that it's both.

The only way we can discern if it's a "Catholic" problem is if we remove all the preconceptions and examine it objectively. Unfortunately, that's nearly impossible when so many are motivated by huge shoulder chips rather than a sincere desire for justice.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

It's a problem, period. Any organization or profession comprised of human beings is going to include members who have the same failings as the rest of humankind. Not all judges are fair, not all cops follow the law, not all doctors are healthy, and lord knows the teacher isn't always the smartest guy in the room. And guess what - not every clergyman is a moral person.

seriouscat 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure what your point is? People are fallible? yes

It's important to recognize though, that sometimes institutions are partially responsible for the actions of their members.

Is the oath of ceilbacy that Catholic priests must take something that can lead to a higher percentage of priests becoming sexual deviants? Many people speculate on this, and many others jump to the immediate conclusion that that must be it. I don't know either way.

Is the incident amongst priests actually higher than the incidence amongst people in the same kinds of roles and day to day interaction with children? Or is it just anti-Catholic sentiment that drives a perception that it is?

Again I don't know. But all are valid questions that can't really be answered with a shrug and a declaration that humanity sucks.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

You've answered "I don't know" to both of your own questions. Yet you think it's a problem deserving further investigation. Why?

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

No, I don't. Then again, I'm not the one saying "we" need to look deeper into the problem for patterns or whether there's something inherent in the organization or profession that leads to these transgressions.

The point you asked about before was that this happens in all walks of life. Sorry, that's the reality. How many other groups do you want to single out with a witch hunt? Suppose that I've noticed that most of the time I see a newspaper story about a shooting or violent assault the perpetrator seems to be a person of color. Should we investigate that, see if there's something inherent that makes people from that demographic more prone to violence?

I asked what the basis of your need to find out is. If it's to satisfy your curiosity, then by all means look into it - yourself. But if you say "we" should single out a group for additional scrutiny, there has to be a justification. And when you answer "I don't know" to your own questions, you don't have that justification. And it leads to abuses such I mentioned above.

seriouscat 7 years, 10 months ago

Anytime there is a pattern, good or bad, then we can try to identify why the pattern exists and then use that knowledge to for making sound decisions. So yes, if there'sa pattern of violence amongst a certain demographic then yes, we, as in members of the society, in which the group or institution exists can and in my opinion, should, try to objectively identify the factors so that we, as a society can change them where ever possible.

What other justification do I need than a desire to see change?

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

But the problem is you said yourself you don't know if there's a pattern.

And while I agree with your post in principle, I'd like to see how you make profiling politically acceptable.

BeeBee3 7 years, 10 months ago

Like THIS- didn't mean to post "LIKE" on the comment further down.

missunderestimate 7 years, 10 months ago

I can see the Philistines from my back yard.

janpat 7 years, 10 months ago

Huerta was in Garden City, KS at St. Mary from at least September, 1997 through July 2000 according to news articles about marriages, funerals, etc. performed by him. Deerfield, KS, Christ the King, is a mission of St. Mary where he also officiated. He was ordained in 1977 in another country evidently, and appears in the Official Catholic Directory for only 2 years, 1999 and 2000, showing him as a priest of the Dodge City diocese. The diocesan comment that he was in Dodge City for a short term isn't accurate. He was in Garden City for almost 3 years. The diocese needs to be more forthcoming.

Shaun Hittle 7 years, 10 months ago

janpat, Thanks for the extra information. We were only able to confirm very little information about when Huerta was in Dodge City. The diocese provided very little information on him.

Shaun Hittle LJW Reporter

JudyJones 7 years, 10 months ago

Often, when one victim of a predator discloses, others sit back and feel like the obligation to report is somehow lessened. But it's important for everyone with information about clergy sex crimes to come forward.

We urge anyone who was injured by this priest, Orestes Huerta, to call police officials, not church officials. Child sex crimes, however old, should be investigated by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511,

deec 7 years, 10 months ago

I know, its "only Wikipedia", but here's a comprehensive list of countries with scandals by country. There doesn't seem to be such a list for other religions.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Something else you can find in wiki - almost one-in-ten students in this country are molested by educators. (I'd bet the state-by-state list would be too long for wiki to publish.)

Do you think more than 10% of Catholics were molested by their priests, deec?

RogueThrill 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh you crazy Catholics! You went from killing Jews, Muslims and atheists to raping your own sects little boys! At least you decided that evolution was real and that heliocentrism might be valid (way after they were confirmed).

Good times.

deec 7 years, 10 months ago

Nope sorry, didn't find it. How about posting a link as I did? Also how many of those educators work in religious settings?

denak 7 years, 10 months ago

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh as much as I hate to interrupt the Catholic bashing, I failed to see where "the church" failed to verify the priest's status.

First of all, what "status" is one talking about??? That is never clearly stated in the article.

What the article does say is 1) Catholic Church officials identified him and found allegations against him credible. 2) That nature of his duties with the Archdiocese of Boac and 3) that there is a "loophole" in the guidelines.

As much as some people want to reflexively bash the Church, if one were to replace "the Church" with any other organization, say UDS497 or FBI or Girl Scouts of America or any other organization, most of you wouldn't say anything because your motive is not to actually bring justice to the victims or to advocate for greater transparency but to religion bash.

And if you pick this article apart, and take out the conspiracy angle, there is no story.

The Archdiocese of both Dodge City and Boac have commented on these allegations. The Archdiocese that Dodge City is in found them credible and the one in Boac did not. It is not the church's responsibility to try, convict and sentence the accused. It is the secular authorities job and if they haven't done it, if there has been no follow up, if there has been no investigation or trial or anything, what does that tell you???? It could tell you a great many things but what it doesn't mean is that this priest is guilty. And until he is convicted....and he can be convicted in absentia.... he has a right to employment. He has been put in an administrative position which is exactly what would happen to a teacher who has been accused. The school district would put him or her on paid leave or remove the teacher from the classroom and put them in an administrative position until the matter is resolved. If that teacher then absconded and went back to his or her native country or even went to another state and got a teaching position, it isn't indicative of a conspiracy . Moreover, the Archdiocese is not under any legal obligation to tell the press or any other person any personal or relevant information about the case. Again, until this person is brought to justice, he is still innocent until proven guilty and any lawyer worth his or her salt is going to tell the organization that employs a person accused of a similar crime to remain silent until the matter is taken care of.

This article is short on facts or in depth analysis. It is nothing more than speculation and witch hunting


deec 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't know a lot of teachers who could flee to another country to avoid investigation, nor is this an isolated case of an accused person being moved/allowed to move when under investigation.
And still waiting for the wiki link alluded to above.

Kookamooka 7 years, 10 months ago

Did you know Sam Brownback converted to Catholicism when he went to D.C. It was the priests in an organization known as Opus Dei who led him into the faith. Fact.

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