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Pennsylvania report details decades of alleged sexual abuse by priests

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Victims crying, comforting each other | Reuters

 

Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period and silenced victims through “the weaponization of faith” and a systematic cover-up campaign by their bishops, the state attorney general said on Tuesday (August 14).

An 884-page report made public by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro after a two-year investigation contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abused by clergymen. It was largely based on documents from secret archives kept by the dioceses, including handwritten confessions by priests, he said.

“It was child sexual abuse, including rape, committed by grown men – priests – against children,” Shapiro told a press conference.

The attorney general said it was the most comprehensive report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in American history, nearly two decades after an expose of widespread abuse and cover-up in Boston that rocked the Roman Catholic church.

Several of the dioceses issued statements apologizing to victims and saying they were taking steps to ensure any criminal behavior was stopped. “The grand jury has challenged us as a Catholic diocese to put victims first and to continue to improve ways to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Diocese said in a statement.

As accusers wept behind him, Shapiro described alleged abuse by priests in six of the state’s eight dioceses, including a group of Pittsburgh clergymen accused of ordering an altar boy to strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross while they photographed him.

“The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up,” Shapiro said, adding that church officials sought to keep abuse allegations quiet long enough so they could no longer be prosecuted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.

“Priests were raping little boys and girls,” Shapiro said. “They hid it all for decades.”

The report cited 301 priests, some of whom have died. Only two of the priests are still subject to prosecution. — Reuters

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Sexual harassment, abuse tied to real health effects

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, October 8th, 2018

A woman holds her head in a file photo. REUTERS/File

(Reuters Health) – Sexual harassment and sexual abuse occur frequently and can harm physical and mental health, according to two studies from the U.S. and Europe published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In one study, roughly 1 in 5 Pittsburgh-area women said they had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. These women were two to three times more likely to have high blood pressure, high triglycerides, poor sleep, depression or anxiety.

In the other study, 70 percent of male and female physicians in Berlin, Germany, said they had experienced sexual harassment or misconduct at work.

“Experiences of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, unfortunately, are not uncommon,” said Rebecca Thurston, director of the women’s behavioral health laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “And these experiences have implications for not only job performance and quality of life, but also for mental and physical health.”

Among the 304 women aged 40 to 60 who participated in Thurston’s study, 19 percent said they had been sexually harassed at work and 23 percent said they had been sexually assaulted.

These percentages are lower than what’s been reported nationally, possibly because some women in the study did not work outside the home, Thurston said. The women were originally recruited for a study of hot flashes and atherosclerosis.

Thurston’s team found that compared to women who had not been sexually harassed, women who had were 2.36 times more likely to have high blood pressure and 89 percent more likely to have poor sleep. In newer findings presented this week at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society in San Diego, Thurston and colleagues reported that the likelihood of having high triglycerides was three times higher in sexually harassed women.

Thurston suspects that being harassed kicks off changes in stress hormone levels, which ultimately impact blood pressure, triglycerides and sleep patterns.

Similar results were seen among women who said they’d been sexually assaulted. They were 2.86 times more likely to have clinical depression, 2.26 times more likely to have clinical anxiety and 2.15 times more likely to have poor sleep.

Dr. Mayumi Okuda, a psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, isn’t surprised by the findings. Research in children “shows that adverse childhood experiences are connected to so many things, such as high blood pressure, cancer, obesity,” said Okuda. “This shows that even adults will experience negative health consequences.”

The German survey of 737 physicians found 62 percent of men and 76 percent of women had experienced some sort of sexual harassment in the workplace. While the idea of men being harassed may be surprising, certain types of conversations can make men very uncomfortable, said senior researcher Dr. Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, a professor and chair of Gender in Primary and Transmural Care at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

For men, “the vulgar talk has to be specifically addressed towards you or an immediate bystander,” Oertelt-Prigione said in an email. “The question in the questionnaire explicitly addressed this directionality. We are not talking about somebody telling a general vulgar joke to a group of colleagues.”

Sexual harassment “is an issue for anyone in the workplace,” Oertelt-Prigione said. It flourishes in workplaces where there is a strong formal hierarchy, “where orders are generally given top-down with little opportunity for participation from employees,” Oertelt-Prigione explained.

Lori Post, who wasn’t involved in either study, suspects that if the questionnaire had been worded differently, Oertelt-Prigione’s study would have found an even higher prevalence of sexual harassment. “I believe the rate is closer to 100 percent,” said Post, who is director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The difference is in how often and how bad it is.”

Post also believes Thurston’s harassment numbers might have been higher if the Pittsburgh team had not excluded women with heart disease from the study, since heart disease could be correlated with harassment.

The solution to health problems related to harassment and abuse is to prevent these behaviors from happening in the first place, Okuda said. “There has to be a cultural shift away from condoning this kind of behavior.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2xYHM9Q and bit.ly/2y6KQA6 JAMA Internal Medicine, online October 3, 2018.

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Pope orders investigation of bishop as U.S. Church leaders meet on abuse crisis

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

 

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation of an American bishop accused of sexual misconduct with adults and accepted his resignation, the Vatican and U.S. Church officials said on Thursday (September 13).

The announcement was made as the pope was meeting U.S. Catholic Church leaders to discuss the fallout from a scandal involving a former American cardinal and demands from an archbishop that the pontiff to step down.

Reuters correspondent Philip Pullella said, “it seems that every day there is a new surprise.”

The bishop who resigned is Michael J. Bransfield, 75, of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. The Vatican said the pope had appointed Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to run the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.

The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors. Surveys show plummeting confidence in the Church in the United States, Chile, Australia, and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, as well as in other countries. — Reuters

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Man yells ‘Shame on you!’ as Cardinal Wuerl speaks about sex abuse scandal

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2018

 

Cardinald Donald Wuerl speaking about sex abuse scandal | REUTERS

A man attending a Catholic mass led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl on Sunday (September 2) yelled “Shame on you!” and walked out as the Church leader spoke about the sex abuse scandal and the need to be loyal to Pope Francis.

“I ask your prayers for me for forgiveness in any of my errors of judgment, for any of my inadequacies as well as for the grace to find with you ways of healing, ways of moving out of this darkness,” Wuerl told parishioners at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington.

Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period and silenced victims through “the weaponization of faith” and a systematic cover-up campaign by their bishops, the Pennsylvania state attorney general said in August.

Prior to his current role as archbishop of Washington, Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

A grand jury report on the abuse found that during that time, Wuerl had reassigned priests who had been accused of abusing children, rather than taking stronger action.

The grand jury report did not accuse Wuerl of personally sexually abusing children. — Reuters

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