Skip to comments.Priest's clearing 9in Albany Diocese) raises questions
Posted on 06/12/2004 6:10:11 AM PDT by sidewalk
Priest's clearing raises questions Albany -- Catholic diocese says cleric not guilty of child sexual abuse; parents claim weak investigation
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has once again cleared the Rev. Louis Douglas of allegations of child sexual abuse, church officials said Friday. The decision affecting the 74-year-old retired priest became public after victims of clergy abuse and other critics of the church's handling of accusations against priests showed a videotape of an interview with the investigator for the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.
The tape was of the March 31 meeting between Thomas Martin, a retired State Police investigator hired by the review board to probe allegations against priests, and two mothers whose children attended an Albany parish school in 1992 when Douglas was the pastor.
The women accused Douglas of abusing boys, though not their sons, at St. Catherine of Siena parish. Douglas then retired and moved to Delaware, where he worked part time for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington until allegations against him surfaced again in 2003.
During the hourlong meeting with Pamela Brace and Marcia Preusser of Albany, Martin told the mothers that he had never heard of Douglas before coming to interview them.
"I check out all the facts and report it to the panel," Martin said. "But nobody ever said anything to me about Father Douglas. That's why I didn't report anything."
Timothy Sawicki, 44, of Schenectady, who was at the news conference on Friday at which the tape was shown, had also previously accused Douglas of sexually abusing him in the 1970s. He named the priest in a 2003 lawsuit he filed in state Supreme Court in Schenectady. The suit was later dismissed.
Martin said he was busy investigating claims against at least 150 clerics. He said he had "priests coming out of his ears." He told the women he does not have access to the personnel files of priests and it is up to the bishop to make them available to the review board.
On Friday, Brace and Preusser said those files would show that they had met with Hubbard in 1993 and that he told them at the time that Douglas was being sent to New Mexico for treatment and wouldn't be allowed around children.
Clearly, the inquiry into Douglas was lacking, Preusser said, and "If I had to make a guess, I'd say it stopped after Tom Martin left us that night."
Diocese of Wilmington spokesman Bob Crebbs said he had received no word from Albany that Douglas has been cleared to return to ministry: "(His) status hasn't changed," Crebbs said Friday. "We're waiting for information before we make any determination."
Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb said allegations against Douglas were investigated three times: in 1992, when they were first raised by parents at the school; in 2002, after Hubbard returned from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference in Dallas which established a zero tolerance police on clergy abuse; and, again in March.
"All three investigations revealed the same conclusion that, based on the evidence, no sexual abuse happened," Goldfarb said.
Several weeks after the review panel cleared Douglas this year, Sawicki and the two mothers demanded a new investigation, saying they had never been contacted about their allegations against the priest.
Goldfarb said Brace and Preusser misinterpreted their meeting with Hubbard. Goldfarb also said Martin had no prior information about Douglas because he wasn't hired until the fall of 2002.
"Mr. Martin is an experienced investigator and we believe he does a thorough job," Goldfarb said.
John Aretakis, an attorney for people who have accused priests of sexual abuse, arranged Friday's news conference.
"The tape confirms what we've all known," Aretakis said. "Bishop Howard Hubbard has a hand-picked panel and he gives them only the information he wants them to have."
From the Troy (NY) Record
Victims criticize diocese Review Board
By: Robert Cristo , The Record 06/12/2004
SCHENECTADY - Alleged victims of clergy sex abuse and two past parishioners familiar with recently cleared Rev. Louis Douglas expressed outrage after they discovered the Albany Diocese has never opened files from its sole investigator of sex abuse cases.
The diocese announced the reinstatement of Douglas a few hours after a local sex abuse victims' attorney, John Aretakis, questioned some facts in the Albany Diocesan Review Board's investigation of Douglas and other priests Friday afternoon.
In March, Aretakis videotaped a meeting with Albany Diocese Misconduct Board Investigator Tom Martin, who admitted on tape that he goes no further than talking to the alleged victim and the accused priest before handing that information off to the panel.
"I report to the panel. ... I never see the files," said Martin, on videotape shown at a news conference Friday at a Schenectady law firm. "It has nothing to do with my investigation."
This means whatever positive or negative information the diocese might have on an accused priest never makes its way into the lead investigator's hands. Martin also said he never gets the chance to interview Bishop Howard Hubbard to find out what the diocese's leader might know about a particular priest's past.
"It's ridiculous. ... Hubbard masterminds a campaign of deception in creating the illusion of assisting victims," said Schenectady resident Tim Sawicki, who claims to have been abused by Douglas and three other priests in the 1970s.
When asked if the diocese furnishes the Review Board any past information on a priest that could assist in determining the merits of the case, Martin stated he was unsure, and that it had nothing to do with his investigation.
Diocese Spokesperson Kenneth Goldfarb said the Diocesan Review Board evaluates all of the information pertinent to each case and has at its disposal all of the "resources, information and authority necessary" to conduct a thorough investigation of each case.
However, Goldfarb would not elaborate on whether the Review Board receives any information from the diocese or the bishop on cases it oversees.
Goldfarb also blamed Aretakis for "deliberately obstructing" Review Board investigations by "refusing" to allow many of his clients to be interviewed by Martin in a timely manner.
"Mr. Aretakis' pattern is to make highly publicized allegations and then seek to avoid any rigorous, independent examination of those allegations ...," said Goldfarb.
Alleged clergy sex abuse victims and parishioners with ties to Douglas, who sat in on the videotaped meeting, said they were shocked and appalled by the Martin's statements.
"I'm astounded that you are being required to work in the dark," said Albany resident Marsha Preusser to Martin during the taped discussion.
Preusser was one of two local women who pressured the diocese to re-open the investigation of retired St. Catherine of Siena Pastor Douglas three months ago.
That was only three weeks after Douglas was cleared of all sexual abuse charges stemming from a 1969 case, in which he allegedly had two boys disrobe and masturbate in front of him.
Preusser claims to have had a meeting with Hubbard in 1993, in which the bishop "matter-of-factly" told them about the incident, but claimed it was not sexual.
Douglas left St. Catherine's in 1993, which was one year after the diocese launched an investigation into questions surrounding his alleged sexual past with young boys.
According to Preusser, Douglas told parishioners he was taking an "extended vacation," but never addressed the fact that he was under investigation.
Preusser claims that when she found out "the real reason" Douglas was leaving, she went to the bishop and demanded that he tell everyone what was going on.
She said Hubbard refused to oblige that request but told both her and fellow past parishioner Trisha Brace that Douglas was being sent to the now-defunct Servants of Paraclete treatment facility for pedophilia in New Mexico.
Preusser claims Hubbard also said that Douglas would never be allowed around children again.
In past Record reports, Goldfarb admitted the meeting between the women and Hubbard did occur but said their description of what transpired was untrue.
Goldfarb also would not verify whether Douglas was ever sent to New Mexico for treatment.
Two Diocesan Review Board investigations (1992 and 2002) found no proof of sexual abuse allegations against Douglas, but there still remains speculation on the appropriateness of some of his actions.
During the March discussion with Martin, a former state trooper who was hired by the diocese in 2002, it was also found that he never heard Douglas's name mentioned before, according to the taped interview.
Later that day while Preusser watched the local news in her home, she found out Douglas had been cleared.
"I'm appalled. ... To exonerate someone like that is sickening," said Preusser. "I hold the bishop responsible because he's the one standing next to the door and holding it closed so no-one can see what's inside."
Before the third investigation, Douglas was a part-time minister with the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., where he was suspended.
There was no word from Wilmington officials on Douglas' current status within that diocese.
A related story from the March 18, 2004 Troy Times-Record
Hubbard accused of cover-up
By: Robert Cristo , The Record 03/18/2004
Just weeks after retired St. Catherine of Siena pastor Rev. Louis Douglas was cleared of sexual abuse charges, two outraged women with past ties to the Albany parish have alleged that Bishop Howard Hubbard admitted to them that Douglas watched two boys perform an indecent act in front of him in the 1960s.
Albany residents Marsha Preusser and Trisha Brace went public Wednesday with details of a meeting they had with Hubbard in 1993 about Douglas, who was recently cleared by the Albany Diocesan Review Board of all sexual abuse allegations with minors.
Both women claim Hubbard told them about an incident that occurred in the 1960s in which Douglas allegedly had two children undress and masturbate in front of him, but did not touch them.
The women had past ties to St. Catherine of Siena School and parish, but eventually pulled their children out and left the parish because of how the diocese handled the Douglas investigation in the 1990s. The women recently contacted local attorney John Aretakis to get their side of the story to the public.
The women also say Hubbard, who became bishop in the mid-'70s, "explained away" the incident by allegedly stating that Douglas did it to make the children feel more comfortable with their sexuality.
"I was appalled, and said to the bishop, 'since when is that an appropriate method of teaching?'" said Preusser, 51, a local real estate dealer. "Why do we let these priests get free passes at the victim's expense?"
The early '90s meeting with Hubbard was prompted by Douglas' sudden departure from St. Catherine in 1993, one year after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany launched an investigation into questions surrounding his alleged sexual past with young boys.
Preusser said Douglas told parishioners he was taking an "extended vacation," but never addressed the fact that he was under investigation for past sexual misconduct charges. Those charges have since beenfound baseless by the diocese.
"When we found out the true reason, we went to the bishop and told him for the sake of the children, everyone should have the right to know what's going on," said Preusser. "The bishop refused to do it. ... He said if any victims come forward we'll deal with it, but we're not going to make an announcement."
The women also said Hubbard told them Douglas was being sent to the now defunct Servants of Paraclete treatment facility for pedophilia in Mexico, and that he would never again be allowed around children.
"He went away under the false pretense of a health issue, but he was actually sent to a treatment facility and was supposed to never be placed back with children when he returned," said Brace, 48.
"Now, we find out he's in ministry part-time in Delaware, and that raised our concerns about children there."
Diocese spokesperson Ken Goldfarb admitted the meeting between the women and Hubbard did occur, but said their description of what happened was not accurate.
According to Goldfarb, Hubbard discussed what he called the "inaccurate rumors" that were spreading about the 1960s incident, but never told them that Douglas had the two boys disrobe in his presence.
Goldfarb further stated that if what the women were saying was true, it would have been considered sexual abuse.
"Bishop Hubbard did not make the statement attributed to him today," said a diocese release."
Goldfarb declined to say specifically what transpired in the "rumored" incident, but he did say it was investigated and "no sexual abuse took place."
"I'm not going into details of what happened," said Goldfarb.
Goldfarb also declined to answer questions about whether Douglas was ever sent to [New] Mexico for psychological treatment related to pedophilia.
Two Diocesan Review Board investigations (1992 and 2002) found no proof of sexual abuse against Douglas.
However, the diocese did provide financial assistance and counseling to the families who lodged complaints.
Even though Douglas was cleared by the Albany Diocese, he continues to be suspended from his part-time ministry by the Diocese of Wilmington.
The women who came forward Wednesday are also asking the Albany Diocese Sexual Misconduct Panel to both interview them and re-open the investigation into Douglas.
Aretakis, the attorney the women approached to assist, represents about 85 clients who claim to have been abused by a member of the clergy.
Douglas and Rev. Donald Ophals, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Troy, were each cleared of any sexual abuse allegations almost two weeks ago.
At that time, Hubbard also removed Rev. Robert Shinos, pastor of the St. Anthony-St. Joseph parish in Herkimer, for sexual abuse charges stemming from more than 30 years ago.
It is clear to me Albany's Sexual Misconduct Review Board is a gauntlet Hubbard put down to deflect heat.
As it stands, Whitewash's bill is approx $1.2 million.
For me, this is now a moot point. I spent the better part of the past 3 days helping organize the parish 'garage sale'. It was a time for 'community spirit', commraderie, laughter and the simple joys we once enjoyed at the parish level.
In fact, today our pastor told me that he still had to 'visit' my home. My jaw dropped! 'Visit my home'? He visits the homes of each parishioner on an annual basis, to bless the home and familiarize himself with that family's needs. I suggested that once we agree on a day for his visit, he should definitely 'bless my home' and 'exorcise' my daughter's bedroom. Oh how we laughed!
Can you imagine, in this day and age, a priest who personally calls on parishioners for the express purpose of blessing their homes! Remember, too, that in the Eastern Rites, ONLY the priest may administer communion. Today, after our Divine Liturgy, he left us to go on 'communion' call to the sick parishioners.
How do I count my blessings!!!!??? The Lebanese men are very much like the Italians, in that they are stubborn and thick headed. However, these priests work overtime, bringing the 'good news' and the 'Eucharist' to the home bound. There are NO EEMs in the Maronite Rite.
at my parish the priest visits homes too! it is really nice of him.
In addition to serving at St. Peter's and St. Paul's, McNerney has served at: Our Lady of the Assumption in Latham, Pyramid Lake Camp in Paradox, St. Mary's in Ballston Spa, Saratoga Catholic Central High School, Crosier Seminary in Minnesota and St. Patrick's Church in Catskill.
From a previous story about Fr. Minkler's investigation of the Albany Diocese:
The letter provided detailed accusations concerning Hubbards deconstruction of the Church in Albany, as well as the alleged homosexual proclivities of Hubbard, some of his closest aides in the chancery, and other priests. As examples of these accusations, the letter mentioned the artificially inseminated lesbian who was teaching moral theology at the diocesan theologate, (co-run by the Diocese of Rochester), St. Bernards; the ongoing clergy formation programs run by Clarks and Hubbards fellow North American College graduate Fr. Tom Powers, which brought in a succession of speakers denying Catholic teaching on such vital issues as the Real Presence, the ontological understanding of the priesthood; how Catholic social service agencies and even parish priests send pregnant women to Planned Parenthood clinics for abortions; the large numbers of Catholics going over to a "Lefebvre group" and Protestant sects; the New Age proselytization at the diocesan camp and retreat center at Pyramid Lake; liturgical abuses and Hubbards own sloppy way of celebrating
BTW - Our Lady of the Assumption used to be my parish. One of Hubbard's "right hand men" (no pun intended) now runs it.
[H]he allegedly had two boys disrobe and masturbate in front of him.... [T]he bishop "matter-of-factly" told them about the incident, but claimed it was not sexual.No, of course not. It was merely genital solicitude ...
Thanks, I was waiting for you to weigh in!