Massive Pennsylvania Cover-Up • Driscoll Sued for Racketeering • ‘Seal of Confession’ Win: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Massive Pennsylvania Cover-Up • Driscoll Sued for Racketeering • ‘Seal of Confession’ Win: News Roundup

Over 50 Catholic Leaders Involved in Pennsylvania Diocese Abuse and Cover-Up. “Allegations of rape, abuse and cover-ups have trickled out of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown for decades. On [March 1], state Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that a statewide investigating grand jury has determined that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of 40 years. At least 50 priests or religious leaders had been involved in sexual abuses, she said. Evidence and testimony gathered by the grand jury revealed a history of diocese superiors taking action to conceal the child abuse as part of an effort to protect the institution's image” (“’Predator priests’: 50-plus Altoona-Johnstown Catholic leaders involved in widespread sexual abuse,”

The Church Law & Tax guide for sexual abuse prevention policies can help your church be prepared for this serious risk before an incident occurs.

‘Seal of Confessional’ Trumps Abuse Reporting in Louisiana. “A Louisiana judge has ruled that a state law requiring clergy to report child abuse or other crimes learned in the confessional is unconstitutional because it infringes on religious liberty. At issue is a long-running case involving Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old who claims that when she was 14 she told the Rev. Jeff Bayhi, a Catholic priest, during confession that a church member was abusing her. Mayeaux claims Bayhi told her to ‘sweep it under the rug.’ In his testimony, Bayhi told state District Judge Mike Caldwell that he had no choice but to keep Mayeaux’s allegations private because of the inviolability of the seal of the confessional. Caldwell agreed and ruled Friday (February 26) in favor of Bayhi” (“Catholic ‘seal of confessional’ upheld as religious liberty issue,” Religion News Service).

Know the abuse reporting laws in your state with 2015 Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Churches.

Mars Hill’s Mark Driscoll and Executive Elder Sued for Racketeering. “The pastor whose Seattle megachurch imploded two years ago is now accused of raising funds for missionaries and spending it on self-promotion. Four former members of the now-defunct Mars Hill Church are suing its controversial former pastor Mark Driscoll, accusing him of ‘a continuing pattern of racketeering activity.’ The 42-page civil racketeering lawsuit, posted in its entirety on the Daily Beast, was filed Monday (Feb. 29) by Brian Jacobsen, Connie Jacobsen, Ryan Kildea and Arica Kildea in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The lawsuit was filed as part of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, created to prosecute the Mafia and criminal organizations. Driscoll recently announced he is starting a new church in Phoenix, Arizona. The suit alleges Driscoll and Mars Hill executive elder John Sutton Turner solicited donations through the mail and [the] Internet, then used that money for other purposes” (“Mark Driscoll sued for misusing Mars Hill Church tithes,” Religion News Service).

Learn how church leaders can best communicate in a crisis with our downloadable resource.

Vatican Cardinal Says Abuse Scandal Due to ‘Personal Faults,’ Not Structural Ones. “One of Pope Francis’s most senior advisers said that the Catholic Church has made ‘enormous mistakes’ in its handling of child sex abuse by clergy but suggested the faults were not structural. Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief, also denied he knew about abuse perpetrated by pedophile priests in the Australian town of Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s during testimony on [February 29] to a Canberra-commissioned inquiry, which has previously heard allegations he attempted ‘to silence’ a victim. The cardinal denies wrongdoing. ‘The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down,’ said Cardinal Pell. ‘I think the faults overwhelmingly have been more personal faults, personal failures rather than structures’” (“Australia’s Cardinal George Pell testifies to child sex abuse inquiry,” Financial Times).

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