Three accused Catholic priests connected to SWFL

Members of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Naples are reacting to information about a priest who once pastored there.

That priest is among the hundreds accused of disturbing acts against children in Pennsylvania.

According to grand jury documents released in Pennsylvania Tuesday, Father Robert Brague was appointed parochial vicar at Saint Ann’s back in 1990, but this came after initial allegations were made in Pennsylvania.

Letters sent to a bishop said that the then 46-year-old Brague impregnated a 17-year-old girl.

The bishop responded to the letter written by the victim’s sister saying: “Father Brague and your sister have a long, difficult road ahead. What has happened is their responsibility and certainly, father Brague will take care of his obligations.”

According to the report, he was moved there in the early 90’s by the church. Father Brague died in 1997.

We talked to members of Saint Ann’s parish Wednesday who say they hope this new
attention will move the healing process forward.

Loretta Huenefeld is a churchgoer for 27 years and “It’s very disturbing and hopefully now that it’s been brought to light, even though it’s so many years ago, this will never happen again.”

Wednesday is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church.

We reached out to the Diocese of Venice for comment on Father Brague but their office is closed.

Another one of those men is Father Sean Kerins.

Reports state he sent inappropriate text messages to a student at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage Pennsylvania.

He’s currently listed as ‘under law enforcement investigation’ and living in Naples.

Tim Lennon, with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) knows first hand how difficult it is for children to cope with abuse. He said, “It’s difficult to come forward. The vast majority of child sex abuse never come forward.”

LINKSurvivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Lennon recollected the moment of his realization, “I stepped forward… I buried my memories for 30 years. It was only ’til someone else did a public event I said oh my God, I was abused as well.”

He says the more people come forward, the more it will encourage others to do so, and no parishioner should turn a blind eye to it.

The third accused priest lives in Fort Myers. He’s 88-year-old Thomas O’Donnell.

Parents in Pennsylvania say he forced their kids to shower in front of him naked and weigh themselves.

That happened back in the late 80’s.

Parents also reportedO’Donnell making children sleep next to him and speaking to them aboutinappropriatee sexual things.

Read the full grand jury indictment below. The report on Robert Brague starts on page 812.

Interim Redacted Report and Responses by timothydrichardson on Scribd

National Report: Priests molested 1,000 children in Pennsylvania report says

A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while he was visiting her in the hospital after she’d had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water. One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who sexually abused him.

Those children are among the victims of roughly 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania who molested more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — since the 1940s, according to a sweeping state grand jury report released Tuesday that accused senior church officials, including a man who is now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., of systematically covering up complaints.

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward, the grand jury said.

While the grand jury said dioceses have established internal processes and seem to refer complaints to law enforcement more promptly, it suggested that important changes are lacking.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote in the roughly 900-page report. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all.”

Top church officials have mostly been protected and many, including some named in the report, have been promoted, the grand jury said, concluding that “it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal.”

In nearly every case, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead. Many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave. Authorities charged just two, including a priest who has since pleaded guilty.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the investigation is ongoing.

The investigation of six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses— Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — is the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state, according to victim advocates. The dioceses represent about 1.7 million Catholics.

Until now, there have been just nine investigations by a prosecutor or grand jury of a Catholic diocese or archdiocese in the United States, according to the Massachusetts-based research and advocacy organization,

The Philadelphia archdiocese and the Johnstown-Altoona diocese were not included in the investigation because they have been the subject of three previous scathing grand jury investigations.

The grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed more than a half-million pages of internal diocesan documents, including reports by bishops to Vatican officials disclosing the details of abusive priests that they had not made public or reported to law enforcement.

The grand jury concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. They failed to report accused clergy to police, used confidentiality agreements to silence victims and sent abusive priests to so-called “treatment facilities,” which “laundered” the priests and “permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry,” the report said.

The conspiracy of silence extended beyond church grounds: police or prosecutors sometimes did not investigate allegations out of deference to church officials or brushed off complaints as outside the statute of limitations, the grand jury said.

Diocese leaders responded Tuesday by expressing sorrow for the victims, stressing how they’ve changed and unveiling, for the first time, a list of priests accused of some sort of sexual misconduct.

James VanSickle of Pittsburgh, who testified he was sexually attacked in 1981 by a priest in the Erie Diocese, called the report’s release “a major victory to get our voice out there, to get our stories told.”

The report is still the subject of an ongoing legal battle, with redactions shielding the identities of some current and former clergy named in the report while the state Supreme Court weighs their arguments that its wrongful accusations against them violates their constitutional rights. It also is expected to spark another fight by victim advocates to win changes in state law that lawmakers have resisted.

Its findings echoed many earlier church investigations around the country, describing widespread sexual abuse and church officials’ concealment of it. U.S. bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church.

The report comes at a time of fresh scandal at the highest levels of the U.S. Catholic Church. Pope Francis last month stripped 88-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of his title amid allegations that McCarrick had for years sexually abused boys and committed sexual misconduct with adult seminarians.

One senior American church official named in the grand jury report is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who leads the Washington archdiocese, for allegedly helping to protect abusive priests when he was Pittsburgh’s bishop. Wuerl, who was bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 to 2006, disputed the allegations.

Terry McKiernan of said the report did a good job of highlighting the two crimes of church sex abuse scandals: the abuse of a child and the cover up by church officials that allows the abuse to continue.

“One thing this is going to do is put pressure on prosecutors elsewhere to take a look at what’s going on in their neck of the woods,” McKiernan said.

Reporter:Olivia Mancino
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