Katia Birge's case of alleged rape by a Catholic lay minister: Does it signal new kind of abuse?

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archbishop charles chaput.JPG
Chaput.
Update below: SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is criticizing Catholic officials in Denver, including Archbishop Charles Chaput, for their handling of the Katia Birge case.

Birge claims to have been raped by a Denver lay minister in 2008, when she was 25 years old.

Although Birge's case was dismissed in court, SNAP says it's not because she's lying. Instead, the group points to a story recently published in Religion Dispatches magazine that suggests it's because she's an adult.

In "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church: When Victims are Adults," journalist Kathryn Joyce posits that "demographic shifts and a dwindling priesthood may be creating a new set of scenarios for abuse."

After a decade of explosive sex abuse scandals, most prominently involving minor children, Birge's story doesn't fit the recognized narrative. She was already an adult when it happened, and her alleged attacker is not an ordained member of the clergy.

Both facts point to under-recognized trends in the church that touch on its continuing problem with sex abuse: that adults are often its victims, if rarely its public face, and that shifting staffing decisions in a Catholic church becoming more Hispanic have serious implications for how the church handles abuse.

Birge's case involves a lay minister named Juan Carlos Hernandez, who ran a Hispanic young adult church group called Christo Y Yo. According to Joyce's story, Birge became close to Hernandez, who was ten years older. One night, he drove her to a dark part of town, where she says he raped her in the front seat. He then told her she was a whore.

Birge eventually told her family. They informed the parish priest, who directed them to speak with the archdiocese. Birge says church leaders weren't very responsive, telling her they might have done something if she'd been a child.

Birge brought a lawsuit against Hernandez and the archdiocese, which was dismissed late last year. In her story, Joyce says the church implied in court that what happened between Birge and Hernandez was "just a date gone wrong."

Asked for comment today, archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette De Melo had this to say:

The District Court for the City and County of Denver twice reviewed the complaint against the Archdiocese of Denver regarding Ms. Birge and Mr. Hernandez. The judge dismissed the case against the Archdiocese, indicating that there are no facts in the complaint that show negligence on the part of the Archdiocese. The court awarded the Archdiocese tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs against Ms. Birge. The Archdiocese chose not to collect the awarded fees.

This week, SNAP criticized the archdiocese's stance. In a statement, the group said:

Our hearts ache for this devout wounded woman who has been repeatedly betrayed by Denver's Catholic officials. We applaud her courage in coming forward, trying to prosecute and pushing Colorado's Catholic hierarchy to expose a predator and protect others. At the same time, however, we aren't surprised she suffered such hostility from men who profess to represent Christ.

Update, 2:52 p.m. February 4: Attorney Tom Birge, Katia's father, disputes the statement above from the Archdiocese of Denver and clarifies other points in the following post: "Katia Birge's case of alleged rape by a Catholic lay minister scheduled to go to trial in March."

More from our Politics archive: "Archbishop Charles Chaput works both sides of political fence."

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Friend of Katia
Friend of Katia

Katia has been brave and determined throughout this horrible situation. She has voiced her horrible experience and stood strong while she has been threatened and berated by her attacker and the church. Her continued strength and actions to prevent others from the unspeakable trauma she experienced have been ignored by the church. It seems the church views it more appropriate to support and condone the actions of abusive predators than to act upon principles of basic right and wrong. Why does this guy still hold a position where he can repeat his crimes?

Gerardo
Gerardo

I feel like organizations that depend on volunteers should be more careful regarding who they allow to help them and it is more important when there are kids or young adults involve. In case the of Juan Carlos Hernandez is obvious that Catholic Church didn't do any background checking on him.

What is unacceptable is that Juan Carlos still is in charge of a group of young adults. I believe that the Church should take a more serious and responsible actions and regardless what the court concludes they shouldn't allow Mr Hernandez to continue.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Gerardo, you said "In case the of Juan Carlos Hernandez is obvious that Catholic Church didn't do any background checking on him." How can you say that? Did he have a history we are not being told of? They very well MAY have done a background check and nothing came up. This is the presumption of guilt I'm talking about.

Lafoela
Lafoela

from the original article... "In a later meeting between Birge, her mother, and Msgr. Thomas Fryar, who oversees both the Office for Hispanic Ministry and all sex abuse cases in the Denver Archdiocese, Birge says Fryar told her the church had not done a background check on Hernandez, and they do not do background checks on any of their volunteers. "

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Alright, I’m going to take this step by step1)I don’t need to imagine what it would be like to be in Katia’s shoes, because I HAVE been in Katia’s shoes. Except I wasn’t an adult, I was an 11-year-old child. It didn’t end until I was 16 and the perpetrator moved away.2)I have not only gone through what has been described above (both from the article and the posts of her friends) but I lost my family as well (who defended the slimebag and said “He could never do something like that”)3)The perpetrator was brought up on accusations years later by a victim in a new case but even with witness testimony, the lawsuit was dropped.4)I never went to the press because I realized I had no evidence and the molester was a well-liked guy ‘in good standing.’ It would’ve been he said/he said.5)I never blamed the Church because although there was a connection, it wasn’t the Church that assaulted me, it was this individual.That being said, my concerns have been about 2 things I have mentioned before. 1)False accusations motivated by greed, notoriety, revenge, and hatred for the Church.2)The practice of assuming someone is guilty BASED UPON A CONNECTION TO THE CHURCH. The very title of this article (Does it signal a new type of abuse?) directly implies that abuse is synonymous with the Catholic Church. This was why I started my posts asking if any other report of molestation mentioned the perpetrator’s employer.Some of you ran with the idea that I was defending Hernandez in a manner saying he didn’t do it. I never said that, nor did I feel it. My statements were to the effect of presumption of guilt, and finding someone guilty without due process.I said I was frustrated and angry that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. The only place that evidence could have come from was Katia. I apologize for combining those two statements and (I guess) making it sound as if I were somehow blaming her for the attack.As for the need for the Church to do a background check, my only question was “do we know they DIDN’T do a background check” and “was there anything in this guy’s background that would have raised a red flag if they HAD done one?” That was it! I never stated that Katia ‘deserved’ what happened, or that I felt she, personally, was lying. I said I was tired of seeing people and organizations like SNAP going after the Church with little or no evidence and expecting us to find the Church guilty without evidence.Does that clear anything up?

Edit - just one last thing. If the Catholic Church had fired someone who had done nothing wrong, and was the victim of a jilted lover's lying or some such thing (I am NOT saying this is what Katia is doing!), it would be guilty of punishing someone who had done nothing wrong based upon accusation alone, without due process, and without evidence. That would be wrong. The Church can only act upon the evidence it sees, and if the courts could find no evidence, how can we expect the Church to find any differently?

Ginger
Ginger

I just realized an error in the first paragraph of my reply. You DO know that there were more victims after you, and the case was dismissed on lack of evidence. What if a whole string of victims had come forward? Surely you couldn't have been the only one. Hernandez had more victims who, like you, chose not to come forward. If they come forward now there is a chance of building more evidence. Please encourage them to seek justice rather than allowing this to continue.

Ginger
Ginger

Charles,

I would hope that you are beginning to see why Katia should be commended for bringing this case to the attention of Church leaders and others. You were abused and chose not to report. Katia was abused and had the courage to come forward, even though it took her some time to gather said courage. Your decision not to report was your own, and as an 11 year old child, I can fully understand why. However, do you ever wonder what would have happened had a victim before you reported abuse? Do you ever wonder if there were more victims after you? Do you question whether the person who abused you was ever reported, and whether the Church simply moved that person to a different congregation? Katia's mission through this ordeal has been to prevent it from happening again. And like it or not, abuses occur more frequently by persons in a position of authority and trust who are backed by an institution that is supposed to be safe. So maybe there are people who are assuming Hernandez's guilt based on his association with such an organization, and I don't specifically mean the Catholic Church. Had it been a school, hospital, or other social service or religious institution, people would likely come to the same conclusion, based not on their personal feelings toward said institution, but on historical precedent.

I still believe that the Church is responsible for the way in which this case was handled. To echo Lafoela's comparison of a school employee: say, for example, that a student was abused by a teacher/staff member/volunteer and chose to report it to a principal or other administrator. Would you expect for the teacher/staff member/volunteer to be placed on administrative leave and away from students until the matter was resolved, one way or another? Would you expect that an administrator who did nothing would be subject to legal action? What about an administrator who simply moved the teacher/staff member/volunteer to another campus? What about the administrator who hired an employee despite restraining orders filed against them, or who saw the employee hired in another district but didn't say anything? One again, I fail to see how this situation is any different just because it's a Church.

On the point of the protective orders, I would like to point out that Katia's protection orders were not granted easily. There was a hearing for each one, which Mr. Hernandez contested. Katia and Mr. Hernandez both testified before a judge, and each time, Katia had to give her testimony despite a very real negative physical reaction to seeing Mr. Hernandez and hearing his voice. Obviously, a judge in a court of law saw evidence that Katia legitimately fears for her safety in Hernandez's presence. For the Church to basically ignore such legal evidence is negligent.

Charles, I feel that you have taken this article and looked at it with a very narrow lens. You have taken it as simply an attack against the Catholic Church and taken personal offense because you are Catholic. Please try to view this as an attack against any institution which places itself in a position of authority and trust and then attempts to gloss over crimes committed by its associates and employees. This happens everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church, but because the Church (ANY Church, not just Catholic) is not funded by the sate perhaps it receives greater liberties and less supervision than an institution such as a school. All Katia is asking for is accountability.

Take off your blinders and try to see the bigger picture.

Lafoela
Lafoela

you said..."5)I never blamed the Church because although there was a connection, it wasn’t the Church that assaulted me, it was this individual"

I won't argue that this is not an important distinction, or that the individual who vicitimized you was not at fault. I can only imagine the pain of your experience, and the relief you felt when it ended. I can't question your decision, as a teenager, not to start a fight that you thought to be a losing battle. You did what you thought was best, and no one can question that.

However. This is a new case, and Katia is not you. She has chosen to fight her losing battle, and that is also a decision that we are not in a position to question.

To respond to your most recent edit, it is common practice for a school to place a teacher on suspension when abuse allegations are leveled. While it might not be "fair" that is the legal precedent. And in this particular case, Hernandez was in a volunteer position, so to be "fired" couldn't possibly represent a financial hardship.

A few other points- the legal case against Hernandez has not yet gone before a judge, so your statement that "the courts could find no evidence" may not be accurate. The suit that was dismissed only removed the archdiocese as a plaintiff. I've previously stated my doubts as to the judge's impartiality, but that is admittedly speculation.

As for the responsibility of the church, particularly concerning background c hecks, please see my posts above to some of the comments that appeared in the last few hours (it's taken me time to catch up with the conversation, but i'd like to hear your response).

Finally, let me repeat, my core argument is NOT that the church is responsible for Hernandez's actions, whatever they may have been. But it IS responsible for taking reasonable and appropriate action to prevent offenders (or even alleged offenders pending trial) from accessing new victims, as you stated your assailant did, and as Katia claims Hernandez did. That is the limit of the blame i place on the church. Is it unreasonable?

HRC
HRC

I am sorry to say that I did miss your previous mention of your own sexual abuse, and please know I feel for your experience.

Katia's Cousin
Katia's Cousin

How horrific you were raped. Please know our hearts and prayers are with you! And even though we have disagreed much on this forum, rape is NEVER ok and we can also put you in contact with support groups. I hope you have people in your life who love and cherish you for the human you are. Be strong. May Jesus and his Blessed Mother keep and protect you.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Look, I don’t have a dog in this fight. If Hernandez did what he’s accused of, I’m frustrated and angry that Katia didn’t take the steps that would have assured he’d be convicted. If he got away with it, and fell victim to some kind of accident, I wouldn’t shed a tear.If he’s here illegally, I’d be happy to see him become somebody’s date in jail before being shipped back over the border. The Church is doing many things to remedy the mistakes it has made in the past, and I often wonder if the motivations behind the attacks are not so altruistic, and in fact fed by revenge, greed, or hatred. Are you such a person? Only you can answer that question.I have two points before I leave this thread.1)Imagine any of you being accused of a crime with no evidence, and being found guilty on a bulletin board anyway. Would you be so eager to have people assume you’re guilt? Would you be so bloodthirsty in your accusations? Would you mind if others treated you the way you are treating this man?2)Just because someone commits a crime who is involved with the Church, it doesn’t mean the Church is to blame or is culpable… any more than a hospital is responsible when a doctor molests a patient, or a psychiatry office is responsible when a shrink sleeps with a patient. But there seems to be a fervor for attacking, prosecuting, and persecuting the Church when anything like this happens.It sounds as though Katia really did go through this ordeal, and if she did I wish nothing but grace, peace, and recovery for her. If she is bearing false witness, I can’t imagine the Karma in store for her. God bless you all, ,and remember that wrath is still a deadly sin, even if you think you’re “in the right” Satan is most clever when he fuels hate in those who think they are doing God’s work.

Lafoela
Lafoela

you said "just because someone commits a crime who is involved with the church it doesn't meant the church is to blame or is culpable... any more than a hospital is responsible when a doctor molests a patient ..."

are you really so naive? perhaps you remember the case at Rose Medical Center here in town a few years ago. It thankfully did not involve any sexual assault, but a nurse with a drug addiction was stealing meds from patients, and instead injecting them with her own needles, thus spreading hep C. The individual was rightfully punished, but Rose was also sued and the case resulted in new state legislation effecting all hospitals. an article can be found at http://www.thedenverchannel.co...

an excerpt from the article states "DORA also pointed to hospitals, which are regulated, saying they have the responsibility to protect patients"

So, you see the church is not alone when it comes to extending culpability. As i've said, ad nauseum, when an organization puts individuals in a position of authority, it is responsible for taking ALL reasonable efforts to ensure that the individual is not a danger to members or the general public.

Ginger
Ginger

Charles, did I not make it clear that at the time I encouraged Katia to do whatever she could to document evidence and ensure that he was convicted?

Ignorant and thoughtless comments like yours blame the victim, which is wrong on all accounts.

I can't imagine the Karma in store for YOU.

I hope you don't have daughters or granddaughters, and that if you do nothing like this ever happens to them, because it sure as hell sounds like they wouldn't have a father to fight for them.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

No, they'll have a father that makes sure every effort is made to put into evidence the proof that will get a molestor into jail! Again, I NEVER BLAMED Katia. My God! Why don't you people read what is written instead of reading into it an agenda that isn't there??

Ginger
Ginger

Charles, I am an educated woman and I can read. Please re-read what you wrote. You do blame Katia for the fact that he wasn't convicted, because apparently she didn't gather sufficient evidence.

You ask us to put ourselves in Hernandez's place and decide whether we would like to be presumed guilty on the internet.

Put yourself in Katia's place for a moment. Imagine that after two years of fighting for justice after this ordeal, you had the courage to come forward to the media, and someone on the internet accused you of bashing the faith that guides your daily life, then asserts that you must be in it for money or revenge since obviously you didn't gather enough evidence to convict.

I you're going to preach empathy you ought to practice it as well.

Katia's cousin
Katia's cousin

Just ask my Uncle Tom...you don't want to join the growing group of Father of Raped Catholic girls. I will pray (truly honestly pray to St. Maria Goretti it never ever happens to your little ones).

Gerardo
Gerardo

No body is making the church responsible of what he did. But the church is responsible of what they didn't do. First, they should not trust a lot of kids or young adults to somebody just because he or she wants to volunteer without doing any screening on him, and second, once the allegations came, the could have taken a better reaction and do their own investigation regardless of what civil court concludes.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Okay, so you just proved my point - punishment and reaction on accusation alone. Fine. If you feel comfortable with that, I just hope you are never on the short end of that stick.

HRC - I NEVER SAID I blamed Katia, I said I was frustrated that there isn't evidence enough to convict him. The only place that evidence could have come from is Katia. Being angry and frustrated at the situation is not the same as blaming Katia or being angry WITH her.

HRC - if you had read my posts you would know it DID happen to me! Which is why this is even more frustrating when I'm being attacked for emotions I do not have and I have not stated!

"Just imagine that this had happened to you, and you had difficulty sharing what had occured even with friends and family because you feel dirty, you feel like it was your fault (because frequently the rapist tells you it is, and if you used to trust this individual you are completely confused) and you finally do come forward and say something and then someone says they are angry you didn't do more. "

Every bit of that DID happen to me and even more that you can't even imagine!Sheeeeeesh! I can't believe I'm in this position. I just said that there is a reason for "inocent until proven guilty" and "don't blame the Church for something an individual did." Fine! You all want to jump to conclusions, convict people without due process, and blame the Church instead of the slimebag that did it... go ahead, knock yourselves out!

Lafoela
Lafoela

you said..."reaction on accusation alone"

The church authorities have already reacted. Sure, it waited to do so until it was named plaintiff in a legal case, and not when Katia originally brought the matter to their attention. And of course, the reaction has been one of blind defense. My contention, and i think what everyone here is saying, is that the reaction that officials chose was not the proper one.

In your post from wikipedia much earlier in this forum, you stated that it is church policy to report every accusation of abuse to the appropriate authorities. That did NOT happen here. And while Hernandez was relieved of his duties in Denver, there was no attempt made to discourage his move to the parish in Colorado springs. This is not responsible behavior.

HRC
HRC

On the contrary, I beg you to more closely read some of your posts. You're frustrated and angry that she didn't take the steps to ensure he'd be convicted. You never said anything about evidence. If you didn't mean this, please be more careful of how you say things. I don't think you realize how hurtful such comments can be to individuals who have been abused and have struggled with the decision to come forward about it.

Just imagine that this had happened to you, and you had difficulty sharing what had occured even with friends and family because you feel dirty, you feel like it was your fault (because frequently the rapist tells you it is, and if you used to trust this individual you are completely confused) and you finally do come forward and say something and then someone says they are angry you didn't do more.

HRC
HRC

You might also take a peek at this website. It's very informative.http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main....

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Again, the presumption of guilt. Do you guys just not understand English?

Katia's cousin
Katia's cousin

Sir,We understand both English and Spanish very well. As a matter of a fact, Katia graduated 2nd in her English major class and her mother is a native university level speaker of both English and Spanish.

HRC
HRC

"It sounds as though Katia really did go through this ordeal, and if she did I wish nothing but grace, peace, and recovery for her."

You just said this Charles... is what I'm saying not very different?

How about this... IF Katia did go through this ordeal, should we not place the blame elsewhere and not on this poor girl who MIGHT have gone through this ordeal.

HRC
HRC

It is frustrating to hear you say the things that you are saying Charles. Your attitude "Look, I don’t have a dog in this fight. If Hernandez did what he’s accused of, I’m frustrated and angry that Katia didn’t take the steps that would have assured he’d be convicted." to me blames the victim. When someone is sexually abused it can be an extreme struggle to come forward to even say what happened to friends and family.

The following is from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (http://www.rainn.org/get-infor...

"Why don't more people report their rape?The most common reason given by victims (23%) is that the rape is a "personal matter." Another 16% of victims say that they fear reprisal, while about 6% don't report because they believe that the police are biased.

I'm afraid that if I report, I will regret it.That's certainly possible. It's true that some people have a bad experience and wish they had never reported. But it is also the case that many people who don't report later regret that decision. In the end, this is a personal decision that only you can make.

I'm afraid the police won't take it seriously.There has been great investment in police training in recent years. While there are occasional exceptions, most law enforcement officers are understanding and on your side. Many police departments participate in what are known as SARTs (Sexual Assault Response Teams), which provide a victim-sensitive, coordinated response to sexual assault that incorporates medical personnel, law enforcement and a crisis center representative to organize questioning, reduce repetition and facilitate communication among all the agencies involved.

If you do encounter someone who isn't taking your case seriously, it's important to complain to his/her supervisor. You should also tell your local rape crisis center, which has people trained to advocate on your behalf."

It is extremely offensive that you are angry with Katia that she didn't take the "proper" steps to ensure he'd be convicted. This was an incredibly confusing, frightening time in her life and the victim is not the person to blame in this incident. Organizations such as RAINN are out there often to help victims understand that this horrendous act happening to them is not their fault and that they CAN report the offense.

Please reconsider the way in which you word your statements... perhaps you don't realize what you are really saying, and I hope that is the case. If you do realize what you are saying you need to reassess your understanding of this issue.

Katia's cousin
Katia's cousin

Who died and made you pope?

Go sell your book elsewhere

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

You mentioned on another related thread that you had crossed paths with my family... how so? Please respond by email charleskingep@yahoo

Omar Valdez
Omar Valdez

I know this girl since long time ago, she's the bravest woman I've ever metI really feel very produ of you for doing this, it's for sure that there are more victims of this pervert and hopefully they will join to show that he's a real guilty.On the other hand I feel disapointed by the Catholic Church for cases like this, they usually send the signal that things like this doesn't matter or are just "dates going wrong" when its not true, it would be better if they accept the truth and take some action to eradicate this cancer, not long time ago The Pope Jhon Paul II apoligized by the Church sins, but let's be clear this kind of crime are not exclusive of the Catholic Church, they can be found everywhere, at every moment, but when it comes from a religious organization it is amplified as it came from an artist or politician, I just want to mention like in many other organization there are always goods and not so good elements. Kate I really apreciate you. Keep like this, never give up.

Katia's Cousin
Katia's Cousin

Dearest Readers,We are a very Catholic family, active in the Catholic Lawyer's Guild, Catholic Schools, mass and very proud of being Catholic. Our ancestors founded several churches. Our great-grandparents also had a cross burned in our lawn. Its far reaching to call our family anti-Catholic. We love our faith, our people and of course, our family members. Before you post something, we urge you remember the pain we are going through.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Katia's cousin, thanks for posting this very personal note.

Eric
Eric

It appears, at least from here, that it's pretty much SOP for Chaput to go after the victim in these cases.

caplis gets used a lot, through his radio program.

But this Byrne character seems like a new player.

Guess we'll see.

jflare29
jflare29

Ginger,I made very few assumptions. The article stated rather clearly that Katia and Mr Hernandez engaged in numerous debates, traded books, even spent time together in his house watching a movie, and ,however casually, kissed. That doesn't sound like "some guy from Bible study" to me. However much you loathe the idea, that sounds like legitimate grounds for him to believe that something more might be possible.

Then too, while I don't precisely have much cause to think she'd lie about one night's incident, neither do I necessarily have cause to believe she's telling the whole truth. In fact, if anything, in part because she did take quite some time to file a complaint, I'd say there's fair cause to question whether I'm hearing all that I should.

If you think I'm making assumptions, well, you seem to me to make no fewer.

Ginger
Ginger

jflare,

While I admit that it was unfortunate that Katia took some time to file a complaint, it is understandable that she did. Hernandez told her in the car after the incident that she was "used" and "a whore." Rapists and abusers are very good at making victims believe that they are responsible. I was sexually abused by a babysitter at the age of four, and even today no matter how logically I tell myself it wasn't my fault, in the back of my mind I always think "If I had said no just one more time, maybe it wouldn't have happened. Why didn't I say no again?"

I saw Katia struggle with this after it happened. And no, I am not making any assumptions.

I knew that she had been to his house and that while he had wanted more of a romantic date, Katia ignored some of his advances. Katia met with Hernandez that night to find out where they stood because he had in fact been very cold toward her after they met at his house-if anything, he was indicating a lack of interest after she rejected some of his advances. Katia wasn't really interested in him, either, at least not beyond a platonic relationship, but she is the kind of person who likes to stay on good terms with people who she knows. If someone begins acting strangely, regardless of their relationship, she always tries to set things straight.

I KNOW that Katia is telling the whole truth. I saw her bruises. I hear the fear in her voice when she calls from Denver. She would rather be living in Mexico. What does it say when a person fears less for their personal safety in a country ripped apart by drug violence than in their own home town in their parents' house?

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Ginger,You and Question both seemed to miss the sttement where I agreed that the Church needs to be held to a higher standard.

You saw buises - did you testify to that in court? What did the police say about the bruises? You did take pictures and go to a hospital for a rape kit, right? If not... if there is no evidence of the attack, then we cannot be expected to assume Hernandez is wrong just on the testimony of Katia. God help ALL of us if we can be convicted on hearsay alone!

Once again, convicting someone in the 'Court of public opinion" based upon little more than guilt by association is what my post is all about. Hernandez should be given presumption of innocence like any other American citizen... but this whole situation proves that such protections are null and void whenever the accused is an employee or volunteer of the Church.

In this thread, I have seen so many posts that go beyond finding Hernandez guilty... without a trial, without due process, without evidence..... then they go BEYOND this unjustice and link it to the Church. I can see why the courts dropped thet case against the Church... there is NO evidence the Church was involved or cupable in any way.

But since this involves the Catholic Church, we are supposed to assume Hernandez and the Church or guilty.

The more you guys defend your case, the more you are proving my point.

Ginger
Ginger

"Hernandez should be given presumption of innocence like any other American citizen... but this whole situation proves that such protections are null and void whenever the accused is an employee or volunteer of the Church."

I would like to add that while Hernandez may be entitled to due process, he is NOT a legal citizen of this country. I realize that this has no bearing on his guilt or innocence, and I don't want to start an immigration debate, but I thought you might like to know.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

I wondered about that. Did he enter legally?

HRC
HRC

Shoot, I forgot another point...

For a business or other organization we shouldn't forget that asking for or requiring background checks is in their own interest and protection. In that sense, the fact that there is no background check on an individual when something comes into question would to me, immediately call into question the business sense of the organization that didn't require it!

HRC
HRC

I thought I'd post a few comments from your posts Charles:

“To both Question (good anonymous name there.. and no profile) and Lafeola... you both seem to be assuming that a crime was committed here, which I think was the unstated motive behind my post. If there's an accusation against anyone in the Church, it's assumed that the crime happened and the legal system is at fault for not finding guilt REGARDLESS of facts presented. The courts said there wasn't enough here to persue a case.... but the courts be damned... they MUST be guilty!This was the point of the argument... regardless of evidence or proof... if the accusation is against an employee (or volunteer) of the Church, they're guilty - facts be damned.

As far as doing "background checks" on potential lay-ministers, I'm sorry did I miss some part of the article that said Mr. Hernandez had a history that would have shown up in a background check... or is that yet another assumption?”

“Ginger,You and Question both seemed to miss the sttement where I agreed that the Church needs to be held to a higher standard.”

“And once again, in your statement "But it DOES owe her, and every adult victim, some policy changes. And an apology " you are ASSUMING she is a victim. This is the crux of my argument, convicting an individual (or an organization) in the court of public opinion based solely on an accusation is a scary precedent for ANY of us.”

Reading through these I find myself wondering if you are clear on what you believe. I work at a zoo, of all places, and we background check every volunteer and staff-person who comes in our doors, some of which don't ever even work with anyone on grounds (some answer phones, some sit at desks making crafts...). We do not come even close to the possible relationship formed between a church-worker and a church-goer.

Does there need to be any evidence of wrongdoing to hope and ask the church to institute background checks for their volunteers and staff when many other institutions that do not facilitate the possibility of close, trusting relationships with other adults and children require background checks to work with that institution?

And unfortunately this question will be going out to the void. I'm not someone who tends to follow responses, so I apologize that you will probably not get a response back, should you respond.

Ginger
Ginger

Charles,

Please see my reply to jflare below.

Yes, I saw Katia's bruises, and yes, I encouraged her to document them photographically for evidence. Had we been in a position to report it at the time, I would have driven her to the hospital or police station myself. That being said, I don't feel comfortable giving further details online in a public forum and I ask you to respect that and take me at my word that as soon as Katia gathered the courage to confide in a friend, we did everything in our power to make sure that evidence was documented.

Given the circumstances now, the best that I can do for Katia is stand by her as this battle continues to unfold, and I will do so in whatever capacity I can, whether it be in court, on the internet, on the other end of the phone, or as a safe place to go when Denver gets to be too much.

I don't hold any grudges against the Church in general; my grandparents and much of my family are devout Catholics and for an Episcopalian I am quite familiar with their history. I respect many of their traditions, share the same sacraments, and admire their charitable work and contribution to early art and music. However, I take issue with any institution that is supposed to be a safe haven and does not take seriously allegations of abuse from one of its employees. Had this been an article about a school district, no one would be accusing anyone of bashing education.

Again, Lafoela stated everything very well in her posts. I wholeheartedly agree with her points.

Lafoela
Lafoela

Charles-

As you've alluded to in several posts now, there are really two issues up for debate in this case. The first- did any abuse occur, and the second- is the church responsible for it. Let's tackle these one at a time.

First- the abuse in question. As i stated before, a series of temporary restraining orders and eventually a permanent restraining order was granted to Katia. I can't believe this would have occurred based on hearsay alone- perhaps Ginger, or Katia's family members, DID testify, and DID have enough evidence to convince the judge that Katia was a victim. You're correct in alluding to the fact that rape trials often devolve into a "he said, she said" argument. We may never be able to prove what happened that night one way or another. But given the repeated decisions of protection in Katia's favor, I'm going to believe that some degree of rape/assault/abuse occurred and that Hernandez is liable. You are free to disagree if you like.

As for the second question, that of the church's culpability, you seem overly defensive here. Let me start out by saying that i have enormous respect for the Catholic church. You identified me as a "church basher" in a previous post, but i assure you this couldn't be farther from the truth. The Catholic Church has been a Godly provider of social services in Denver and around the world for generations. How many schools, hospitals, orphanages, and community centers have been founded under the churches auspices? How many people have found peace and comfort in their faith? It was in latin american catholic churches that liberation theology gained a foothold. Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker movement are inextricably tied to the church. Please understand, I'm NOT arguing that the church is evil, or hateful, or any of the other demagogic claims that other posters have made.

What i AM saying, is that the church is imperfect, and that the religious hierarchy has a notoriously bad record of admitting and addressing these imperfections.The abuse uncovered in recent years (and repeatedly validated in court) has pointed this out in painful and disgusting ways. And people have come out of the woodwork on the attack with a variety of motives. Your defensiveness is understandable. But that doesn't excuse the church from taking every allegation seriously. The facts of this case are that Hernandez was in a position of prominent leadership. In the Catholic church. And that his interactions with Katia sprang directly from that position. And when the allegations arose, Katia took them to church leaders FIRST. These leaders were alternately dismissive and unresponsive.

So what SHOULD the church have done? I've mentioned several things in previous posts, which you have not addressed in your replies. I'm curious, are you really OPPOSED to running background checks on leaders? Do you really think that romantic involvement of parishioners should NOT be discouraged? or at the very least monitored? Do you think volunteers should NOT have to sign a code of conduct? That their activities should NOT be supervised? And if allegations arise, should the church blindly protect it's staff and volunteers when they HAVEN'T taken any of these precautions? Regardless of any details of this case, are these really UNREASONABLE expectations of religious leaders?

All of these actions would serve to protect parishioners, as well as providing an extra layer of legal protection for the church. They are standard procedure in similar professions, as i have stated several times before. As you've pointed out, none of these questions necessarily imply legal responsibility in this case. What they DO indicate is a general negligence that is disappointing in a group claiming to represent a loving God.

I'm not claiming that the church owes Katia any kind of monetary settlement. But it DOES owe her, and every adult victim, some policy changes. And an apology.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Lafoela, you said.....," I'm curious, are you really OPPOSED to running background checks on leaders? Do you really think that romantic involvement of parishioners should NOT be discouraged? or at the very least monitored? Do you think volunteers should NOT have to sign a code of conduct? That their activities should NOT be supervised? And if allegations arise, should the church blindly protect it's staff and volunteers when they HAVEN'T taken any of these precautions? Regardless of any details of this case, are these really UNREASONABLE expectations of religious leaders?"

I have no problems with any of these. As far as the restraining order being a measure of proof, I diagree respectfully. Anyone can get a No Contact or Restraining order for any reason whatsoever. The basis is whether or not the applicant *feels* threatened by someone, hardly a contention needing evidentiary hearings.

And once again, in your statement "But it DOES owe her, and every adult victim, some policy changes. And an apology " you are ASSUMING she is a victim. This is the crux of my argument, convicting an individual (or an organization) in the court of public opinion based solely on an accusation is a scary precedent for ANY of us.

The legal system in America is based upon a presumption of innocence... yet when it comes to the Catholic Church, the organization, and its workers, it seems there is a presumption of guilt... THAT is what I am against!

Thank you for the civility in your response... my comment about 'church bashers' was more directed to the poster "DISGUSTED" and her ilk. Sorry you thought I meant you.

Lafoela
Lafoela

Charles-

I understand your core point of "innocent until proven guilty." What's more, I wholeheartedly agree! People jump to conclusions, and they're not always right. I'd like to point out your allusion to "beautiful dollar signs," "pursuit of a buck" and "deep pockets" are equally presumptive that Katia is guilty of extortion. But i won't harp on it, because this is an online newspaper forum. It is thankfully NOT a court of law. The reckless snap judgments you're speaking out against are, for better or worse, part of the "charm" here in the trenches. So lets move on.

As much as i respect your position, I don't think you understand mine. The issue here is much larger than this one individual case. Whether or not Katia is telling the truth is beside the point (though, as i've said before i believe she is). There are plenty of other adult victims that have come forward, and have won their cases. These cases serve as a precedent of systemic negligence on the part of the church hierarchy. Even IF Hernandez and the Archdiocese are completely blameless, the Archbishop's response in this case has been nothing short of heartless. And what's worse, his behavior falls right in line with the precedent of negligence in church abuse cases around the world.

This is not, and for me has never been, a question of guilt or innocence in one isolated case. It's about the systems that should be in place to prevent abuse and resolve allegations in as Christ-like a manner as possible. Until the church demonstrates a full comprehension of this need, I'll continue to doubt its innocence in abuse cases. At least as far as the court of public opinion is concerned.

The go
The go

Charles,I feel that you are grasping at straws. This could be an article about someone getting allegedly abused in a school/organization/company and there would be people that still think he is guilty. It is nice to say innocent before proven guilty but really it is never that simple. What about Michal Jackson abuse allegations? What about OJ’s murder trial? What about most American Presidents and affairs (example Jefferson, JFK, Eisenhower)? Most people think these people did things even though they won court cases and/or have no other evidence other than someone said they did it. Think of terrorist and before 9/11 every terrorist activity was done by American but did not mean people did not mean people did not think they were done by outside terrorist. Another example is all the people that were exonerated for crimes they did not commit. I would say the church did not have anything to do with those cases.What the article states is-Hernandez allegedly has other victims that have gone to the police. Katia convinced a judge that she “felt” frightened enough to get a restraining order.Not in article but in comments, Ginger states that Katia told her that bruises on her that Ginger saw came from the attack. Now if I was on a jury and that is all the evidence I was given I would not convict because there is reasonable doubt. Yet if I was in a position to hire him for any kind of position that would put him in authority and especially in counseling/mentor role I would not. Not because he is part of the church but because there is enough evidence that states he is a possible threat to people. I might hire Hernandez if it was for a different position. Yet since the role of counselor/mentor/religious figure is one of trust and sfety, it should not be filled with someone that may have abused several people. The proof is even within the fact that Colorado Springs Archdiocese firing Hernandez after finding about his alleged behavior. The church might not say that he is guilty but the possibility is too high to risk on other people. It seems like what most people are saying here is that the Church needs to find a better way to screen and get rid of people that could cause further harm to their congregation. Yet the church in this case seemed only to act when threatened with legal action. I applaud Katia since I don’t want my wife going to church and getting attacked.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

Who employed the Capitol hill serial rapist? Who employed the rapist that was stalking the DU area not so long ago? Did anyone ever ask who their employers were, much less take the employers to court?

There are approximately 250,000 sexual assaults in the United States per year. How many of those were associated with the employer of the perpetrator? Something tells me if all the relevant data were sorted Boeing, GE, and the Federal Government would all have higher rates than the Catholic Church. Perhaps the numbers would be higher per employee as well. but we can't know those figures because unless it is a member of the Catholic Church, nobody cares.

Why? Perhaps (like me) some feel the Church should be held to a higher standard than GE, Boeing, or the government. That's fine. But my suspicion is there are many Anti-Catholics out there who enjoy seeing those papist abortion haters get their's on the front page. No, it's not paranoia. My grandfather, herre in Denver had a cross burned on his front lawn in the '20's because he was Catholic.

- For those who don't know your Denver and Colorado histories, the KKK was very powerful here in the 20's... even electing a KKK mayor and a Klansman governor. Their primary target in Colorado was not African Americans, but Catholics. -

Add to that the fact that SNAP sees beautiful dollar signs with every accusation (proven or not), and you have a perfectly nice motive to go after that terrible, hateful, evil, archaic Catholic Church. And since no one would DARE to stand up for the Church, she's an easy target. If you're lucky she might even settle out of court to avoid the publicity! And we all know the Church has deep pockets!

Look! There are plenty of us who were abused as children, and we don't live the rest of our lives saying "poor picked on pitiful me.... give me money or I'll take you to court!" We find grace, love, strength, and forgivenesss in (of all places) our Catholic faith. So if you want to condemn individuals for their horrid, evil, and inexcusable behavior, please do! Those individuals deserve to have certain parts of their anatomies permanently removed! But quit going after the church in persuit of a buck!

Lafoela
Lafoela

Your comparison does pose an interesting question, but perhaps there is a reason that public companies and the government aren't held to the same standard as the church. A comparison between religious leaders and medical professionals seems a bit more apt. As the original article in Religion Dispatches points out, physicians, particularly counselors and therapists are relied upon by their patients for guidance and support, and as such have ethics laws far more stringent than other professions. The relationship between parishioner and priest (or in this case, parishioner and lay-leader) has far more similarities to doctor/patient than to producer/consumer.

Viewed in this light, the issue in this case is not whether the church as a whole wronged Katia individually, but whether the church is living up to it's duties to thoroughly investigate the individuals that it puts in positions of leadership. Katia's goal was to prevent similar trauma from befalling other parishioners, NOT fleece the church. Given the scandals in recent years, protecting parishioners should be of utmost priority to the church. The archdiocese's response has been less than stellar in that respect. NO background checks on lay leaders? NO support for victims? NO serious consideration of Katia's claims?

While i don't support the money grubbing acivities you attribute to SNAP, i think it's clear that some victim advocacy is sorely needed. And it's certainly not coming from the internal Catholic hierarchy. Show me some new safety and security precautions being taken up by the church to prevent future incidents, and then we can point the finger at advocacy groups.

Charles K. Byrne
Charles K. Byrne

To both Question (good anonymous name there.. and no profile) and Lafeola... you both seem to be assuming that a crime was committed here, which I think was the unstated motive behind my post. If there's an accusation against anyone in the Church, it's assumed that the crime happened and the legal system is at fault for not finding guilt REGARDLESS of facts presented. The courts said there wasn't enough here to persue a case.... but the courts be damned... they MUST be guilty!This was the point of the argument... regardless of evidence or proof... if the accusation is against an employee (or volunteer) of the Church, they're guilty - facts be damned.

Both of your posts seem to assume the guilt of Hernandez - which proves my point of the presumption of guilt. I think that fallacy is called "guilt by association." And every word insinuating guilt on the part of the Church in your posts is no less a fallacy than my assumptions and suspicions. Afterall, aren't you Church bashers assuming through suspicion and guesses that Hernandez is guilty? And aren't you furthering your fallacies by somehow attaching blame to his employer?

As far as my own 'suspicions' and 'fallacies', I clearly stated that those feelings and assumptions can not be verified because only Catholic molestations and accusations are associated with an employer... I wasn't trying to hide the fact that they were anecdotal observations. As far as the mention of the KKK, it was not to muddy the water, but to establish the often forgotten history of vitriolic hatred towards the Church.

As far as doing "background checks" on potential lay-ministers, I'm sorry did I miss some part of the article that said Mr. Hernandez had a history that would have shown up in a background check... or is that yet another assumption?

As far as the 'new safety and security precautions' and the claims that the Church has done nothing to correct the situation, you might be interested in this (as much as I hate using Wiki as a source, the paragraph is short, concise, and covers what I would say anyway....)quote- The USCCB perceived a lack of adequate procedures for the prevention of sexual abuse of minors, the reporting of allegations of such abuse and the handling of those reports. In response to deficiencies in canonical and secular law, both ecclesiastical and civil authorities have implemented procedures and laws to prevent sexual abuse of minors by clergy and to report and punish it if and when it occurs. In June 2002, the USCCB adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for responding to allegations of sexual abuse.[70] It promulgated a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that pledged the Catholic Church in the U.S. to providing a "safe environment" for all children in Church-sponsored activities. The thrust of the charter was the adoption of a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abuse.[70] The Charter instituted reforms to prevent future abuse by requiring background checks for Church employees.[71] The Charter requires dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty.[71] A Dallas Morning News article claimed nearly two-thirds of the bishops attending had themselves at one point covered for sexually abusive priests.[72]

By 2008, the U.S. church had "trained 5.8 million children to recognize and report abuse. It had run criminal checks on 1.53 million volunteers and employees, 162,700 educators, 51,000 clerics and 4,955 candidates for ordination. It had trained 1.8 million clergy, employees and volunteers in creating a safe environment for children."[73]-unquote

Ginger
Ginger

Charles,

I agree with Lafoela that a more apt comparison may be drawn between lay ministers and medical professionals (or teachers, or daycare workers, etc.). People in a position of trust are held to a higher standard than those who work for GE or Boeing, as they should be. How many school districts have been sued for "ignoring abuse"? What makes this different?

Regardless of whether Hernandez had anything on his record that would have been detected in a background check, the Church should have performed one. Anyone who works with children or adults in a position of trust and/or authority should be required to pass one, for safety and so that the organization who employs them or allows them to volunteer is able to say that it did everything in its power to prevent abuse should it occur. Most school districts now require every parent volunteer to pass a background check before having any contact with students. The fact that Hernandez continued to teach and be a presence in the Church after a restraining order was filed against him says to me that the Church is ignoring the abuse. A school would never allow anyone to volunteer with such a record. Again, why should the Church be different? For what it's worth, a background check may have uncovered the fact that Hernandez is not in this country legally. I wonder why someone living in Colorado for so long carries an ID from a state in the Pacific Northwest?

And why, as Lafoela points out, are children the only ones protected? Rape is rape any way you slice it. I would also like to point out that when compared with Hernandez, Katia is quite diminutive and child-like in physical stature. It doesn't take much for a man over six feet tall to overpower a petite young woman with rheumatoid arthritis; this is like a linebacker attacking Betty White.

I know Katia very well and saw the bruises from the attack with my own eyes. I saw her struggle with finding the courage to tell me what happened, to tell her family, and to tell the world. I have seen her move well past "why me" to "how do I help other victims and prevent this from happening again?" Katia has experienced much more difficulty in her life in less than thirty years than most people will experience in a lifetime and has never had the "poor pitiful me" attitude that you describe so well in your post. She has found a good deal of grace, love, strength, and forgiveness in her faith in spite of the way the Church has handled her case. It's a shame that the people in the Church who should have helped her to find those things brushed her off so easily, and will likely do the same with future victims.

I really don't think I can say it better than Lafoela did, but I wanted to let you and the rest of the world know that this DID happen and Katia is NOT just trying to make a buck off of the Church. This is much bigger than that.

Lafoela
Lafoela

Charles- thanks for your response. I understand your distinction between accusation and guilt, and i agree it to it's importance, but in this instance there was NO legal decision on the abuse in question. The case was thrown out on a "techincality" that the church as an employer could not be held legally responsible for an employee's sexual misconduct. (Again, I'm referencing the original article which contains a greater degree of pertinent information)

As a side note, I'm also skeptical of the judge's capability of issuing an impartial decision, given the previous special recognition by the church and the legal "blackmail" that resulted in Katia's lost right to appeal. Perhaps my language here is inflamatory, but that's the way i see it.

The only legal decision concerning the abuse itself are the temporary, and eventually permanent restraining orders granted to Katia. In the absence of any other evidence, i'm going to go out on a limb and say that at the *very least* there was a relationship here that would have violated the typical ethics regulations applied to secular counselors, which i referenced in my previous post as a more appropriate rubric for evaluating religious leaders culpability in abuse allegations.

As for the background checks, we don't know what they would have turned up in this case. Given the additional victim who was discovered, and Hernandez's immediate and easy move to a leadership position in a parish in colorado springs, i don't think it's too far a stretch to say that repeat offenders aren't being effectively weeded out. They would be caught more readily if the checks were standard procedure. Using this case as an example, having a permanent restraining order on his record would red-flag Hernandez for any future parishes seeking lay leadership. Of course, that's assuming the future parishes care enough to do a background check.

More disturbing to me than any particular detail of this case is the church's dismissive attitude, as though safety and security of adults are of too little importance to spend any time or energy on. I note that in the wikipedia list you posted, all provisions are for children only. This is a great start, but what about alerting the authorities about abuse of adults? Or at the very least NOT covering for individuals accused of abuse? Having protocol for establishing and addressing inappropriate activities between adult parishioners and church leaders? Showing ANY recognition that the current system has imperfections? Instead, it appears that the Denver archdiocese is choosing to hide its head in the sand, hoping connections in the judicial system and strong-arming of victims will be sufficient to sweep the problem under the rug.

Again, perhaps i'm being too inflammatory, but I'm just calling it like I see it.

guest
guest

Who employed the Capitol hill serial rapist? Who employed the rapist that was stalking the DU area not so long ago? Did anyone ever ask who their employers were, much less take the employers to court?

Excuse me but this is a totally different story. this person was acting as a lay minister and was in a position of trust as someone who is supposed to be representing GOD. There is no comparison to an employment situation as you are trying to do. You are shooting for a technicality correct? I don't buy it. And it shows how morally off the mark you are.

There are approximately 250,000 sexual assaults in the United States per year. How many of those were associated with the employer of the perpetrator? Something tells me if all the relevant data were sorted Boeing, GE, and the Federal Government would all have higher rates than the Catholic Church. Perhaps the numbers would be higher per employee as well. but we can't know those figures because unless it is a member of the Catholic Church, nobody cares.

Something tells you? So you're guessing and then standing on the guess and pretending you haven a legitimate argument?

Why? Perhaps (like me) some feel the Church should be held to a higher standard than GE, Boeing, or the government. That's fine. But my suspicion is there are many Anti-Catholics out there who enjoy seeing those papist abortion haters get their's on the front page. No, it's not paranoia. My grandfather, herre in Denver had a cross burned on his front lawn in the '20's because he was Catholic.

Your "suspicion"? Again another guess. So what have you said so far here. Let's see, red herring, straw man, ad hominen... so far so good. you are representing your "church" well.

- For those who don't know your Denver and Colorado histories, the KKK was very powerful here in the 20's... even electing a KKK mayor and a Klansman governor. Their primary target in Colorado was not African Americans, but Catholics. -

"KKK"? You're going to bring the KKK into this? Wow, you are really desperate to muddy the waters on this one aren't you?

Add to that the fact that SNAP sees beautiful dollar signs with every accusation (proven or not), and you have a perfectly nice motive to go after that terrible, hateful, evil, archaic Catholic Church. And since no one would DARE to stand up for the Church, she's an easy target. If you're lucky she might even settle out of court to avoid the publicity! And we all know the Church has deep pockets!

Ad hominem attack against SNAP now. okay. Let me say, as a former Catholic. raised in a catholic neighborhood and had almost all catholic friends, "I thank GOD for SNAP!!!

Look! There are plenty of us who were abused as children, and we don't live the rest of our lives saying "poor picked on pitiful me.... give me money or I'll take you to court!" We find grace, love, strength, and forgivenesss in (of all places) our Catholic faith. So if you want to condemn individuals for their horrid, evil, and inexcusable behavior, please do! Those individuals deserve to have certain parts of their anatomies permanently removed! But quit going after the church in persuit of a buck!

Oh but you ARE saying "poor pitiful me" Only you're representing the church. it's not okay for victims to feel sad but you actually want us to feel bad for the "church"? And then you throw in the accusations that someone's aftyer money? Well you described your religious political institution to a tee there!!

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Charles, thanks for posting such a provocative and passionate item. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats, and thanks for reading and sharing.

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