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  1. MONTPELIER, Vt. – Two adult sisters are suing a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Vermont, saying they were sexually abused by a minister when they were minor children and the church did nothing to protect them. Twenty-three-year-old Miranda and 27-year-old Annessa Lewis say they were abused in the 1990s at age 4 and 5. The sisters have sued the Bellows Falls congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the then-ministerial servant Norton True, as well the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. They say their mother reported the allegations to the congregation but no action was taken against True. The congregation and the Watchtower Bible and Track Society of New York did not return messages seeking comment. True could not be reached; there is no phone listing for him in Vermont. Source:
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  2. On Friday three Franciscan friars charged with allowing a suspected sexual predator to hold jobs where he molested more than 100 children, surrendered in Pennsylvania. They were confronted by the mother of one of his victims who said to them her 26 year old son committed suicide because of their 'bad decision making.' 69 year old Robert D'Aversa, 62 year old Anthony Criscitelli, and 73 year old Giles Schinelli, are free on unsecured bond until an April 14 preliminary hearing on child endangerment and conspiracy charges. Each charge is a third-degree felony carrying up to seven years in prison.
  3. By David DeKok HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Hundreds of children in western Pennsylvania were sexually assaulted by about 50 Roman Catholic priests over four decades while bishops covered up their actions, according to a state grand jury report released on Tuesday. The report found that former Altoona-Johnstown Diocese Bishop James Hogan, who died in 2005, and his successor, Joseph Adamec, who retired in 2011, worked to cover pedophile priests' tracks and that some local law enforcement agencies also avoided investigating abuse allegations, said state Attorney General Kathleen Kane. "The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable," Kane told reporters in unveiling the report, based on a two-year investigation. "These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe." Revelations that some priests had habitually sexually abused children and that bishops had systematically covered up those crimes burst onto the world stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe reported widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. That report, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was the subject of last year's Academy Award-winning film "Spotlight," set off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world. They led to hefty lawsuits and seriously undermined the church's moral authority. No criminal charges will be filed because the alleged incidents are too old to be prosecuted, Kane said. Advocates for victims of sex assault have long urged lawmakers to give prosecutors more time to bring charges of sex assaults of minors, noting that particularly in the case of assaults by members of the clergy, victims can take years to come forward. The report contains explicit details of scores of attacks, naming perpetrators, many of whom have since died. Many of the surviving priests were still serving parishes at the time the investigation began, Kane said, but all have since been removed by the current bishop. "This is a painful and difficult time," current Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak said in a statement. "I deeply regret any harm that has come to children. "We're saddened but not the least bit surprised," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It proves what we've long maintained: that even now, under the guise of 'reform,' bishops continue to deceive parishioners and the public about their ongoing efforts to hide abuse." Adamec, the retired bishop, did not respond to a request for comment. Source:
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  4. Elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the same privileged communications exemption as religious advisers in a sacramental confession if the confession does not involve a penitent. The potential landmark “first impression” ruling, reported by Delaware Law Weekly, was made recently by Superior Court Judge Mary Miller Johnston in refusing to throw out a case filed by the state against the Laurel Congregation of the Witnesses. The state said the elders should have reported a case child abuse between a juvenile and an adult member of the congregation. The elders met with the juvenile, her mother and an adult member who confirmed the relationship after the boy reported the matter to his mother. They then excommunicated the juvenile and the adult involved. The state sought civil penalties but the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they were exempt from reporting under the Delaware law of “clergy/penitent privilege.” That law is similar to the attorney/client privilege but the judge ruled that the conversations were not a “sacramental confession.” The defendants said the congregation members were “seeking spiritual advice and counsel from us as elders in a private setting.” Judge Johnston also held that the privilege exemption itself is, if narrowly interpreted, unconstitutional because the terms “priest, penitent” [and] sacramental confession” give preference to one religion. She also said it could be read to apply to all religions. The case will now go through further legal hearings but the General Assembly should consider clarifying the language of the existing law.
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  5. A Jehovah’s Witness elder who sexually assaulted two vulnerable teenagers he met through the church was sentenced to three years jail yesterday over the “destructive” abuse. David Frank Pople, 68, met the boys through the Safety Bay congregation of the church and assaulted them between 1989 and 1996. One of the teens reported the sexual assaults to elders in 1997 but police were not made aware of the abuse until he filed a police report in 2014. Pople was forcibly ejected from the church for being “insufficiently repentant” in 1997 and readmitted the following year at his request. District Court judge Troy Sweeney accepted Pople was genuinely remorseful but said he had interfered with his victims’ natural maturing process in a “very destructive way”. “A message must be sent that child abuse is abhorrent and will not be tolerated by any civilised society,” she said. “They were vulnerable because they were young and because you were a church elder and their boss.” When Pople admitted assaulting one of the boys during a conversation with an elder in the 1990s, he was told a judicial committee would be formed to deal with the issue. The elders spoke to Pople in an apparent attempt to determine his level of remorse and later sent a letter to certain members of the congregation explaining in great detail why he had been ejected. Pople was in his 40s when he assaulted the boys at work, on his yacht and in his Shoalwater home. He was close friends with the parents of his first victim and had helped the second victim with his Bible studies. Defence lawyer Nick Scerri told the court Pople was candid with the leadership of the church and made “very frank admissions” about some aspects of the offending in 1997. He said his client has been living three lives and was “deeply unhappy” when he assaulted the boys. “He had the life of the family man, the father, the husband,” Mr Scerri said. “ At the same time, he was balancing the religious obligations that he had as a leader in that church. “And thirdly, he had this secret homosexual sort of latency, I suppose.” Pople pleaded guilty to six sex-related charges as well as breaching his protective bail conditions in 2014. He will be eligible for parole after spending 18 months behind bars.
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