We can’t waste this teachable moment: How the teaching of one commandment silenced generations of sex abuse victims and what we can do to change it

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 16, 2014 in armored child, Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis

Part One: Young Children and the Sixth Commandment

It’s the juicy one: Thou shall not commit adultery.

How do you teach the term adultery to young children? There are two ways:

  • There is a guilt and sin-laden method that shames child victims of abuse into a lifetime of silence and self-loathing. It also silences witnesses and whistleblowers and fosters continued sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church and other faiths, or
  • There is an empowering method that can protect our children from abuse.

The Problem

My son is a 7-year-old second grader at a Lutheran school. This week, he came home with this quiz. As you can imagine, I flipped.

Sexually Pure? What seven-year-old truly understands?

Young children do NOT understand what it means to be “sexually pure.” And what about the child who has been sexually abused. According to this worksheet, is that child not pure? Is he dirty or has she sinned in the eyes of God?

NOTE: Fortunately, my child’s teacher (who is required to teach this worksheet as a part of Luther’s Cathechism) is a smart, wonderful woman who has been around the block . She completely understands the serious problems with this definition. She teaches her classes that boys and girls are made differently and that we respect those differences. The end. But the worksheet is still there. And we need to fix it.

This problem is not unique to the Lutherans. When I was a first grader in Catholic schools, I was taught that I needed to be sexually pure for my husband and/or for Jesus. In fact, we were encouraged to be like the Virgin Mary in every way possible. If we were not, we were sinful and sullied in the eyes of God. I was six years old. And ultimately confused.

At that age, I didn’t know what sex was, nor did I understand the meaning of the word “virgin.” But by the sixth grade, I did understand. And by that time, the ideas of sexual purity and sexual shame were deeply engrained in my young mind. Can you imagine how the victim of sexual abuse feels once they understand? That burden of sin, shame and guilt is too much for any child, especially the child who has done nothing wrong and is the victim of a crime.

It gets worse: a child who believes that he is sinful will blame himself for abuse. A child who thinks she is “sullied” is going to believe that she asked for the abuse and is NOT going to report what happened to her. Peers and potential whistleblowers—who received the same lessons—are more likely to blame the victim for what happened (as happened in my own case).


The Solution

  1. For young children, take any discussion of sex out of the equation. Period. Children do not and should not know what sex or sexual purity are. Any child at this age (under 10) who acts out sexually has more than likely been the victim of abuse or witnessed something entirely age-inappropriate. That child needs immediate help. Sin and sex have nothing to do with it.
  2. Give children an empowering message that can help them stay safer from sexual abuse and help anyone else who has been hurt.

Here’s an example:

“We love, protect, and respect our bodies. We also respect and protect the bodies of others. We do not allow anyone to touch our private parts (except in some very special cases) and we do not touch the private parts of anyone else. If someone touches our private parts or we see or hear that a friend has been touched that way, we tell an adult we trust.”

Blunt? Yes. Shameful and full of innuendo? No. Appropriate for the classroom? It’s far more appropriate than any discussion of sexual purity in a second-grade classroom.

What’s the worst that could happen? It’s the same as the ideal result: A child will come forward and report abuse.

I think Jesus is far more concerned with helping the child victim of sexual abuse than he is worried about the sexual purity of a 10-year-old.

It’s time to change the discussion right now.

Coming up in Part II

The discussion of the sixth commandment and older children (including purity rings, the case of Elizabeth Smart, and why female victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church seldom come forward and report)

More proof that Jerry Brown got it all wrong: Love Serve Surrender

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 16, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis, Hawaii
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When California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 131 —an extension to California’s 2003 civil window that would have allowed victims of child sex abuse to come forward, no matter when they were abused—he cited an age-old (and VERY STALE) argument that we hear often from Catholic bishops: “window laws are unfair.”

Tell that to the brave sons of Jay Ram. I believe they will disagree.

When Hawaii passed a civil window in 2012, dozens of children in local Catholic schools and parishes started to come forward. But so did other victims: child victims from the prestigious Kamehameha school who were abused by a school psychiatrist and, most notably, the fostered and adopted sons of Jay Ram.

Vice News follows the story of Jay Ram in their 29-minute documentary LOVE SERVE SURRENDER. In the film, they follow Jay from his time as a hippy guru in Northern California, to a farmer on the Big Island, to a man on the run in Saipan and Florida. Through it all, he fostered and adopted boys and sexually abused them.

Jay Ram is on the run. Yet the bishops cry, "Unfair!"

Jay Ram is on the run. Yet the bishops cry, “Unfair!”

Now, those boys are coming forward for justice.  And in the process, they are shining a light on a very broken and corrupt system where state social workers and other groups (like Catholic Charities Hawaii) knew there were complaints against Ram, but continued to place boys in his care.

Yet the bishops cry “unfair” … and in the meantime, allow men like Jay Ram to abuse dozens more children across the globe. Pretty shameful, if you ask me.

You can watch the full documentary here:



Documentary: The twisted tale of Jay Ram

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 14, 2014 in Hawaii
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He was Gary Winnick. He was Wandering Eagle. He was Jay Ram. But through it all, he was a predator who used sex as power and destroyed dozens of children in his wake.

I’ve been a part of numerous documentaries about the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children, but no saga has touched my soul like the story of the adopted and fostered sons of Jay Ram. All they wanted was a home, and instead, the system failed them.

Fortunately, Hawaii’s civil window gave the boys their best and only chance to expose the man who hurt them so deeply. Thank you to Maile Shimabukuro for her continued fight for victim-friendly laws in Hawaii.

Vice News chased Ram around the world—from Chico, CA, to Hilo, to Saipan and finally to Tampa, where he is living under another assumed name, surrounded by men who say they are still his “sons.”

The 29-minute film is a must-watch.



Discussing the Papal “apology” with Reuters

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 11, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis
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Trailer: Documentary exposes Big Island abuser

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 11, 2014 in Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis, Hawaii
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Vice News has released a trailer for their upcoming documentary LOVE SERVE SURRENDER.

The film tells the story of Jay Ram, a former Hilo-area farmer who fostered and adopted boys in California and Hawaii  … and then sexually abused them. Because of Hawaii’s civil window, these boys—now men— have been able to expose Jay and warn others about the threat he poses.

I was honored to be a part of the film.


The full documentary will be available on Monday.



Gallup judge sets bar date for victims

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 11, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis, Gallup
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The bankruptcy judge presiding over the Diocese of Gallup bankruptcy has set an August 11 deadline for victims of abuse in the diocese to come forward and file claims.


Bishop Wall had TONS of money for this private chapel, but can’t seem to figure out much of anything else when it comes to money and sex abuse.

The Diocese of Gallup filed for bankruptcy protection last year. Why? Well, there were some pretty embarrassing and ugly civil child sex abuse trials coming up. And the last thing Bishop Wall wants is for more documents like those of Clement Hageman to become public. Previously secret diocese documents outlining Hageman’s career as a child sex abuser date back to the 1920s.

In fact, the Diocese refused to list the names of accused clerics and the number of known victims until AFTER the Chapter 11 filing.

They also seem to have a difficult time figuring out the worth of what they own.

From the National Catholic Reporter:

Another initial subject of dispute was the market value of real estate property in the diocese. When the diocese filed its first financial documents, it listed all its property as having an “unknown” market value. According to Boswell, the diocese had to seek the assistance of county officials in Arizona and New Mexico to determine what parcels of land it owned, and diocesan officials were looking for brokers that could determine the market value of key pieces of real estate.

Victims who were abused in Gallup only have until August 11, 2014, to come forward. After that date, most victims will no longer have any legal recourse.

The proof of claim form can be seen here. If you are a victim and are considering filing a claim, it’s probably best to seek legal counsel. Since transparency and disclosure are not high priorities for Bishop Wall, I doubt that victims without representation will be treated fairly.

But that’s just my opinion.




“It saves them a fortune”

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 3, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis, Corporate Ethics
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Bankruptcy, that is.

Diocesan bankruptcy is back in the news—this time, it’s the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

According to victims’ attorneys, yesterday’s four-hour deposition of St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt ended “abruptly and heatedly,” and Nienstedt refused to turn over some court-ordered documents and answer many questions about the cover-up of sex abuse in the Archdiocese.

Outta Here: Archbishop John Nienstedt skedaddles from his deposition.

Outta Here: Archbishop John Nienstedt skedaddles from his deposition.

Now, it looks like the Archdiocese is going to use bankruptcy to stop the whole process.

It’s the same in Stockton, Helena, Milwaukee, and Gallup, NM. Bankruptcy puts the breaks on truth. Depositions stop and haggling begins.

Why be deposed about covering up sex abuse when you can cry poor and claim those “greedy victims” are grabbing soup bowls out of the hands of poor starving children?  Why sit and be exposed in a civil trial when you can keep quiet and hoard your cash (and the truth)?

Don’t believe me? Here’s the money quote from Twin Cities bankruptcy attorney Barbara May (to KARE-TV):

“Every time they file for bankruptcy they save a fortune,” she said of dioceses. “It’s good business for them.”

Good business in the game of moral bankruptcy.



Where would Jesus live?

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 1, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis

Relax, Archbishop Gregory.

Wilton Gregory

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory: Oops! I didn’t mean to buy that house!

You need to stop apologizing for that cherry $2.2 million house you just built in Atlanta. Sure, Georgia’s Catholics are rightfully angry. Of course it’s an ostentatious show of wealth that goes against the spirit and the words of the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

We understand: You had to show up Newark Archbishop Myers, who just put $500,000 of what critics are calling “vulgar” additions on his house. Right?

So stop apologizing. OC Bishop Kevin Vann has got your back!

A $2.2 million mansion? That’s chump change for Vann.

OC Bishop Kevin Vann. He lives a lot better than you do.

OC Bishop Kevin Vann. He lives a lot better than you do.

Almost ten years ago, the OC Weekly ran the blockbuster piece Lifestyles of the Rich and Pious, where Gustavo Arellano listed the property values for some of the most expensive homes owned by the Diocese of Orange. Since the story ran, little has changed, except property values.

Wilton Gregory paid $2.2 million for a mansion—how about a beach cottage now valued at more than $2.5 million?

When the OC diocese bought this Newport Beach property in 2000 for $1.15 million, they handed the keys over to Msgr Lawrence Baird, who was its sole resident in 2004, when Gustavo’s story ran. Now, similar properties (according to Redfin) are going for anywhere between $2.5 and $3 million.

Since Baird is still in charge of the St. John Vianney Chapel on Balboa Island (where the cottage is located), we can assume he is still the occupant of the cottage. And since the cottage is only 918 square feet, chances of a roommate are slim.

“But where should poor Msgr. Baird live?” you ask. Here. He can commute to work like the rest of us.

Then there is the house that Bishop Tod Brown bought in 2004 for (at least) $1.1 million. Because of its location in Santa Ana, property values dropped during the recession and are just now coming back. Houses in the development are back in the low millions. As of December of last year, Bishop Kevin Vann was living in the house. Alone. His meals there are prepared by a cook.

Archbishop Gregory: Do you have a $2.5 million beach cottage and a private chef? How about millions of dollars in other properties across the county? Nope.

See? You’re fine.

Well, maybe you’re not.


RetroReport: The Shame of the Church

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 31, 2014 in Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis
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A RetroReport/NYT short historical documentary on SNAP and the US victims’ rights movement. Even I got a lot of perspective:


Star Advertiser: Toughen laws against child-sex predators

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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From the editorial in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

Children who are raped, sodomized and otherwise sexually abused must cope with the emotional and physical pain of these heinous acts for the rest of their lives. Just as there is no statute of limitations on the trauma they suffer, there should be no statute of limitations on bringing to justice the criminals who inflict this terror on Hawaii’s most vulnerable victims.

So we applaud the Hawaii Legislative Women’s Caucus’ continuing efforts to make it more difficult for pedophilic predators to get away with sex crimes against minors, and to hold accountable private employers and institutions that are proven culpable in the abuse. However, extending the window to file civil lawsuits in limited instances of past abuse, as bills pending in the Legislature seek to do, strikes us as a relatively minor response.

This important issue deserves a broader approach, especially in the Internet age, when the money to be made producing online child pornography for a sick global market heightens an insidious profit motive for criminals already inclined to exploit minors in this way.

It’s fair to say that American society has had its consciousness raised about childhood sexual abuse over the past several decades, as an abuse scandal engulfed the Roman Catholic Church. Other religious, educational and recreational organizations entrusted with children’s welfare also were found to have harbored predators in their ranks. Unthinkable crimes were uncovered and victims were finally heard, many after decades of silence. Yet, quite often, perpetrators escaped punishment, because the statute of limitations on the crimes had expired.

One legitimate response, including in Hawaii, has been to temporarily lift that time limit, although here that provision is limited to the filing of civil lawsuits, and only against the individuals directly involved and associated private entities proven negligent and therefore partly responsible. The state and its agencies are exempt, a glaring hypocrisy given that compulsory public schools, for just one example, also risk employing sexual predators.

About two dozen lawsuits were filed during the two-year window provided in Hawaii, which is set to expire on April 24. Now bills that would delay that expiration are generating intense debate at the Legislature. Familiar phrases are repeated in testimony from opponents of the proposed extension, notably that proving a long ago civil claim is difficult because with the passage of time, memories fade, witnesses die and evidence is lost or destroyed. That’s all true, but those obstacles are far more likely to impede the accuser than the accused. Remember, extending the time allowed to file a case does not lessen the burden of proof one iota — it simply gives victims time to come forward.

At any rate, focusing on civil claims, limited to individuals and private entities to boot, skirts on the margins of true justice.

What lawmakers should do is lift the statute of limitations on criminal charges against adults who commit sex crimes against children. This class of criminal runs a depressing gamut, from parents who sell their offspring into the sex trade, to adults in positions of authority — teachers, coaches, and yes, priests — who violate the trust of young people in their care.

Currently under Hawaii law, only first- and second-degree murder carry no statute of limitations. All other crimes have a shelf life.

The survivors of childhood sexual abuse live with this fundamental injustice every day. That most of them grow up and manage to cope, diminished but not broken, is no excuse for not punishing their abusers. True justice would be served with a criminal conviction, and a jail sentence. Even a successful civil lawsuit is small solace compared to putting a tormenter behind bars.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” goes the legal maxim, generally proclaimed on behalf of defendants. But the idea applies to victims seeking justice, too, although there’s a different way to express it: “Better late than never.”

My kid has been invited to a slumber party! What do I do?

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 26, 2014 in abuse-repellent child, armored child, armored kid, Child safety
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The words from panicky parents ring far and wide:

“I went to slumber parties all of the time and, you know, nothing bad ever happened. But things are so different now!”

“I’ve never let my child spend a night away from me. But she’s nine now, and all of her friends have slumber parties. I can’t keep saying no.”

So what do you do? Let’s start at the beginning:

RELAX – Being upset about it is only going to make your child skittish. There are things you can do to calm your fears and help ensure your child’s safety.

LOOK AT YOUR CHILD AND YOUR OPTIONS – Is your child enthusiastic about the slumber party? Maybe she isn’t. If your child does not want to go, don’t force him or her. There are also great alternatives – maybe your child can stay for the evening part of the party, but prefers to be picked up at 8 pm. For families with church and sports obligations, that’s a perfectly reasonable option.

KNOW THE FAMILY – Just because you’ve seen the family at school, sports, or church functions doesn’t mean that you really know how they live. Ask to be invited inside the house. Tell the host parents that you’re “one of those nervous types” and just want to make sure everything is ok. If they care about your child, they will do everything they can to show you around. Besides, you also want to confirm that the family doesn’t have a cat ranch in the back bedroom, that they indeed use indoor plumbing, and/or there is no need for a hoarding intervention.

TRUST YOUR GUT – Do you like the parents, but don’t have a good feeling about the teenage brother? Does your child like his/her friend, but says that the child’s dad is “creepy?” Do you have a bad feeling about the situation? Then just say no.

HOST A STARTER PARTY – Have a child or two spend the night at your house. This is especially helpful if you think your child may have trepidation about spending a night away from home. You can also have a starter party at a trusted friend’s house – I was lucky enough to have one in the neighborhood for my son’s first sleepover. If anything went wrong, I was three doors down.

TALK TO YOUR CHILD – In an ideal world, you will have already empowered your child about boundaries and his body. But now, go a step further: Tell your child that slumber parties are awesome. Remind her to get some sleep, don’t eat too much junk, and never be alone with an adult in the house behind closed doors. Also tell your child to call you if anything goes wrong, if something happens, or if he is scared. Plus, remind your child that he can tell you anything, even if he thinks he has done something bad or wrong.

MAKE UP FOR THE NOS – If you have to tell your child “no” for a slumber party, let him have a friend overnight at your home. You don’t want your child confusing your prudence with his punishment.

GET THE DEETS – It’s so easy to forget the little things. Make sure you have the hosts’ phone numbers and address. Make sure they have yours. Tell them if your child has allergies. Tell them that they have permission to dial 911 immediately if there is a serious accident involving your child. Tell them if your child does not know how to swim or if she needs to take medication.


Not every child likes sleepovers (I was one of those kids), but for most elementary-school-age and older kids, slumber parties are an important rite of passage, a great social bonding tool, and tons of fun. With care, your child can thrive in these situations … except for the junk-food-lack-of-sleep-induced tummy ache. You’re on your own with that one.



Why Maria Rullo Schinderle should never be a judge

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 25, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis

Just when I thought things couldn’t get stranger, this happened:

The leading hench(wo)man in the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Orange may be a judicial nominee.

When I first got word that California Governor Jerry Brown had thrown Maria Rullo Schinderle’s name in the hat of potential nominees for superior court judge, I was floored. Directly on the heels of his church-influenced veto of SB 131, Brown is nominating one of the most questionable Catholic church attorneys in California for a judgeship.

Victims and those who support victims should be outraged.

This woman must never become a judge

This woman must never become a judge

Let’s go through some of the reason why Brown should immediately remove Schinderle’s name from consideration:

1) She’s actively escaping her own bad press

In nominating forms, Schinderle is listed by her bar name “Maria M. Rullo.” In her workings with the Diocese of Orange, including all of her work fighting victims and acting as a spokesperson, she goes by her married name, “Maria R. Schinderle.” That is reason enough to question her veracity.

Her bar information also lists her as a member of the Busch Law Firm, but there is no listing of her on their website. The Diocese of Orange lists her as General Counsel under the name Maria Rullo Schinderle. So I have to ask: What is her name and where exactly does she work?

Perhaps her name interchangeability is due to the fact that a Google search of Maria Rullo is far more sanitized than the scandalous information that a search for “Maria Schinderle” unearths.

2) She has misrepresented her role as an attorney to manipulate victims and get information that can be used against victims in court.

Schinderle has given herself many titles throughout her years in the Diocese of Orange. Sometimes, she referred to herself as “spokesperson“; other times she was the “Director of Human Resources“; but at all times, she was the chief in-house counsel or general counsel for the bishop.

Why would she do something like this? Well, when she was answering the confidential help line for victims of abuse at the diocese, she certainly didn’t want to say that she was the bishop’s attorney. The toll-free confidential help line was supposed to be answered by a licensed counselor, not the diocese attorney. What she did was unethical and possibly illegal. I was there at meetings where she gave reports on the calls she received on the helpline.

She also needed to change her title at will to neutralize potential problems. When I first met with her in 2001/2002, she told me that she was the HR director, not once telling me that she was an attorney. Instead of informing me that I may have legal rights, she offered me a job at the diocese. Instead of telling me that she had full access to my file and that all of my allegations against choir teacher Thomas Hodgman were, in fact, true, she told me that she found “no evidence” of my allegations. She even said she had spoken with Lu Dominguez, one of the administrators involved, who denied everything. Then Schinderle said, “Well, Joelle. You were 16.”

When my file was eventually released—a file she had full access to—it contained Hodgman’s signed confession and a post-dated memo from Dominguez saying that she knew about the abuse all along, but decided to not report it.

3) Her demeanor is less than judicial

A 2004 OC Weekly article said that Maria Rullo Schinderle “operates ‘a reign of terror’ and ‘uses spies, private investigators and any other means that get at people to keep dissidents in line.” While you could say that it’s just nasty reporting on the part of the Weekly, the comments section of the original article does not have a single comment in the defense of Schinderle.

4) Schinderle knew more about abusers than any other lay person in the diocese.

For years, Schinderle sat on the “Sensitive Issues Committee,” the pre-lay review board group in charge of reviewing allegations of abuse. This group, of which John Urell was also a member, was allowed access to the secret files of priests with known problems of abusing children.

The best case in point is Father Michael Pecharich. The press release that the diocese issued (with Maria Schinderle as a contact) when Pecharich was removed as pastor referred to a single incident 19 years previous. The truth is far more nefarious—documents released showed that Rullo Schinderle and the diocese knew about numerous allegations of abuse, but chose to NOT disclose them to the public or the press.

5) Schinderle was the Diocese’s “minder” of predator clerics.

Schinderle is a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor in Dana Point, one of the Diocese of Orange’s most beautiful churches, with ocean views and wealthy parishioners. So, when predator clerics John Lenihan and Denis Lyons (predator priest Henry Perez and Gerald Plesetz were before her time) were assigned to the parish while Schinderle was working hard on the Sensitive Issues Committee … one cannot help but assume they were sent there under her “watchful eye.”

6) Schinderle does not cooperate with law enforcement 

When the Orange County District Attorney’s office prosecuted Denis Lyons for child molestation, Shinderle refused to cooperate. It was only after a scrappy deputy DA started issuing subpoenas and “shook up the diocese,” that Shinderle decided to cooperate.

From The City Pages:

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office was more than happy to take (Patrick) Wall on board. He met Heather Brown, a deputy DA, at a fundraiser and offered his services for free in the prosecution of Denis Lyons, a former priest accused of four felony counts of lewd acts with a child under 14.

Wall instructed Brown on the specific types of documents she needed to unearth in subpoenas, and shook up the diocese in the process. Lyons pleaded took a plea deal and received a year in jail rather than fight the charges.

“Without him, I would have never known the people involved in the cover-up,” Brown says of Wall. “They play little word games. If you don’t use the right vernacular, in their mind they’re justified in not giving you that file.”

7) Schinderle didn’t report crimes that she knew about.

Schinderle had intimate knowledge of child sex abuse cases involving John Lenihan, Denis Lyons, Albert Schildknecht, Michael Pecharich, and numerous others. None of these were immediately reported to the police. What crimes does she know about that have not made it into the media?

I could go on and on, but it’s time for action.

You can write Governor Brown via his website  or call his office at (916) 445-2841.

You can tell give him the reasons above as to why Maria Rullo Schinderle must never be a judge. In fact, considering the evidence above, it’s surprising that she is a member of the California Bar at all. The California Bar complaint form can be accessed here.

No judge is perfect, but our judges must uphold the highest of standards. There is no room for ethical ambiguity, moral turpitude, or other possibly criminal behavior.

Maria Rullo Schinderle does not deserve to be a judge, and the people of Orange County deserve far better.

Hawaii: Bills may give more victims chance for justice

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
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From today’s Hawaii Star-Advertiser:

Bills seek more time to file suit

Expanding the current two-year window, which expires next month, is unfair to the accused entities, critics argue

By Derrick DePledge

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 23, 2014

“Did you know these men?”

The question appeared in an ad in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last Sunday that showed old black-and-white photographs of three Roman Catholic priests linked to child sexual abuse.

Mark Gallagher, a Kailua attorney, and Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney, are searching for possible victims of child sexual abuse before a unique two-year window to file civil claims for decades-old misconduct closes on April 24.

Two dozen civil lawsuits have been filed during the past two years in what state lawmakers initially intended as a one-time opportunity to help victims in cases where the statute of limitations had long expired.

But some lawmakers now want to leave the window open longer — perhaps permanently — an idea opposed by the state attorney general’s office and the Catholic Church because it could potentially violate the due process rights of the accused.

Churches and other private organizations could have difficulty defending against claims involving priests and others who may have died or left the church or group. Two of the three priests in the newspaper ad, for example, are dead.

Witnesses, documents and other keys to establishing whether the abuse occurred and the organization was negligent could also be hard to produce because of the passage of time.

“There will be instances where the entity may not have any liability but are unable to defend themselves,” Caron Inagaki, a deputy attorney general, told House lawmakers at a hearing this month. “We can’t think about only the plaintiffs. We’re trying to be fair about looking at this law, and the defendants have rights. They do.”

Sex-abuse survivors and their advocates believe the two-year window in Hawaii — and others like it in states across the country — has helped bring justice for victims and publicly identified predators who escaped legal consequences because the statute of limitations had expired.

A bill at the Legislature — Senate Bill 2687 — would expand the two-year window and allow victims to bring civil claims for child sexual abuse until they turn 55. The House Human Services Committee amended the bill and took out the age limitation after lawmakers thought it was too arbitrary.

The bill would lower the legal standard to bring claims against churches and other private organizations. Damages would be awarded to victims if the courts find that the institutions were negligent. Victims now have to show that organizations displayed gross negligence.

The bill would also prevent the details in the certificates of merit that victims must file in order to bring civil claims from being disclosed in court. The confidential certificates, which must include a statement from a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor or clinical social worker that the abuse claims are reasonable, are required to screen out frivolous allegations.

“For me, it’s such an egregious crime when something is committed against a child,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha), the bill’s co-sponsor and the vice chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee. “As a mother to a 5-year-old you realize that a child’s brain has not fully developed.”

Shimabukuro said a “generous amount of time” is needed for children — and eventually, adults — to understand and respond to sexual abuse.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai), the only senator to vote against the bill when it cleared the Senate this month, had voted for the law two years ago but now has concerns.

“Why this length of time? Why are we doing this?” he asked. “It has encouraged additional lawsuits. It has encouraged more judicial involvement. But the question is fairness to both sides.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie vetoed a bill in 2011 that would have lifted the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits by victims of child sexual abuse against the state and private organizations and created a two-year window for bringing claims for older incidents. The governor had warned that the bill raised constitutional and fairness concerns by threatening due process and could have exposed the state to unknown liability.

Abercrombie signed a bill into law in 2012 that created the two-year window for old abuse claims — but exempted the state — and also extended the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits to eight years from the victim’s 18th birthday or three years from the time the victim discovers his or her psychological injuries are related to past abuse. State law had previously set the statute of limitations at two years under both scenarios.

Given the opposition by the state attorney general’s office to the new bill, legislators may be headed toward another veto show­down with the governor.

Rep. Mele Carroll (D, Lanai, Molokai, Paia-Hana), the chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, said she wants to give victims the opportunity to tell their stories.

Carroll has her own bill, House Bill 2034, that would remove both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual assault in the first and second degrees and the continuous sexual assault against minors under 14.

“I personally think there should not be any limitations,” she said. “And I think that if evidence is not available, I think it’s to the advantage of the ones getting sued, including the institutions.”

The accounts of abuse are chilling. The Rev. Gerald Funcheon — the only priest identified in the newspaper ad who is still alive — admitted in a videotaped deposition in 2012 to having sexual contact with more than a dozen children. The true number, other documents suggest, could be as high as 50 children. He also admitted taking nude photographs of boys.

Funcheon, who served as a priest in Minnesota, California, Indiana and other states, was the subject of the first civil lawsuit in Hawaii when the window opened. He is accused in three lawsuits of molesting students at Damien Memorial High School when he was chaplain from 1982 to 1984.

In the deposition, when Funcheon was asked whether he would have stopped his behavior had his supervisor at Damien told him it was criminal sexual conduct and he could go to jail, he said: “Absolutely.”

When children abuse: A preventable tragedy

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 20, 2014 in abuse-repellent child, armored child, Child safety, Shameless Plugs

A breaking story today has kept my phone ringing off the hook: A southern California third grader has been accused of sexually assaulting a classmate numerous times during the past year. School administrators only found out about it when other students at an after-school program reported what they saw. (Kudos to those kids!)

Tragic? Yes. Horrifying? Yes.

Preventable. YES!

But fear, panic and over-reaction are not how to prevent this kind of abuse.

Remember: third graders know little to nothing about sex. For the victim in this case, authorities believe that he didn’t report because he didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe what was happening to him.

So, what do you do?

You go back to the four ways to protect your preschooler from abuse. Number 3 is the relevant lesson here:

3) Looking and touching

The bathtub is a good time to teach this lesson. Tell children that no one is to touch their private body parts and they are to never touch anyone else’s. Tell them that no one is to take pictures of them when they have no clothes on. Don’t use a tone of fear in the discussion – If you approach this the same way as you approach the rules of crossing the street or sharing toys, your child will not be scared or threatened.

As your children get older, you can tell them that even if what is happening feels good, they need to tell mom or dad right away.

I just had this discussion with my second grader this afternoon. I asked him what he would do if someone—an adult or another classmate—touched him or wanted my son to touch them. He said he would say “NO!” and go and tell mom.

When I asked him what he would do if he really liked that person, he hesitated.

I told him, “If anyone touches your penis or bottom or touches you in any way that makes you feel icky, come and tell mom. It’s not your job to worry about what the other person thinks about you or their feelings. It’s mom’s job to take care of you. And mom will never be mad at you for it. Remember, sometimes even when things feel good, they are still bad and make you feel bad afterward—like eating too much Halloween candy. So just tell mom and let mom solve the problem for you.”

He nodded, and then asked if he could play outside today. There was no belabored discussion; I didn’t nag (one of my big faults); and I didn’t act in a way that scared him.

Later he asked me why I brought up the conversation. I told him that I want to help him be strong and safe.

Is this method 100% fool-proof? No. But it could have empowered the victim in Riverside to tell his parents or teachers about what was happening to him. And it was also possibly the reason that the other students reported.

By reporting, the other children did two important things: 1) they stopped the abuse so that the victim can get help and care, and 2) they stopped a child who most probably would have become a repeat molester.

That’s some pretty powerful stuff that we can all take to heart.




Review: A Diary of Disconnect

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 19, 2014 in Book Reviews, Clergy Abuse Crisis

Book Review: The Vatican Diaries: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church; by John Thavis. Penguin Books


A year after the hardcover publication of The Vatican Diaries (a book whose hardcover release date coincided with the resignation of Pope Benedict XXIII XVI and the election of Pope Francis—a marketing and sales extravaganza if ever there were one), John Thavis‘ chronicle of Vatican shenanigans is now out in paperback.

A new afterward by the author is the icing on this cupcake of a book—a sweet, delectable, slightly naughty look inside the Vatican: a patchwork of quirky and outdated personalities tied together by allegiance, clericalism, protocol, and theater. While none of these things are very good for Catholics, clergy sex abuse victims or the Vatican state, Thavis expertly shows how the Vatican’s incompetency, callousness and failures reside in its humanity and its all-too-human worship of the most seductive power of all: information.

Thavis spent more than 25 years as a member of the Vaticanista, the group of journalists charged with covering the Vatican, the pope and other news surrounding the Holy See. As a writer for the Catholic News Service, Thavis was forced to balance the very delicate line between journalistic integrity and his own Catholicism.

He didn’t have an easy job. Without decent access to information or (the sometimes-kept) promises of transparency in many western governments, journalists covering the Vatican are forced to follow a path reminiscent of the childhood game of telephone. It’s about knowing the right person to call, capitalizing on people’s hot buttons, and most importantly, knowing whom to believe. Imagine The National Enquirer with all of the couture, but none of the good looks.

The book is a series of well-told anecdotes which follow Thavis’ thesis: The Vatican suffers from a great communication disconnect. Sometimes the disconnect is intentional. Other times, the disconnect is far more nefarious. Whether he’s telling the story of the construction of a underground parking lot (which accidentally unearths an ancient Roman cemetery) or the decades-long saga of serial pedophile and Vatican embarrassment Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, every story is peppered with Three Stooges-esque mishaps and information bottlenecks.

Immensely readable and thoroughly insightful, The Vatican Diaries does not fall into the “wonk-y and unreadible” trap that ensnares too many other books in this genre. It is what is says it is: a diary. And in this case, breaking open your sister’s locked journal was never this much fun.

To buy the book, click here.

And to learn more about my upcoming book, click here.


Discussing Hawaii’s civil window Hawaii News Now Sunrise

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Attorney Jeff Anderson and I discuss Hawaii’s civil window for victims and its upcoming April 24 deadline.

Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Honolulu Diocese creates “Public Nuisance”, Victims say

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Sex abuse lawsuits call for release of accused offenders

Six more victims come forward under new law 

“Window for Victims” closes April 24



At a news conference on Wednesday in Honolulu, sexual abuse survivors and their attorneys Mark Gallagher and Jeff Anderson will:

· Discuss the novel use of nuisance claims to inform and protect the public.

· Demand the release of a list of clerics who worked in the Diocese of Honolulu with credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors.

· Show how the diocese has created a “public nuisance” by refusing to disclose to the public the names of clerics accused of sexual abuse. A similar lawsuit has forced numerous dioceses in Minnesota to release 43 names of accused clerics, previously unknown to the public.

· Announce six new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by clerics in the Diocese of Honolulu.

· Urge other victims of abuse, no matter the perpetrator, to come forward before April 24, 2014 deadline


Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:00PM HST


Ala Moana Hotel

Gardenia Room

410 Atkinson Drive

Honolulu (808.955.4811)

Notes: Copies of the complaints and additional information will be available at the news conference and posted to www.abusedinhawaii.com

Joelle live on Hawaii News Now Sunrise

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 9, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Tune in to Hawaii’s KGMB (CBS) Tuesday at 7:20am (Hawaii Standard Time). I’ll be live on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, talking about Hawaii’s civil window for victims of abuse and abuse prevention.

You can watch the livestream here.

(FYI – Hawaii does not have Daylight Savings Time)



A year of Pope Francis

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 9, 2014 in Clergy Abuse Crisis

If someone had told me two years ago that a man like Pope Francis would be elected in 2013, I would have been skeptical. After almost 10 years of Benedict—a man with the public persona of a porcupine and pastoral nature of a curmudgeon on a bad day—who could believe that a new pope could so quickly throw off the shackles of academia and theology and become a man of the people?


Best year ever? Not really.

But Francis did just that. And by doing so, he has enlivened the faithful and captured the attention of an adoring world.

He inspired the Catholic faithful, who have yearned for an approachable man who understands the plight of the poor and the trials of the common man.

He’s utilized great PR, capitalizing on well-managed social media and engineering photo-ops that go viral instantly.

He’s attempted to tone down some of the divisive (and sometimes hateful rhetoric) of many bishops who solely focus on gay issues and abortion.

He’s even changed the tunes of many of the bishops and cardinals, who considered their offices a “no-limit credit card” for luxury goods, fine homes and travel. (Newark Archbishop Myers didn’t get the memo, apparently).

But we have also learned something else: An institutional reformer will only go so far.

When it comes to the sex abuse crisis—the crisis that has become a thematic undercurrent behind every action and reaction within Vatican walls, the pope has become absorbed into the institutional church.

The Vatican is a set of laws, a body of people, a patchwork of personalities, a tradition, a political system and a delicate institution—an institution that immediately rallies around itself whenever allegations of cover-up knock on the front door of St. Peters. To blow the whistle or change the rhetoric of this argument would upend decades of messaging, destroy careers, open up the Holy See to legal liability, and become a tacit admission that the Vatican knew about abuse and did nothing.

Francis can’t and won’t expose his predecessors and his colleagues. He is a part of the system now, and the system’s number one goal is to keep the system alive. (The first rule of Fight Club …)

So I expect that there will be some apologies with carefully chosen victims. His “commission” may have a meeting or two (we don’t even know who is on the commission or what their ultimate goal is) and publish a report written by a lower-level member of the curia with deep understanding of Canon and civil law. He will continue to play the victim in the crisis, instead of acknowledging crimes that have hurt millions worldwide.

And the system will continue.

Fortunately, robust civil laws, a fed-up faithful, and an empowered victims’ movement be right there behind him.

In crisis, Francis fails

Posted by Joelle Casteix on March 5, 2014 in armored child, Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis

One of the chapters of my upcoming book deals with what I call Institutional Rot, that is, why “good” people do and say bad things in the name of the institution and how children are caught in the crossfire. For an institutional culture to have this kind of crisis, the direction—or I should say, misdirection—has to come from the top.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at a hypothetical:

Auto Company X is the leading automaker in the United States. For more than 100 years, Company X’s cars have been a part of American’s lives and a well-loved and trusted brand. But civil lawsuits filed by victims have unearthed the fact that Company X has knowingly been making and selling defective cars that veer off the road and kill people.

Hundreds of victims sue the company. In the process of the litigation, it’s discovered that many of the corporate officers knew about the defects and did nothing. Instead of being fired, the executives are allowed to keep their jobs.

The news gets worse and worse. In some areas of the country, anywhere from one in ten to one in 20 cars were killing people. While many of the cars were taken off the road, the company refuses to disclose how many cars still on the road have the potential to kill. In some cases, Company X took their emblems off of certain killer cars and now claims that they are no longer responsible for what those cars do.

Although the lawsuits continue and one executive was convicted, the company insists the crisis is over. The convicted executive, who covered up for the defects and allowed killer cars to stay on the road, keeps his cushy job.

In an interview, a newly-promoted president of the company says, “The crisis is over.” Despite the tens of thousands of people who were injured or killed by his cars, he says that “drunk drivers kill far more people than Company X’s cars.” He goes on to say that no one has looked into auto accidents more than Company X and that they are being “unfairly targeted.” In fact, he calls his predecessor, who knew about the defective cars for decades, a “true reformer.”

All the while, victims of defective cars are still coming forward and executives are still fighting in the courts to make sure that the public never knows how many defective cars are or were on the road.

We’d never tolerate that from an auto company. Why do we tolerate it from a religious leader?

A perfect example? Pope Francis’ interview today with Italian daily Corriere della Serra.

From the translated text:

Corriere della Serra: The scandals that rocked the life of the Church are fortunately in the past. A public appeal was made to you, on the delicate theme of the abuse of minors, published by (the Italian newspaper) Il Foglio and signed by Besancon and Scruton, among others, that you would raise your voice and make it heard against the fanaticisms and the bad conscience of the secularized world that hardly respects infancy.

Pope Francis: I want to say two things. The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path. The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.

Here’s the problem: Francis is not addressing the problem. In business ethics circles, this kind of response (or lack thereof) is called “Organizational Failure.” What’s organizational failure? It’s when, in a crisis, an organization’s leader does not take responsibility, does not show contrition, does not display true action to ensure it never happens again, and does nothing to rebuild trust or punish wrong-doers.


Instead, Francis says the problem is over, does not apologize, does not talk about Bishops who are law-breakers right now, does not try to make amends, deflects blame, and plays the victim. And unfortunately for many Catholics and apologists, that’s okay.

It should never be okay.



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