Church sex scandal takes toll on victims’ lawyers
BOSTON — Attorney Ray Boucher helped secure a record $660 million settlement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese on behalf of more than 500 people molested by priests. Five days after the settlement was announced, his wife left him.
Eric MacLeish, the hard-charging lawyer whose work for victims helped spur the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002, later suffered a breakdown, stopped practicing law and got divorced.
And Steve Rubino, once such an observant Catholic he couldn’t believe a priest would molest a child, lost his faith and eventually retired from the law.
“It moved me completely out of whatever religious context I was in — completely,” he said.
The sex scandal that rocked the nation’s Roman Catholic Church took a fearsome personal toll on some of the top lawyers who dared to challenge the institution.
While many of them ultimately reaped large fees for their services, the all-consuming workload, the pressure of battling the church and the stress of listening to graphic accounts of children’s suffering were debilitating.
“No one can handle these cases and come out of it the same,” said Sylvia Demarest, a lawyer who helped win a $119.6 million verdict against the Diocese of Dallas in 1997 and later built a national database on clergy sex abuse cases.
Demarest, now semiretired, said she grew frustrated with her inability to heal the wounds suffered by her clients. “What happens to kids when they’re abused and what happens to their brains when they are abused is something that we don’t know how to fix,” she said.
The crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, after internal church documents released publicly showed that church leaders for decades had shuffled sexually abusive priests from parish to parish. The scandal spread across the country as thousands of lawsuits were filed by people who claimed they had been victimized.
For MacLeish, the clergy cases reawakened memories of being sexually abused as a child.
MacLeish and other lawyers won an $85 million settlement in Boston in 2003 for more than 500 victims. But in the months after the landmark settlement was announced, MacLeish began to unravel. He developed insomnia and nausea, lost 40 pounds and couldn’t work.
He was rattled by the image of a 9-year-old boy who was repeatedly sodomized over nine hours by a priest. The boy buried his bloody underwear so his mother wouldn’t find out.
“The idea of him going off into the woods and burying his underwear, that really got to me,” MacLeish said.
MacLeish had been sexually abused by a family friend during a camping trip at 15. And he had memories of being molested at an English boarding school he attended as a boy.
“I began to realize why I had been doing this work and how much my own abuse had affected me,” he said. He said his pursuit of the church “was absolutely never about money.” He added: “The wealth I received was the knowledge that I had really helped my clients and helped to change the Catholic Church.”
Rubino, who retired last year after more than 20 years of representing clergy sex-abuse victims, was incredulous after a family friend came to him in 1987 and said a priest had sexually assaulted her 14-year-old son.
“I said, `Well, that’s impossible. Priests are celibate. What are you talking about?'” recalled Rubino, who grew up in a large Italian Catholic family.
Rubino, whose law office was in Margate City, N.J., spent the next 15 years becoming a canon law expert. He traveled all over the U.S and to Ireland, Canada and Australia to represent victims and help other lawyers. Story after story of abuse left Rubino disheartened about the Catholic Church.
“I was a true believer. I said my Hail Marys, my Act of Contrition, I learned Latin, I served Mass, I believed in God,” he said. “I don’t do any of that now.”
At the height of the scandal, Rubino was working 16- to 20-hour days and traveling constantly. His wife and three children resented it. “While I was (home), I was never there,” he said. “I was a second away from the next text, the next e-mail, the next phone call from a client.”
Rubino’s marriage survived, but Boucher’s did not. Boucher’s wife left him right after the 2007 settlement in Los Angeles.
“She just said, `Look, you’re on top of the world, the press is surrounding you, I haven’t accomplished what I want to accomplish in life, and I just don’t feel like I can stay with you,'” Boucher said. (Boucher’s ex-wife, Christine Roberts, declined to comment.)
Before that, Boucher had plowed through hundreds of cases in Los Angeles, and mostly managed to “box it up and store it away.” But, at times, the enormity of the pain caused by the abuse was overwhelming.
In 2004, Boucher was editing DVDs of victims describing how they were raped or otherwise molested by a priest. He saw a pile of about 150 DVDs ready to be mailed to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. Each DVD cover had a picture of the victim as a child, as they were when they were assaulted.
“I was stunned. I looked at them, and I’m sure I started to cry,” Boucher recalled. “I will never lose that image.”
MacLeish’s marriage also ended in divorce. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he began seeing a psychologist. Within two months, they were sleeping together and their affair led to his divorce, MacLeish said.
MacLeish, now a professor who teaches civil rights and criminal procedure at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, said he doesn’t regret the work he did, despite the toll it took on him and his family.
“There is not one case that I’ve heard of since 2004 where a known pedophile has been placed by the church into an organization where he would be able to do it again,” he said.
Rubino, 61, now spends time with his family and works as chief executive of a sports performance training center for kids. Rubino said it is a respite from the work he used to do.
“For the hundreds of damaged young lives I represented, the kids at (the center) are at the opposite end of the spectrum,” he said.
Boucher, 53, continues to represent victims.
“I can’t imagine walking away from people who are suffering from the isolation of sexual abuse,” he said. “I don’t know how — no matter what the personal, emotional toll might be — I don’t know how you walk away from that.”
by Frances Farmer (1931)
No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” It wasn’t a murder. I think God just died of old age. And when I realized that he wasn’t any more, it didn’t shock me. It seemed natural and right.
Maybe it was because I was never properly impressed with a religion. I went to Sunday school and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn’t believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.
Religion was too vague. God was different. He was something real, something I could feel. But there were only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie between cool, clean sheets at night after I’d had a bath, after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger nails and teeth. Then I could lie quite still in the dark with my face to the window with the trees in it, and talk to God. “I am clean, now. I’ve never been as clean. I’ll never be cleaner.” And somehow, it was God. I wasn’t sure that it was … just something cool and dark and clean.
That wasn’t religion, though. There was too much of the physical about it. I couldn’t get that same feeling during the day, with my hands in dirty dish water and the hard sun showing up the dirtiness on the roof-tops. And after a time, even at night, the feeling of God didn’t last. I began to wonder what the minister meant when he said, “God, the father, sees even the smallest sparrow fall. He watches over all his children.” That jumbled it all up for me. But I was sure of one thing. If God were a father, with children, that cleanliness I had been feeling wasn’t God. So at night, when I went to bed, I would think, “I am clean. I am sleepy.” And then I went to sleep. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the cleanness any less. I just knew that God wasn’t there. He was a man on a throne in Heaven, so he was easy to forget.
Sometimes I found he was useful to remember; especially when I lost things that were important. After slamming through the house, panicky and breathless from searching, I could stop in the middle of a room and shut my eyes. “Please God, let me find my red hat with the blue trimmings.” It usually worked. God became a super-father that couldn’t spank me. But if I wanted a thing badly enough, he arranged it.
That satisfied me until I began to figure that if God loved all his children equally, why did he bother about my red hat and let other people lose their fathers and mothers for always? I began to see that he didn’t have much to do about hats, people dying or anything. They happened whether he wanted them to or not, and he stayed in heaven and pretended not to notice. I wondered a little why God was such a useless thing. It seemed a waste of time to have him. After that he became less and less, until he was…nothingness.
I felt rather proud to think that I had found the truth myself, without help from any one. It puzzled me that other people hadn’t found out, too. God was gone. We were younger. We had reached past him. Why couldn’t they see it? It still puzzles me.
—-Frances Farmer (1931)
Religious right selfishly turns boy into pawn in gay-adoption battle
The judge’s ruling said exactly what most people would want to hear in an adoption case.
It said that the 1-year-old boy who had been living with his foster parents was “happy and thriving” — and that a permanent adoption made perfect sense.
It should be a simple story with a happy ending.
Except it is not.
That judge’s ruling — which focused solely on the child’s well-being — enraged some on the religious right.
Why? Because the little boy’s adoptive parents are gay.
So now those who profit from division are pouncing.
They aren’t the people who have cared for this little boy, who have nursed his wounds and tucked him in at night. In fact, they haven’t done a thing for him.
They haven’t consulted the experts — everyone from a child psychologist to a Guardian ad Litem — who say the parents provide precisely the loving environment that this child needs.
All these critics know is that they don’t want gay people to have the same rights as straight people.
So they want him separated from the parents who love him.
“Arrogant judicial activism” was how the finger-waggers at Orlando’s Florida Family Policy Council described the ruling in an alert it sent out to its members last week.
And to make their point about just how frightening this ruling was, the Policy Council included a photograph of the couple — a strange and androgynous-looking duo, one with bleached skin and both with mullet haircuts. The couple look so odd (you literally can’t tell whether they are male or female) that one might wonder how any judge could place a young child with such a disturbing-looking duo.
Except the judge didn’t.
The abnormal-looking couple that the Policy Council chose to illustrate this story is not the same couple granted the right to adopt the child.
No, the two-woman couple awarded custody of the 1-year-old — South Florida trade-show executive Vanessa Alenier and her partner, Melanie Leon — look more like J.Crew models: all-American with catalogue clothes and smiles.
The picture that the Policy Council chose was a grotesque caricature.
These are the dirty tactics of Christianity’s far-right warriors.
Not the majority of mainstream Christians, mind you. Not those who are focused on caring for their own families and practicing their own faith — but those who are obsessed with homosexuality.
These extremists wage their campaigns of intolerance based on deception and misrepresentation.
Investigators stunned by child dismemberment
SAN ANTONIO – The scene was so gruesome investigators could barely speak: A 3 1/2-week-old boy lay dismembered in the bedroom of a single-story house, three of his tiny toes chewed off, his face torn away, his head severed and his brains ripped out.”At this particular scene you could have heard a pin drop,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said Monday. “No one was speaking. It was about as somber as it could have been.”
Officers called to the home early Sunday found the boy’s mother, Otty Sanchez, sitting on the couch with a self-inflicted wound to her chest and her throat partially slashed, screaming “I killed my baby! I killed my baby!” police said. She told officers the devil made her do it, police said.
Sanchez, 33, apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts before stabbing herself, McManus said.
“It’s too heinous for me to describe it any further,” McManus told reporters.
Sanchez is charged with capital murder in the death of her son, Scott Wesley Buccholtz-Sanchez. She was being treated Monday at a hospital, and was being held on $1 million bail.
‘In and out’ of psychiatric ward
The slaying occurred a week after the child’s father moved out, McManus said. Otty Sanchez’s sister and her sister’s two children, ages 5 and 7, were in the house, but none were harmed.
Police said Sanchez did not have an attorney, and they declined to identify family members.
No one answered the door Monday at Sanchez’s home, where the blinds were shut. A hopscotch pattern and red hearts were drawn on the walk leading up to the house.
Sanchez’s aunt, Gloria Sanchez, said her niece had been “in and out” of a psychiatric ward but did not say where she was treated or why. She said a hospital called several months ago to check up on her.
“Otty didn’t mean to do that. She was not in her right mind,” a sobbing Gloria Sanchez told The Associated Press on Monday by phone. She said her family was devastated.
Investigators are looking into Sanchez’s mental health history to see if there was anything “significant,” and whether postpartum difficulties could have factored into the attack, McManus said.
Postpartum depression — a pattern?
Postpartum depression and psychosis have been cited as contributing factors in several other cases in Texas in recent years in which mothers killed their children.
Andrea Yates drowned her five children in her Houston-area home 2001, saying she believed Satan was inside her and trying to save them from hell. Her attorneys said she had been suffering from severe postpartum psychosis, and a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006.
In 2004, Dena Schlosser killed her 10-month-old in her Plano home by slicing off the baby’s arms. She was found not guilty of reason by insanity, after testifying that she killed the baby because she wanted to give her to God.
Sanchez’s neighbors expressed sorrow and horror Monday at the grisly killing.
Neighbor Luis Yanez, 23, said his kids went to school with one of the small children who lived at the house. He said he often saw a woman playing outside with the children but didn’t know whether it was Otty.
“Why would you do that to your baby?” said Yanez, a tire technician. “It brings chills to you. They can’t defend themselves.”
Allen Taylor, another neighbor, said “once she gets back in her right mind, she’s going to be devastated.”
Parents in faith-healing case never considered calling a doctor
OREGON CITY — Carl and Raylene Worthington told detectives that they never considered calling a doctor, even as their 15-month-old daughter deteriorated and died.
“I don’t believe in them,” Carl Worthington said of doctors. “I believe in faith healing.”
Raylene Worthington said that her religious beliefs do not encompass medical care and that she would not have done anything different for her – daughter, who died at home of pneumonia, a blood infection and other complications.
In Clackamas County Circuit Court on Wednesday, prosecutors played videotaped police interviews with the Worthingtons, who are accused of criminal mistreatment and manslaughter for failing to provide medical care for their daughter. Ava Worthington died March 2, 2008, after her parents and other members of the Followers of Christ tried to treat her with faith healing.
Ava’s father, who goes by Brent, his middle name, described what happened:
Ava came down with what appeared to be a cold or the flu on a Tuesday. By Saturday, her breathing became labored and the family turned to its traditional faith-healing rituals, praying, fasting, anointing the body with oil, administering diluted wine and laying on of hands.
By Sunday, Brent Worthington said he thought there was “a possibility” his daughter was so sick she could die. Then, after a final session of laying on of hands at about 5 p.m., “she perked up,” he said. She grabbed her bottle and “took some food.”
“She was peaceful; she was rested,” Worthington said.
Two hours later Ava was dead.
The interviewers, Detectives Michelle Finn and James Rhodes of the Clackamas County Sheriff Office’s child-abuse unit, asked pointed questions, and Brent Worthington provided details about his, his family’s and his church’s beliefs and practices.
He said no one in his immediate family has ever been to a doctor or used prescription or over-the-counter medicine. “It’s not something we believe in.”
The detectives also asked about the growth on Ava’s neck, which swelled during the last days of her life. Prosecutors allege the lump — a benign cystic hygroma — impeded her breathing.
The soft lump became more noticeable two months before Ava died and started to get “tight” the day before her death, according to the Worthingtons.
Brent Worthington said he had ultimate responsibility for Ava’s care. “I’m the head of the house; it falls to me. The wife follows the husband.”
He said he confers with his wife but did not consult with anyone else about treating Ava’s illness. Raylene Worthington did not dispute the decision to rely on spiritual healing, he said.
Asked if she would have taken Ava to a doctor if she knew her child was dying, Raylene Worthington said, “I don’t know.”
Brent Worthington said that forgoing medical treatment is probably difficult for outsiders to understand. For him, medical treatment “is not a question. It’s not even thought.”
When the detectives told Worthington that the law requires a parent to provide adequate medical care, he said he had provided care.
“I did everything I could do for her,” Worthington said. “What I was doing was working,” he said. “She was getting relief.”
Dr. Christopher Young, the deputy state medical examiner who conducted the girl’s autopsy, disagreed. “The absence of action led to her death,” said Young, who testified after the jury saw the interviews.
Ava’s cyst first appeared when she was a few months old.
By Christmas 2007, the cyst was swollen and likely interfered Ava’s with breathing, Young said. “That’s the time when a reasonable parent” would have taken a child to a doctor, he said.
Ava’s various medical conditions were easily treated, and antibiotics and a simple medical procedure could have saved her right up to the day she died, Young said.
The cyst could have been drained with a needle, providing temporary but instant relief, Young said, and antibiotics could have dampened the infections.
Dead girl ‘punished in cold bath’
A seven-year-old girl allegedly starved to death by her mother and mother’s partner was made to sit in a cold bath as a punishment, a court has been told.
In video evidence shown at Birmingham Crown Court, a 12-year-old girl said that she herself had been made to stand in front of a fan in her underwear.
Junaid Abuhamza, 30, and Angela Gordon, 34, both of Leyton Road in Handsworth, Birmingham, deny murdering Khyra Ishaq.
The prosecution said Khyra was starved to death and kept prisoner.
The court heard the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also in the care of the defendants.
She told a policewoman that children at the house would miss out on food if they were naughty.
She also said that she was struck with a stick and made to stand in front of a fan wearing boxer shorts and a vest.
She added that she and others would also be made to stand outside the house.
The court has heard that Khyra lost up to 40% of her bodyweight and resembled a “concentration camp” victim when she was found.
Earlier this week, the jury was told that Mr Abuhamza and Ms Gordon told children at the house they believed Khyra had been possessed by an evil spirit.
Mr Abuhamza pleaded guilty last week to five cruelty charges relating to other children.
Ms Gordon denies five child cruelty offences, which were allegedly committed between December 2007 and May 2008.
The case has been adjourned until Monday.
No Charges For Mother of Teen With Cancer
A 13-year-old boy with cancer who fled the state with his mother to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy has returned, Minnesota officials said today.
The arrest warrant issued for Daniel Hauser’s mother Colleen while they were on the run have been quashed, Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said at a press conference, but he would not discuss whether she might still face any charges.
On Sunday, Jennifer Keller, an attorney from Irvine, Calif., contacted the New Ulm Sheriff’s Department to let them know that Colleen and Daniel Hauser were ready to return to Minnesota.
“They were ready to come home,” Hoffman said, when asked why the mother and son had decided to end their flight. He declined to say where the two had been in the six days they were missing.
Daniel was immediately checked over by medical authorities upon his return today, Hoffman said, but he wouldn’t comment on the boy’s medical condition.
A federal arrest warrant had been issued for Colleen Hauser after she and Daniel left Minnesota May 19. The search for the pair had focused on Southern California, where they were reportedly spotted at least once, and Mexico, where it was suspected they might have gone to seek alternative treatments.
Doctors say Daniel has a cancerous tumor growing in his chest that is likely to kill him if he does not receive additional chemotherapy, but his family has said they prefer natural healing methods.
The U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI filed federal criminal charges Friday against Colleen Janet Hauser for fleeing with her son Daniel to avoid giving him chemotherapy for his cancer.
The federal criminal complaint noted that Hauser and her son flew on Sun Country Airlines from Minnesota to Los Angeles on May 19. The felony charge of fleeing from the state of Minnesota to avoid prosecution for deprivation of parental rights has been quashed.
The case became an international manhunt with Interpol being notified and U.S. Marshals being deployed to Mexico from the San Diego Field Office and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
According to one source, the marshals and Mexican law enforcement officers were in Tijuana looking for Hauser and her son before their return to Minnesota.
Anthony Hauser, the father of the Minnesota teenager, had made a desperate plea for his son to return with his mother for court-ordered cancer chemotherapy treatment .
Standing at his Sleepy Eye, Minn., farm, Anthony Hauser last week had pleaded with his wife to come home “so we can decide as a family what Danny’s treatment should be.”
Did Mom Flee Out of Fear?
Authorities had said they believed Hauser and Daniel, were in Mexico — or trying to get there — to seek alternative treatments for the teen who suffers from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hauser has said that he believes his wife saw X-rays of Daniel that made her scared and prompted her to flee.
“I know you’re scared and I feel that you left out of fear, maybe without thinking it all the way through,” Hauser said.
Authorities had promised Colleen Hauser in a May 21 press conference that they would not take law enforcement action if she showed “a good faith effort” to come back.
Colleen and Daniel Hauser were spotted in Southern California Tuesday morning, according to the Brown County Sheriff’s office, who said it was “reliable information” that has led them to believe the duo headed to Mexico to seek alternative cancer treatment.
The two had disappeared after a court rejected the boy’s request to refuse chemotherapy treatment for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease. Doctors said they believe Daniel will die without the treatment.
The Hausers have said that they would prefer a less rigid chemotherapy treatment combined with other alternative treatments.
The family is Roman Catholic and believes in the “do no harm” philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods.
A mother testified that religious beliefs prevent her son from taking chemo. Doctors said he will likely die without it.
The mother of 13-year-old Daniel Hauser testified Friday that she and her son would refuse to comply with any court order requiring the boy to resume chemotherapy for his cancer.
“Danny clearly made up his mind. He’s not doing it,” Colleen Hauser, of Sleepy Eye, Minn., testified on the opening day of a trial over whether a court should order the boy into medical treatment against the family’s wishes.
Hauser, whose son was diagnosed in January with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said conventional treatments such as chemotherapy conflict with the family’s religious beliefs. She said they prefer natural remedies such as herbs and vitamins.
Asked where she learned about the alternative healing techniques, Hauser said, “on the Internet.”
Daniel sat stoically through the opening part of the trial as his first oncologist, Dr. Bruce Bostrom of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, testified that his chances of survival would drop to 5 percent without treatment.
The boy left shortly afterward and never returned to the courtroom. He is scheduled to testify this morning in a closed session before the judge, after his lawyer said he was uncomfortable talking in open court. The case is expected to be finished today, and the judge said he didn’t expect to issue a ruling this weekend.
As a day of tense testimony began, dozens of family friends and supporters lined the courtroom, but the mood was subdued. At one point, a handful of natural-health advocates arrived with signs to show their support for the Hausers. But they were ordered to leave their placards outside the courthouse.
The Hausers declined to speak to reporters after Friday’s court session. But Dan Zwakman, a member of the Nemenhah religious group to which they belong, acted as the family spokesman. He argued that this is a case about religious freedom, noting that the group’s motto is “our religion is our medicine.”