WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's Catholic Church has come under a wave of condemnation by appearing to suggest that children are partly to blame for being sexually abused by priests.
Archbishop Jozef Michalik, head of Poland's influential Episcopate, was commenting this month on revelations about Polish pedophile priests. A child from a troubled family, Michalik told reporters, "seeks closeness with others and may get lost and may get the other person involved, too."
The words triggered an immediate uproar — one that Michalik tried to stamp out the same day by apologizing and saying he had been misunderstood. He had not, he said, meant to suggest that child victims were in any way responsible.
But the damage was done.
Ordinary citizens joined prominent politicians in expressing outrage, and intense debate continues more than two weeks later. The media pointed out that Michalik had supported a parish priest convicted in 2004 of child sex abuse, and one of the priest's victims said she was horrified by Michalik's latest remarks.
"Archbishop Michalik's words make us feel fear and revulsion," Ewa Orlowska said.
The archbishop's comments forced the Episcopate's spokesman, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, to state that Poland's church has "zero tolerance" for pedophilia but that it needs to learn how to approach and talk about the matter. The controversy has since led bishops under Michalik to apologize for "priests who have harmed children."
It all comes amid a tide of allegations that Poland's church is sweeping cases of sex abuse under the carpet, putting it at odds with Vatican efforts since 2001 to punish abusers. The scrutiny has also further undermined the church's status in Poland as a moral and political leader — cemented by Polish-born Pope John Paul II through his critical role in inspiring the fight against communism. The church's defenders say that priests are being singled out for condemnation when teachers and sports coaches have also been caught sexually abusing kids.
John Paul himself came under criticism for a reluctance to heed accusations against priests. While the Vatican in 2001 ordered bishops to submit cases of alleged pedophilia to the Holy See's review, it was largely the initiative of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. After the church sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in the United States, Ratzinger pressed for faster ways to permanently remove abusers from the church.
The crackdown against pedophile priests gained intensity once Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. In 2011, Benedict instructed bishops' conferences around the world to submit their own guidelines for keeping molesters out of the priesthood and to protect children.
Poland's Episcopate has issued guidelines for the church's punishment of priests and support for the victims. But it sees no need to report priests to state investigators and says that the financial compensation rests with the wrongdoer, not with the church. That approach may soon be tested by a man who is readying Poland's first sex abuse lawsuit against the church.
In several countries, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, the church has been paying millions in compensation over sex abuse cases.
Michalik also recently raised eyebrows by saying that the roots of pedophilia lay in pornography and divorce, both of which are "painful and long-lasting wounds."
The debate started last month after Dominican Republic investigators revealed child sex abuse allegations against two Polish clergymen: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador, and Rev. Wojciech Gil, a parish priest. Wesolowski has been forcibly removed by the Vatican. Gil has denied sex abuse and suggested that Dominican drug mafia is taking revenge on him for his educational work.
Some 27 Polish priests have been tried for sex abuse since 2001, but most cases ended in suspended prison term — indicating a general leniency for the church in Poland, where religion is taught in schools and senior church officials attend state ceremonies.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson is scheduled to give a deposition Thursday in the sex abuse case involving Father Joseph Jiang.
Father Jiang has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old Lincoln County girl. He also faces witness tampering charges. Father Jiang has pleaded not guilty.
A spokesperson for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says this is the first time a high ranking Catholic official in St. Louis will give a deposition in a criminal child sex abuse case.
Charges are expected Wednesday against middle school teacher accused of having inappropriate contact with a former student.
St. Louis County Police arrested the male teacher Tuesday at Sperreng Middle School. His name hasn't been released.
Police say the alleged incidents date back to 1996. The victim reportedly came forward this summer with allegations.
Sperreng Middle School is in the Lindbergh School District in south St. Louis County.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Negotiations between Penn State and young men who claim they were abused by Jerry Sandusky have begun to bear fruit, with lawyers involved saying there will be more announcements of settlements in the coming days.
The school's trustees have set aside some $60 million to pay claims, and on Monday a lawyer working for Penn State said the one settlement so far should be followed by 24 more this week. Thirty-one young men have come forward to Penn State.
Attorney Michael Rozen said the pending agreements include most of the eight young men who testified last year against Sandusky, the school's former assistant football coach now serving a prison sentence for child molestation.
Penn State said little over the weekend in response to an announcement by the lawyer for one of the eight, "Victim 5," that his case was fully settled and he expected payment within a month. The school is paying out the claims through its insurance coverage and from interest revenues on loans made by the school to its own self-supporting entities.
Rozen said all of the deals are expected to include provisions that give the university the right to pursue claims against the university's insurer, The Second Mile charity founded by Sandusky and The Second Mile's insurer.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in state prison after being convicted last summer of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Witnesses testified that he met victims through The Second Mile, an organization established to help at-risk children that ran camps and offered other services.
Rozen said the "value" of the claims depended in part on whether they happened after 2001, when top-ranking school officials were told by a graduate assistant about Sandusky with a child in a team shower, or before 1998, the earliest documented example of a Sandusky complaint.
"It's what did Penn State know and what duty did they have?" Rozen said. "What did they know, when did they know it, and what duty — if any — did they have to act, and to what extent?"
He said claims for abuse before 1998 also may fall outside the statute of limitations that put time limits on how long victims have to sue.
Although some lawyers have said they were interested in settlements that require Penn State to make changes that might prevent such abuse from re-occurring, Rozen said those matters have been eclipsed by the widespread reforms the university has adopted or begun since a series of recommendations were made last summer in an internal report.
"I don't think anybody could reasonably or rationally question the university's commitment to doing things differently in the future," Rozen said. "This was about trying to redress harm caused to young men by this really bad person, Sandusky."
He declined to say how much the 25 cases are settling for, or provide a range of the settlements.
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois man faces up to 15 years in federal prison now that he's admitted to paying undercover investigators $1,500 in hopes of having sex with a seven year old girl.
The Belleville News-Democrat reports that 65 year old David Driskill of Carrollton has pleaded guilty in East St. Louis to commercial sex trafficking. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7.
Authorities say Driskill sent text messages in May to a woman, offering to pay $3,000 if she could arrange for to have sex with a child between 7 and 11 years old. The woman instead notified authorities and cooperated with them.
Driskill was arrested days later at a Jerseyville apartment after paying an undercover federal investigator $1,500 for the supposed sexual encounter with a girl.
LAKESIDE, Calif. (AP) — Amber Alerts expanded to Oregon and Washington as authorities searched for a Southern California man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old girl and wanted in the death of the girl's mother and possibly her 8-year-old brother.
Oregon state police said there was a possible sighting of James Lee DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa in northeast California near Alturas on Wednesday, followed by another about 50 miles along the same highway near Lakeview, in south-central Oregon.
Investigators have said DiMaggio may be headed to Texas or Canada with 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and possibly her 8-year-old brother Ethan, though investigators said a charred body discovered along with the mother could be the boy.
Also Wednesday, a friend of Hannah Anderson said DiMaggio told Hannah he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age.
DiMaggio explained that he didn't want the girls to think he was weird in an effort to defend himself after noticing they exchanged glances, 15-year-old Marissa Chavez said. She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.
Hannah Anderson asked Chavez to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio, 40, drove her to meets.
"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," Chavez said.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to Hannah and 8-year-old Ethan. He was very close with their parents for years.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of 42-year-old Christina Anderson when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio's rural home. A child's body was found as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The child's body has not been identified but it may be Ethan, sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said late Tuesday.
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said Wednesday that his daughter visited DiMaggio's home last weekend to say goodbye before he moved to Texas. DiMaggio, who works as a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was a regular presence at the Anderson family apartment in Lakeside, a suburb of 54,000 people.
"He must have had this planned," Saincome said.
Saincome said nothing seemed amiss when he called his daughter at work Friday to let her know she didn't call on his birthday. Anderson, a medical assistant, said she would call back that night but never did.
Investigators had no evidence that the relationship between DiMaggio and the missing girl was more than friendly.
"We're not looking into that directly at this point," Giannantonio said.
DiMaggio is wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states.
DiMaggio's sister, Lora Robinson, told U-T San Diego that the allegations against her brother were "completely out of character." She said he spent four years in the Navy, left the service to care for her after their mother died of cancer, and volunteered rescuing animals.
"He is the kindest person in the world," Robinson said.
The parents of a Lincoln County girl who reported being molested by a priest are now suing St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, claiming he knew the priest was a danger to children. The suit, filed Friday in Lincoln County, asks for unspecified damages.
The teenage girl had told police last June that Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang, an associate pastor at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica in the Central West End, had molested her. The 30 year old priest was later charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Sandusky also told Ziegler he was not sure whether head coach Joe Paterno would have let him keep coaching if he suspected Sandusky was a pedophile. Sandusky was investigated by university police for a separate shower incident in 1998, but remained one of Paterno's top assistants through 1999.