In its effort to defend itself from an accusation of sexual abuse by one of its priests, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hartford collided in court Friday with one of the unflinchingly obedient Catholic families that form its core. The retired parents of an altar boy took the witness stand and described the day they were shaken by their by-then grown son's disclosure that a priest, known to the family for years, abused him and his best friend while the boys attended a diocesan grammar school in Derby.
Connecticut lawmakers are holding a public hearing to discuss whether state law needs to be changed in the wake of the child abuse scandal at Penn State University. The informational hearing before the Legislature's Judiciary Committee and Select Committee on Children on Tuesday is focusing on expanding the statute that requires teachers, health professionals and others to report suspected child abuse.
About five years ago, a visiting priest from Haiti was looking for a parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport to call home for a time. His travels brought him to St. Mary's Parish on Greenwich Avenue, whose pastor offered the priest, Jean Marie DeGraff, room and board while DeGraff was working in the diocese and advocating for his impoverished home country of Haiti. In return, DeGraff performed duties around the parish as needed, including assisting with Mass and speaking with parishioners, a role he filled between 2007 and 2008. DeGraff, who became a priest in the Society of St. Jacques in Haiti in 2004, traveled throughout the diocese, which encompasses Fairfield County, with the permission of Bishop William Lori, speaking at parishes about his home country. Diocese officials know DeGraff, 49, performed a variety of duties at St. Mary and moved around the diocese. But that's where officials' knowledge of his movements ends. The diocese says it has no record of where else in the diocese the priest served. The case of DeGraff, who now stands accused of sexual misconduct charges in Canada and was previously accused of abuse in Connecticut, has victims' advocates calling for greater transparency from the Catholic Church with respect to alleged incidents of abuse.
STATE COLLEGE, PA. -- Joe Paterno sat in a wheelchair at the family kitchen table where he has eaten, prayed and argued for more than a half-century. All around him family members were shouting at each other, yet he was whispering. His voice sounded like wind blowing across a field of winter stalks, rattling the husks. Lung cancer has robbed him of the breath to say all that he wants to about the scandal he still struggles to comprehend, and which ended his career as head football coach at Penn State University. The words come like gusts. "I wanted to build up, not break down," he said. Crowded around the table were his three voluble sons, Scott, Jay, David, daughter Mary Kay, and his wife of 50 years, Sue, all chattering at once. In the middle of the table a Lazy Susan loaded with trays of cornbread and mashed potatoes spun by, swirling fast as the arguments. "If you go hungry, it's your own fault," Paterno likes to say. But Paterno, 85, could not eat. He sipped Pepsi over crushed ice from a cup. Once, it would have been bourbon. His hand showed a tremor, and a wig replaced his once-fine head of black hair. Paterno's hope is that time will be his ally when it comes to judging what he built, versus what broke down. "I'm not 31 years old trying to prove something to anybody," he said. "I know where I am." This is where he is: wracked by radiation and chemotherapy, in a wheelchair with a broken pelvis, and "shocked and saddened" as he struggles to explain a breakdown of devastating proportions. Jerry Sandusky, his former assistant coach at Penn State from 1969 to 1999, is charged with more than 50 counts of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence. If Sandusky is guilty, "I'm sick about it," Paterno said.
During oral arguments at the California Supreme Court, several justices appear skeptical about allowing flexible deadlines for lawsuits against those who knew about abuse and didn't stop it.
Reporting from San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court appeared reluctant Thursday to give adult victims of child molestation the right to sue decades later those who knew of the abuse and failed to stop it.