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Jan 192013
 

Image Source/Thinkstock(BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) — A former Roman Catholic priest from Connecticut has fallen from grace after being indicted on charges that he was part of an alleged cross-country crystal methamphetamine drug ring.

Former Monsignor Kevin Wallin, 61, of Waterbury, who was the pastor of the St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nearly a decade, was one of five people indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday for allegedly transporting methamphetamine from Connecticut to California.

Also charged were Kenneth Devries, 52, of Waterbury; Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester; Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Wallin was also charged with six counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams of methamphetamine since September, according to court documents.

Law enforcement officials say they believe he received shipments of methamphetamine from the West Coast and resold the drugs out of his apartment in Waterbury, ABC station WABC-TV in New York reported.

In addition, investigators suspect that Wallin may have owned an adult video shop in North Haven called Land of Oz that he allegedly used the store to launder the money he earned selling drugs, according to court documents.

The Diocese of Bridgeport released a statement saying that Wallin resigned as pastor of the Bridgeport parish in 2011, citing health and personal issues, and was granted a sabbatical.

The diocese said that Wallin’s “faculties for public ministry were suspended in May 2012, and he has not been reassigned.”

Despite that, the diocese continued to pay him a stipend until he was arrested on Jan. 3, the Connecticut Post reported.

Some of his former parishioners are shocked the man they esteemed as a “very honorable man of God” would be involved in such a scandal.

“I feel terrible about it. And we just keep praying from him, that’s all. If these allegations are true, we pray he repents, makes his peace with God, like we all have to,” a parishioner told ABC affiliate WABC.

If convicted, Wallin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Dec 152012
 

ABC News(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — A Newtown, Conn., priest had the “horrible” job of going door-to-door informing families early Saturday morning that their children had been killed in the elementary school massacre.

There were 20 children among the 27 people killed the day Adam Lanza, 20, invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire on staff and students. Lanza was also found dead in the school.

Most of the children were between the ages of 5 and 10, President Obama said on Friday.

Medical examiners have completed the grim work of identifying all of the victims at the school and families were informed early on Saturday morning that their loved ones had been killed.

“We were gathered until after midnight and we were sent out with teams to go to the homes of the victims,” parish priest Monsignor Robert Weiss told Good Morning America on Saturday. “We went to their homes early this morning to confirm the death of their children and it was just horrible.”

“The uncertainty…even though they knew in their hearts that this was real,” he said. “And the questions they were asking, the regrets they had. ‘Why did I send my child to school today?’”

 

Weiss said some of the parents shared the last moments they had with their children. One dad said that, for some reason, his child got up early Friday morning and came down to tell the father how much she loved him. Another parent said their child had asked what dying was like just the day before.

“Parents are really going through a tremendous amount of pain and hurt right now, trying to deal with not just their personal loss, but what happened to their child in the last moments of their life,” he said.

A number of the victims’ families are part of Weiss’ parish. He baptized some of the children and some of them went to his parish’s nursery school.

“It’s hard to believe that these little children are gone,” he said.

Weiss met with the families from his parish who lost children and said the hurt and the anguish are “just settling in now” and then “there’s going to be anger.”

“And then they’re going to have to live with this reality that this big part of their life is gone for them,” he said.

Weiss said he has “no answer” when families ask him why their children have been taken from them.

“This was not God’s plan,” he said. “This was a man who has serious issues in his life. Why he’d want to destroy innocent children, no one can figure out.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Oct 042012
 

George Doyle/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — A Chicago parish is in turmoil because its beloved priest has balked at his impending removal from the Catholic Church rectory, while his incoming successor, who says he was attacked by a staff member, admits that he shares some of the blame for the disruption.

The Rev. Daniel Mallette, a civil rights and anti-poverty activist, has lived at St. Margaret of Scotland rectory since 1977, but the Chicago Archdiocese ordered him to move out earlier this year because it is in need of repair and is now considered unsafe for the frail but spry reverend.  Mallette, 80, was brutally beaten on the church’s property by robbers late last year; he recovered from the incident and soon returned to St. Margaret’s.

It is part of established church governance in Chicago that a departing pastor lives off the premises for six months after the new pastor arrives, so he can get settled and establish his leadership.  The deadline for Mallette to leave the church came and went Monday, and he has yet to vacate.

“I would love to stay where I’m at, and I thought when you became a pastor emeritus, this new pastor would come in and run the parish and I wouldn’t interfere with anything,” Mallette told ABC News affiliate WLS-TV.

Mallette said the cardinal previously told him that he would be able to reside at the rectory until he dies.  But now, he says, the cardinal denies having told him that.

“There was a time I thought that was what he said,” Mallette told ABC News Wednesday.  “He’s a good man, and he’s suffering.  He says he didn’t say it.  I thought I heard him say that I could stay here.  It could be that I didn’t hear it correctly.”

Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Archdiocese, told the Chicago Sun-Times that repairs on the rectory that were scheduled to begin on Monday have now been delayed.

The kerfuffle over Mallette’s departure comes as conflict grows between senior staff at the church’s school and the new parish priest, the Rev. William O’Donnell, who arrived at St. Margaret’s three months ago.

Rickey Harris, the principal of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School, sent a letter to church families on Tuesday announcing his resignation.  He mentioned his treatment by the Office of Catholic Schools and his “recent suspension by Fr. William O’Donnell.”

“The unfortunate events of these last few weeks have caused me to pause and reflect on who I am, my purpose, and whether or not I will allow myself to be disrespected, my integrity questioned and reputation that I have worked so hard to build to be stained with deception and untruths,” Harris wrote, adding that O’Donnell questioned his commitment to those he serves.

O’Donnell, however, told WLS on Tuesday that it is he who has been subjected to intimidation since his arrival at St. Margaret’s, and that a now-suspended school staff member lunged at him twice.

“I was physically intimidated and, in fact, other teachers in the room stepped between us to stop it,” O’Donnell said.

Principal Harris told ABC News that he was not present at the time of the alleged altercation, but he was surprised when he heard about it.  Although O’Donnell says he was almost attacked, he believes he must share some of the blame over how his arrival at the church has played out, he said.

“It would be very arrogant of me to think I was not somehow part of the problem; that perhaps I didn’t do this correctly,” O’Donnell said.

Mallette has also chimed in on O’Donnell, calling him arrogant and even a bully, WLS reported.  When asked about his successor during one interview, Mallette reportedly broke into a rendition of the folk song “Plastic Jesus.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 312012
 

Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A well-known Catholic priest who hosts a weekly religious television show said in an interview this week that child sex abusers are often seduced by teenage boys and should not go to jail on a first offense.  But the comments were removed by the website that published them and replaced by an apology from the priest and the site’s editors.

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, who hosts a weekly show on the Catholic television network EWTN, originally made the comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register.  He also referred to convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coach convicted of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, as a “poor guy.”

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath.  But that’s not the case.  Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him.  A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer,” Groeschel was quoted as saying in the interview, which is no longer available on the paper’s website.

The interview has now been replaced by a statement from Groeschel.

“I apologize for my comments,” it said.  “I did not intend to blame the victim.  A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible.  My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be.  I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could.  I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.”

Jeanette R. De Melo, the site’s editor in chief, included her own apology for posting the interview.

“Child sexual abuse is never excusable,” she wrote.  “The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The interview, billed as a reflection on the 25 years since Groeschel founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order, covered many topics, but Groeschel’s comments on child sexual abuse brought it national attention.

“Well, it’s not so hard to see.  A kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping, but not having intercourse or anything like that.  I’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers,” Groeschel was quoted as saying.

Quotes from the interview remained posted on websites including the National Catholic Reporter, the Huffington Post, and the Catholic blog Renew America, all of which criticized Groeschel for the remarks.

Tom Roberts of the National Catholic Reporter called the comments “particularly disturbing” because of Groeschel’s background in psychology.  He received a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University.

“(The comments) cannot stand unchallenged,” Roberts wrote.

Groeschel could not be reached for comment.  Representatives for the National Catholic Register and EWTN did not immediately return calls for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio