Roman Catholic Priest Sentenced for Molesting Boys

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Oct 25, 2010

A Catholic priest has been sentenced to 21 years for an equal number of sexual offense counts. A British court found James Robinson, 73, guilty of all 21 charges the priest faced in connection with sexual assaults committed over a 24-year period, from 1959-1983.

The court heard that Robinson had abused his role as a Catholic cleric to arrange for "unfettered and unlimited" access to his victims, reported U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Oct. 22.

A total of six men came forward to claim that the priest had abused them. The offenses committed against two of the victims did not result in additional charges, the Telegraph reported, due to legal technicalities related to Robinson's extradition from the United States, where he spent 25 years. During much of his time in the U.S., Robinson received a stipend from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Two of the victims had been altar boys, the article said. Robinson had abused victims in different parishes over the span of his career.

The shuffling of pedophile priests from parish to parish has been a consistent part of the ongoing abuse scandal. A cache of church documents obtained by law enforcement in San Diego, Calif., described how known offenders were simply moved to new locales, where they could resume their predations, an Oct. 25 Associated Press article said. The records concerned 48 priests, one of whom, Rev. Luis Eugene de Francisco, left the United States and returned to his native Colombia, even though he was under investigation by the police; the article said that the archdiocese of San Diego had "intervened" in that case.

Among the documents was a 1962 letter to de Francisco by Bishop Charles Buddy, who wrote, "You have won a reputation as a zealous worker and devoted to the poor. Added the letter, "On the other hand, the 'incidents' at Indio were more serious than first presented to me, especially inasmuch as the police have made a record of them. You know how word gets around, so that you be certain that the police here will be on your trail." The letter added, "It will be more prudent and more secure for you to return to your own diocese." The documents regarding de Francisco shed light on incidents that had been long forgotten.

"The files show what the diocese knew about abusive priests, starting decades before any allegations became public, and that some church leaders moved priests around or overseas despite credible complaints against them," the AP article stated.

"These documents demonstrate years and years and decades of concerted action that has allowed this community's children to be victimized, and it is not until the community looks at these documents that this cycle is ever going to be ended," said one of the attorneys who made the documents public. The church had battled with victims' attorneys for three years to prevent the documents from being unsealed.

The scandal is global in scope, with new revelations from Germany, Ireland, and Belgium rocking the world's Catholic community in the last few months. During a recent visit to England, Pope Benedict XVI expressed "sadness... that the church authority was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently quick and decisive to take the necessary measure," the AP reported in a Sept. 16 story.

The AP article called Benedict's remarks "his most thorough admission to date of church failures to deal with the sex abuse scandal," and quoted a U.K. Catholic leader, Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, as saying in a statement that pedophile priest "have caused terrible injury to children and young adults, and equally horrible have been the cover-ups, but I think the pope has put strong steps to prevent it from happening." Added O'Brien, "Nobody loses face by saying 'sorry' and 'I'm trying to do better.' "

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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