CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Filipino sex abuse victims to sue Church in United States

TACLOBAN (UCAN): McDonald Worley, a lawyer from Texas, the United States (US), said that testimonies and evidence are being gathered for the filing of a civil suit against Father Kenneth Hendricks and a “Catholic church in Ohio” for damages.
 
Worley, is representing a group of children from the central Philippines who allege that Father Hendricks, who is now under arrest, sexually abused them.
 
Philippine police, immigration officials and US Homeland Security agents arrested Father Hendricks in the central Philippine province of Biliran on 5 December 2018, for the alleged abuse of at least seven children over the past 40 years.
 
However, authorities believe there could be at least 50 unreported cases.
 
The District Court of Ohio issued a warrant for the priest’s arrest on 11 November 2018, on charges of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, a crime in the United States.
 
Warrants also issued by a Philippine court on several counts of alleged sex abuse of minors.
 
However, Bishop Rex Ramirez of Naval Diocese in Biliran, is still waiting to hear what happens next.
 
“We don’t have any latest news except that he is in prison and that he has a lawyer,” he said.
 
“It is still not clear to us because there has been no trial yet, so we will wait to know more,” Bishop Ramirez said, adding that the case is “a trial not only for (the priest), but for the Church and for the diocese too.”
 
Worley said the civil case he will file on behalf of the alleged victims is separate from the criminal cases filed by the Philippine government.
 
“When someone gets hurt, I work on the compensation,” the lawyer said.
 
Worley, who was in the Philippines to meet with the alleged victims, expressed confidence that he has an “airtight case” against the priest.
 
He said the local Church in the United States should step forward and have a fund ready should they decide to pay the victims.
 
“There is a system failure,” he said. “They need to have policies and procedures in place so this (abuse) does not happen,” Worley added.
 
“They knew something was going on and they did nothing about it. They did not stop it,” said the lawyer who visited Biliran where Father Hendricks worked for about four decades.
 
“I think we have a lot of witnesses,” he said, adding that he had talked with the parents of the victims.
 
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has issued a statement disowning Father Hendricks, saying the priest “is not, nor has ever been, a priest” in the archdiocese.
 
“He has never had any assignment from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” the statement said.
 
However, the archdiocese admitted that Father Hendricks is listed on its website as a missionary serving in Asia and was one of about 75 missionaries from Ohio who received financial support from the mission office of the archdiocese. 
 
However, none of those who received support worked for or took direction from the archdiocese.
 
The statement also said “the abuse of children or any vulnerable person is abhorrent and needs to be prosecuted.” 

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