Pastor Ronnie Gorton Now Suicidal After Rape Allegations

“Anytime there’s an allegation of sexual misconduct it’s alarming. Again, especially when it’s someone in a position of authority, people that we trust.”

In statements to local news outlets, authorities revealed that Ronnie Gorton, lead pastor of The Awakening Church in Atoka, Tennessee, has been taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation after allegedly becoming suicidal and threatening to take his life after recent allegation that he raped two underage boys.

Tipton County investigators told WMCActionNews5 that an anonymous 17-year-old boy made statements last week alleging that Gorton, 39, sexually assaulted, molested, and raped him on several occasions. The Atoka Police Department reported receiving a similar complaint from a 20-year-old man who alleged that Gorton sexually assaulted him when he was a minor.

Billy Daugherty, Tipton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy, told The Leader that the latest instance of alleged assault by Gorton took place on Jan. 31 and that the case is a multijurisdictional investigation.

“There’s an allegation in the county and an allegation in Atoka,” Daugherty said, adding that there was “nothing to indicate” any of the incidents occurred within the church.

Daugherty further explained that no criminal charges have been filed against the pastor. He was, however, taken into custody after meeting with detectives last Wednesday when a friend of Gorton’s reported that he was armed with a handgun and had threatened to commit suicide.

Daugherty also noted the natural reaction of members of the church and community to be alarmed by the allegations: “Anytime there’s an allegation of sexual misconduct it’s alarming. Again, especially when it’s someone in a position of authority, people that we trust.”

  • Psalms 118:8- It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 
  • Micah 7:5- Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that, lieth in they bosom. 
  • Jeremiah 17:5- Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 
  • Galatians 6:3- For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 

Priest Removed For Alleged ‘Inappropriate Contact’ With Girl

Since the announcement, Cano’s information has been scrubbed from the church’s website as parishioners were left to grapple with the news.

LOS ANGELES — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese has removed a priest from a Los Angeles church on suspicion of having inappropriate conduct with multiple female parishioners — one of whom is an underage girl.

Officer Drake Madison tells the Daily News that police are investigating a child annoyance allegation against Father Juan Cano, who served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace church in Encino. Cano could not be reached for comment.

The Archdiocese announced his removal at Masses over the weekend.

The Archdiocese says it has a zero tolerance policy for any type of allegation relating to sexual misconduct relating to a child.

Cano 34, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, started at Our Lady of Grace in July 2015 with an announcement from the archdiocese about his miraculous life.

“When I was born, I had a tumor in my head which had no cure. … My parents and grandparents prayed to God for a miracle. … As I grew in the faith at the parish via my family’s involvement in the charismatic renewal, Bible study and religious education, I felt very drawn to the Eucharist, both in and outside of mass. In addition, I had daily contact with the parish priests. … It was such things that I know fed my priestly vocation,” Cano said at the time.

“It was surprising because the father was a really good man and he treated us like anybody else. I was surprised,” parishioner Giovanni Rios told ABC 7.

Rios, who has only been attending Our Lady of Grace for five months, said he felt church officials did the right thing in removing Cano.

“They did the right thing. They have to be really responsible, especially when we’re talking about kids,” he said.

The Archdiocese told ABC 7 that it has a zero-tolerance policy for any misconduct involving a child.

Clergy abuse survivors advocate Joelle Casteix questioned why it took the archdiocese more than a week to inform members of the parish about why Cano was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 19.

“Was there a written notice in the bulletin? No. Did they put a notice in the bulletin at St. James Parish in Redondo Beach where Cano worked before he became a priest? No. In fact, unless you were sitting in church this past Sunday, you would have no idea that you may need to talk to your children, sisters, wives, cousins, or friends about the abuse of power and sexual assault,” Casteix wrote in a blog post.

“But the Archdiocese WAS busy doing something: They were busy erasing Fr. Juan Cano from their websites. They didn’t have time to post a notice that he may have abused someone you love. But they had time to erase him, just like Stalin did to his enemies.”

Since the announcement, Cano’s information has been scrubbed from the church’s website as parishioners were left to grapple with the news.


Information from: (Los Angeles) Daily News, http://www.dailynews.com

Church Worship Leader Jordan Baird Sentenced to ONLY 8 Months for Sexual Abuse of Minor

Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015.

Approximately one month after he was convicted and jurors recommended he spend five months in prison for five counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor, Jordan Baird, a Christian pop singer and the son of Senior Pastors David and Jo Ann Baird of The Life Church in Virginia, was sentenced to eight months in jail.

Jordan’s legal troubles started July 7, 2016, when detectives from the Special Victims Unit of the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia responded to investigate inappropriate contact, which was reported to have occurred at Life Church in Manassas in 2015. The youth leader was convicted of five felony sex crimes with a minor in connection with an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old member of the congregation. The jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge of using electronic means to commit a sex crime with a minor Baird was facing. It is not yet clear if prosecutors will re-try that charge.

 

 

Jurors recommended Baird serve one month in jail for each conviction — five months total. Baird was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with the teenage girl who looked up to him as a mentor and considered him family, according to court testimony.

Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015. The teen testified during the trial she refused Baird’s unwanted sexual advances and told him what he was doing was wrong on more than one occasion.

Baird’s defense attorney, Todd Sanders, said his client crossed an emotional line when he sent the girl inappropriate messages. But the attorney said no touching took place and maintained his client’s actions did not violate any laws.

Sanders questioned the girl’s recollection of the alleged abuse and why she waited nearly a year to tell anyone about it. The defense attorney said the teen’s early accounts of what happened left out certain details and suggested people around her may have influenced her recovered memories.

Sanders suggested the anxiety the girl felt was caused by her fear that a young man she had feelings for would find out about the messages Baird sent her.

“She had everything to lose and nothing to gain,” the attorney said. “This church was everything to her. Jordan was a leader to her. He was like a big brother.” 

When asked why she didn’t immediately report the alleged abuse, the girl said she was “torn” about what to do because she didn’t want to lose her friends, her church family and all the volunteer opportunities the Life Church provided her. She said she worried the church would take Baird’s side because he is the son of the head pastor and told the girl he would take the secret “to the grave.”

“I remember feeling so stuck and no matter what, no one would believe me,” the teen testified. “I thought once I came forward I would lose everything.”

 

When she did come forward, the girl said her friends defended the church and turned on her. Jeremiyah Mullens, a former Life Church congregant, said other members called the girl “slurs” and “took the position that she was wrong in the situation.”

In June 2016, the teen said she told her mother Baird sent inappropriate messages to her after feelings of guilt and anxiety became so severe she couldn’t get out of bed that day. But the girl said she didn’t tell her mother the full story at that time because she knew it would mean her life would be turned upside down. 

“For so long, I tried to suppress everything and forget everything that happened,” she said. “But it all started to come back to me.”

When police came to interview the teen a couple of weeks later, she told them Baird inappropriately touched her but did not fully disclose every detail at that point either.

Renae Smith, the teen’s counselor, testified she diagnosed the girl with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The counselor said it’s common for those with PTSD to “disassociate” during abuse as a coping mechanism, which can later lead to gaps in memory.

But when a person with PTSD does start to remember their trauma, Smith said, they have vivid flashbacks to that moment and what took place becomes very clear to them. Smith said PTSD can delay memories but does not alter them. The doctor testified she has no reason to believe the teen is lying about the abuse.

“What I witnessed was a deep, spontaneous emotion,” Smith said. “You can tell when someone is genuine.”

 When the girl’s mother was asked why she didn’t immediately report the allegations to police, she said she didn’t know the full extent of what happened and her main concern was taking care of her daughter, who suffered a severe panic attack.

“I think I was in shock,” the girl’s mother said. “I wasn’t sure what to do. I’ve never been in a situation like this before.”

The teen’s father testified his family wanted to bring the allegations to light within the church first because they “believed the church would do the right thing.”

The parents said they asked the church to bring in a third-party to investigate what took place. But the church selected Steve Dawson, a close friend of the Bairds’ who was once a co-pastor at the church, the parents said.

“That was not a third party, obviously,” the girl’s father said.

Dawson testified he does not have a background in law enforcement or conducting investigations. He said Baird admitted sending inappropriate messages to the girl, but nothing else. While Gross questioned Dawson on the witness stand, he suggested Dawson left out key details he learned during his internal investigation when he was interviewed by police and refused to hand his notes over to law-enforcement officials.

The teen’s father said he recorded a meeting with Dawson in which he told the pastor Baird touched his daughter. On the stand, Dawson said he didn’t “recall” the father saying this. 

Gross also suggested through his questioning that the Life Church’s law firm instructed and advised Dawson through his investigation. 

The prosecutor pointed out Baird disclosed more information to Dawson than he did to police.

Gross attempted to introduce the testimonies of three other women who say Baird used his power in the church and his notoriety as a Christian pop singer to manipulate them into having inappropriate relationships and performing sex acts in the church. One of the girls was underage at the time of the alleged misconduct, the prosecutor said. But the judge wouldn’t allow the women’s testimonies because he said the information would be highly prejudicial in the criminal trial, citing case law.

Metro East Priest Arrested in Child Porn Case After Cyber Tip to Police

Hechenberger was charged with eight counts of possession of child pornography…

In MASCOUTAH,  Illinois,  A Metro East Catholic priest was charged Tuesday with 16 felony child porn charges, along with a count of meth possession.

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 The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, an associate pastor at several Metro East parishes, was charged with possession and dissemination of child porn images and possession of meth.The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, an associate pastor at several Metro East parishes, was charged with possession and dissemination of child porn images and possession of meth.

The Rev. Gerald R. Hechenberger is an associate pastor of Holy Childhood of Jesus Parish in MascoutahSt. Pancratius Parish in Fayetteville and St. Liborius Parish in St. Libory.

Authorities got an online tip about Hechenberger and launched an investigation that included search warrants, online investigation and surveillance. A search warrant was served Monday morning at the Holy Childhood rectory. Several electronic devices were seized and Hechenberger was arrested.

On Tuesday January 9, 2018, Hechenberger was charged with eight counts of dissemination of child pornography, eight counts of possession of child pornography and one count of possession of methamphetamine.

It is unknown if Hechenberger produced any of the images himself, or if he has had any inappropriate contact with children directly, authorities said. Belleville police said parents or guardians to speak to their children if they had any contact with Hechenberger and immediately report any suspicious conduct.

Police said Hechenberger is the only person under investigation at Holy Childhood.

 

He was found in possession of several child porn images and videos that depict children younger than 13, police said. Hechenberger also had less than five grams of meth.

The Diocese of Belleville responded to Hechenberger’s arrest in a statement Monday. Monsignor John Myler, the media contact for the diocese, emailed the diocese’s statement to the Post-Dispatch but was not immediately available after charges were filed Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger,” the statement from Monday said. “At this point, the Diocese has no reason to believe that any parishioners are affected by this matter. The Diocese is awaiting an update on information from the civil authorities, and has assured them of the Diocese’s full cooperation. Beyond requesting your prayers for Father Hechenberger, the Diocese will make no further comment at this time.”

The Post-Dispatch reported in 2011 that Hechenberger abruptly took a leave of absence as priest at St. John the Baptist parish in Smithton. A letter circulated by the Belleville diocese at the time said he was taking the leave to address “very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges.”The letter, sent to priests and deacons, didn’t directly state the source of the challenges. Myler could not be reached Tuesday to clarify what those challenges were or how they were resolved.

~ Reported By 

Erin Heffernan • 314-340-8145

@erinheff on Twitter

eheffernan@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

 

Priest Jumps From Skyscraper After Accused of Having a Relationship With a Minor

The allegations against the priest, however, has come as stunning news to the people he served in both New Lexington and New Albany.

James Csaszar, a suspended Ohio priest who was under investigation for engaging in an inappropriate relationship with an underage boy, jumped from an 82-story hotel in Chicago Wednesday, leaving his colleagues in shock.

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The 44-year-old priest who was reportedly well-liked led the Church of the Resurrection in New Albany, Ohio. Officials say he was under investigation for leading a double life prior to his death at the sleek Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

“It is with deep shock and sadness that we have learned of the death of Father James Csaszar, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in New Albany, who took his own life yesterday in Chicago,” Bishop of Columbus, the Most Rev. Frederick F. Campbell, confirmed in a statement Wednesday.

“On Nov. 7, Father Csaszar was placed on an administrative leave by the Diocese of Columbus after diocesan officials were made aware of excessive and questionable text and telephone communications with a minor and potential misuse of church funds while serving as pastor of St. Rose Parish, New Lexington,” he explained.

“Following a diocesan review of the matter, the New Lexington Police were contacted and all information was turned over to them and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for their review; an investigation was being conducted at the time of Father Csaszar’s death,” he added.

Csaszar had worked at the St. Rose Parish in New Lexington for 11 years prior to moving to New Albany. A 10TV report cited an email from the Chief of New Lexington Police to Special Agent Robert Davis of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification with the subject line: “inappropriate relationship between Priest and 16yo.”

At the time of Father Csaszar’s death no charges had yet been filed against him but the allegations were said to involve a child at the Lexington church. Ohio police told The Chicago Tribune that despite his death the investigation would continue.

The allegations against the priest, however, has come as stunning news to the people he served in both New Lexington and New Albany.

“You could always talk to him and felt comfortable speaking with him, and he was always there to listen to you no matter where he was on the street or what it was,” New Lexington business owner Cheryl Dodson told the NBC 4 about the priest. “He was one of my favorites. Out of all the Catholic priests I’ve known and affiliated with, he was one of my favorites.”

Parishioners in New Albany also started a prayerful petition for him after he was placed on leave last month.

“Evidenced, in part, by the attendance at Sunday Mass, Father Jim has been instrumental in growing Church of the Resurrection, in numbers, in spirituality, in community and in service,” the petition said.

Members of the church held a prayer service for him on Wednesday night and Campbell said in his statement Thursday, urged further prayers for him.

“We are reminded throughout sacred scripture that God our Father is loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving. We also know that in his years of priestly ministry Fr. Csaszar did many good things for the people that he served in his parish assignments. And so we ask that everyone pray for Father Csaszar, his family, friends, and parishioners during this most difficult time,” he wrote.

Founder of Nation’s Largest Christian Music Festival Charged with Child Molestation

The charges include one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.

The founder of Creation Festival — the nation’s largest Christian music festival — has been “indefinitely suspended” from the ministry and his position as pastor of his New Jersey church after he was arrested on charges of child molestation.

Harry L. Thomas, 74, was charged Wednesday (Dec. 6) with sexually assaulting four minors “over a lengthy period of time ending two years ago,” according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges include one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.

Those alleged assaults occurred over a 16-year period between 1999 and 2015 in Medford Township, N.J., where Thomas lives, according to the prosecutor’s office. His church — Come Alive New Testament Church, which has been described as charismatic — also is in Medford Township.

The prosecutor’s office did not name the victims or detail the assaults, but Come Alive said the allegations are “unrelated” to the pastor’s roles at the church or its ministries, including Creation Festival, according to a post on its website. Its leadership is “actively cooperating” with authorities, it said.

A similar message was posted Friday on the Creation Festival website and Facebook page.

Thomas was criticized previously at a 2014 congressional hearing for his advocacy on behalf of a couple from his church who were accused of starving four foster children, according to New Jersey’s Courier Post.

The former disc jockey-turned-pastor founded Creation Festival in 1979 after he had a vision of “thousands of kids on a hillside,” he told RNS as the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. It grew from attracting 5,000 people to a park in Lancaster, Pa., that first year, to annual, multi-day events in both Pennsylvania and Washington state.

The two festivals, Creation Northeast and Creation Northwest, draw up to 100,000 attendees a year, according to Christianity Today. Creation Northeast brought more than 75 Christian speakers and musical artists to central Pennsylvania in June 2017, including popular musicians Crowder, Casting Crowns, Relient K, Sho Baraka, TobyMac and For King and Country.

 

Courtesy: Religion News Service

Photo: Pastor Harry Thomas, co-founder of Creation Fest, listens to a speaker in this file photo from 2011.

Photo courtesy: LNP Media Group

Mom Who Beat Daughter for Not Reciting Bible Verses Correctly Sent to Prison

Each time the teenager gave an answer Shoffner did not find acceptable she slammed her daughter’s head into bathroom drywall.

A mother who allegedly assaulted her 13-year-old daughter after she failed to correctly recite Bible verses earlier this year was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years in state prison Wednesday after she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, strangulation, terroristic threats and endangering the welfare of a child.

The mother, Rhonda Shoffner, 41, of Middletown, Pennsylvania, was sentenced by Dauphin County Judge John F. Cherry, Penn Live reported.

“This was an extremely scary situation for this young victim to have to endure. Fortunately, she is doing well now and is in a safe place,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean McCormack said Thursday.

According to Penn Live, Shoffner was reportedly drunk for three days straight when the assault took place in March. Police said Shoffner told her daughter to call several family members and when none of them responded, she forced her daughter to get on her knees in the bathroom of their home.

The daughter said this was a sign that her mother was getting ready to beat her so she began pleading with her mother to spare her the abuse.

“Please don’t hit me. I don’t want to get on my knees,” police said the victim told her mother.

An angry Shoffner demanded that the 13-year-old “get on her (expletive) knees,” police said.

After the girl complied, Shoffner started reciting Bible verses which she expected her daughter to repeat verbatim as well.

“What did God tell the man to do with his son?” she asked the teenager.  

When her daughter could not respond police say Shoffner told her: “God told the man to kill his son.”

When the teenager told her mother that “God said to forgive his son,” Shoffner grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head into a wall.

Each time the teenager gave an answer Shoffner did not find acceptable she slammed her daughter’s head into bathroom drywall. She did this at least five times, police say, even as her daughter begged her to stop.

Shoffner then told her daughter to lie on her back and the girl complied, she began to strangle her, declaring: “I’m gonna kill you (expletive),” police said.

It was at this point that the teenager, afraid she might die, began fighting her mother. Shoffner responded by biting her daughter’s left forearm and sinking her teeth into her left shoulder.

The teenager kept fighting until the frustrated mother told her “just leave and don’t ever come back.”

She grabbed a coat, a pair of sneakers and her phone and fled. She was then met by her father who took her to the police who later charged Shoffner. 

rhonda-shoffner
 Rhonda Shofner

As part of her sentence, Shoffner was also ordered to undergo alcohol and drug counseling and to remain drug and alcohol free, the Press and Journal said. She will also be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing upon her release from prison.

In January, Shoffner also pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge stemming from a second assault incident. Shoffner assaulted a woman during an argument in a car. She hit the woman and bit her during that assault, the Press and Journal said.

written by  Leonardo Blair 

 

Sexual Scandals in the Roman Catholic Church

The priest, Jozef Wesolowski, was charged with paying boys to perform sexual acts, of downloading and buying pedophile material. He died before a verdict was reached.

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican diplomat working in Washington has been recalled to the Holy See after the U.S. State Department said the priest may have violated child pornography laws, the Vatican said on Friday.

Prosecutors in the Vatican have opened an investigation into the case, which represents a fresh blow to the Roman Catholic Church as it struggles to overcome repeated sex abuse scandals among its clergy.

The State Department notified the Holy See in August “of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors and provide justice regarding allegations” the spokesman said.

A State Department spokesman said the United States had requested that the man’s diplomatic immunity be waived to open the way for possible prosecution, but the Vatican refused.

The priest, who was not named, has returned to Vatican City and is awaiting the outcome of the Holy See investigation, which could lead to a trial in the tiny city state.

The U.S.-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said possession of child pornography was not a victimless crime because the children involved were being abused.

“(Pope Francis) must bring the diplomat back to the United States in order to adhere to his promises of complying with investigations by civil authorities in cases of child sexual abuse,” SNAP managing director Barbara Dorris said.

Pope Francis has declared zero tolerance over abuse scandals that have beset the Church for decades, but has appeared to struggle to overcome resistance within the Vatican hierarchy.

The State Department spokesman said the pope had promised to “act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse” and punish those found guilty of wrongdoing.

“The United States encourages the Holy See to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors and provide justice regarding allegations,” the spokesman said.

Two years ago the Vatican put the former papal ambassador to the Dominican Republic on trial for child sex offences, a case that was seen as showing the pope’s determination to clean up the Church.

The priest, Jozef Wesolowski, was charged with paying boys to perform sexual acts, of downloading and buying pedophile material. He died before a verdict was reached.

He was the first high-ranking Catholic official to stand trial in the Vatican on such sex charges and the case was closely watched by victims of priestly abuse, who have accused the Vatican of repeatedly hushing up previous scandals.

Just last month, in the foreword to a new book written by a Swiss man who was raped by a priest when he was 8 years old, Pope Francis said sexual abuse of children by priests was a “monstrosity” and pledged to take action against perpetrators.

[Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Rome and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg]