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Crazy gun-toting Catholic school child abuser seeks release from four life sentences

A US court is due to decide within a few months whether a Catholic school teacher currently serving four life terms for child rape and other crimes, should be freed.

John Joseph Merzbacher

John Joseph Merzbacher, 71, is arguing before 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond that his former attorney failed to give him a chance to take a proposed plea deal in late 1994. The federal appeals court heard arguments on the issue last month.

Reporting on developments in the case, The Baltimore Sun said that Merzbacher, in one of a number of  incidents in the 1970s, had a pre-teen student pinned to the ground in his Baltimore classroom.

The girl’s blouse was open and her chest exposed when the doorknob suddenly turned and the school principal — a nun — burst in.

The screaming girl thought she was about to be rescued, according to court records that describe the scene at the Catholic Community Middle School in Locust Point. But Sister Eileen Weisman, who had a key to the room, merely chastised the teacher John Joseph Merzbacher for locking the door.

 [Weisman] looked down and her exact words were ‘John, oh John, I told you never to lock the classroom door.

The victim, Linda Tiburzi, who described the incident in a civil court deposition in the mid-1990s, said in a recent interview.

And then she looked at me and said ‘I never want you staying after school again.’ … That’s all she said, that’s all she did, there was nothing, there was no investigation, there were no questions.

That incident is one of several outlined in court documents, analysed in a Baltimore Sun investigation, indicating that Weisman and other Catholic officials were aware of the lay teacher’s sexual abuse of students in the 1970s but did not report it until Merzbacher was criminally investigated in the 1990s.

Recent accounts from more than two dozen former pupils and a review of hundreds of pages of documents describe several situations in which critics claim the church had opportunities to protect schoolchildren from Merzbacher, but did not notify police of the allegations against the teacher.

The alleged failures took place in two phases. In the 1970s while the abuse was occurring, Weisman and at least two archdiocesan priests ignored the behaviour, even when confronted with it directly.

Years later, Weisman and archdiocesan officials delayed reporting Merzbacher to enforcement agencies, despite a victim’s allegations of abuse.

Weisman, a nun with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, denied knowledge of the abuse in 1994 in her only public comments on the matter. Catholic officials did not make her available for interviews the newpaper’s investigation,

As court hearings continue, some of those identified in earlier court filings as victims of Merzbacher say they believe the Archdiocese of Baltimore failed to protect students and should take responsibility for the exploitation.

The archdiocese, which has given cash settlements to some former students who claim abuse, said its officials were not aware of the abuse until 1988 — years after it ended. In a lengthy statement in response to questions from The Sun, spokesman Sean Caine said the Church didn’t realise it was obligated to report the allegations when it first learned of them. He added:

The archdiocese has seen how his monstrous actions have destroyed many lives. Any time a child is abused it is an awful tragedy, and we again offer our apologies and pledge our support to those who were abused by John Merzbacher, and their families.

But court filings describe more than a half-dozen examples in which church employees — including Weisman and several priests — were allegedly told about students’ claims and did not intervene or alert authorities.

In court records, former students describe Merzbacher as a charmer who drew them in with rock records, forbidden foul language, alcohol and marijuana, then terrorized them. The potbellied English teacher beat the boys and humiliated the girls, engaging in sexual acts with both genders and forcing the kids to turn against one another. He once fired a revolver in class, students testified during Merzbacher’s trial, and routinely used the weapon to threaten children with death.

According to this report, Merzbacher kept the gun in his desk drawer, often brandishing it in class. At least two of them recount the teacher pointing the weapon at them and threatening to kill them if they ever revealed his secrets.

A 32-year-old painter who has testified before a grand jury in the case said:

In the mornings, he would send me over to the utility closet to make coffee for him. Then, he’d come in behind me, close the door and rape me. Day after day. For three years. After the first few times, I would just go numb.

 

18 Responses to “Crazy gun-toting Catholic school child abuser seeks release from four life sentences”

  1. Stephen Mynett says:

    The excuses of theses creeps are pathetic: “Sean Caine said the Church didn’t realise it was obligated to report the allegations when it first learned of them.”

    What sane or decent person would do nothing after being told of a rape? Peter Sutcliffe and Joseph Ratzinger are two who spring to mind.

  2. Chuck Longstreth says:

    America has diplomatic relations with this outfit. GOD DAMN

  3. Matt Westwood says:

    “The potbellied English teacher …”

    Excuuuuuse me? What possible point is there in mentioning his physical attributes? Is there some attempt to stain by association those of us who share this physique? Or is it an attempt to increase the “ick” factor? Why not also mention that he’s a honkey with grey hair and a big nose?

  4. Stephen Mynett says:

    I had not really taken that in Matt but a very good point, especially as I teach English and am on the fat side.

  5. JohnMWhite says:

    Agreed, Matt, those kind of schoolyard swipes are beneath this newsletter (at least I hope so) and the odiousness of this vicious character is evident enough without randomly throwing in some fat-shaming.

    On clearly more pressing matters, though, this is precisely what Catholic schools do. This is what the Catholic hierarchy is all about, and this level of institutional failure runs from top to bottom. No teacher, and more frighteningly no parent, ever made a move against this man who was allegedly abusing children daily, frequently in front of witnesses. That is what outsourcing your conscience to religious authority gets you – you would rather your children go to the right school and learn the right rules than protect them from being raped. You’d rather believe your own child is a hellbound sinner spinning terrible lies about being abused than believe that a holy, sanctified priest could do something wrong. Your willful ignorance demonstrates your piety. These children were sacrificed to the Catholic Church.

    I bring up my own Catholic education here from time to time, and while it was not nearly as horrific as the incidents depicted here, it followed the same pattern and carried the same hallmark: authority ruled, silence prevailed. Teachers screaming at 11 year olds and ordering them to strip off non-uniform clothing, sometimes manhandling them in impatience, was witnessed by other teachers who simply shrugged their shoulders. Bullying between students was condoned so long as the victim was the wrong sort, like a goth allegedly influenced by Satan, or a suspected homosexual. It was a correctional tool, you wouldn’t be bullied if you didn’t do anything wrong, and besides there was no bullying in the school because if you ever complained about bullying you would be sent to the principal to be belittled and told what a baby you were. This is how their system works. They are interested only in power, and they are pathetic enough to know they can usually only wield it over children.

  6. Robster says:

    Catholics and those associated with the organisation continue to sink into a pit of evil, nasty darkness. Throw away the key, please.

  7. the weeping willow says:

    The catholic church and all it’s members have time and again proved that they will protect themselves from all allegations by claiming ignorance about the matter meanwhile encouraging such kind of heinous acts. It’s time to bring these people to justice and close the churches.

  8. Marky Mark says:

    (The potbellied English teacher)…this also gives us a description as to his physical appearance in comparison to a younger physically attractive person that a young person could/may have a crush on.

    In reality, to these young people, an overweight, foul smelling man of authority, used his power to violate these children in a most degrading way while dripping alcohol infested sweat onto them as his foul cigarette stained morning breath overwhelmed their gasps for oxygen in their fear…than the real horror began.

    A woman in her thirties may find this attractive…or any man making a play for her. But to a child it would be a nightmare.

    As for the Nun that did nothing…she prob was molesting the young girls as well, as to why she said… “LOCK the DAM DOOR next time, someone not in our pedophile cult may just walk in.”

  9. JohnMWhite says:

    @Marky Mark – The description doesn’t remark on age and remains irrelevant to the crimes in question, it’s not as if thin people never sweat and never drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or have morning breath or can be terrifyingly overbearing when molesting or raping a child. To pretend that remark was somehow appropriate is silly. Fat shaming remains der rigeur, it seems, even when words like paedophile or monster are more appropriate than a slight about somebody’s weight.

    Also the nun/principal was angry that the door had been locked, rather than ordering him to lock it. I’m not sure if she was concerned about a fire hazard or simply doesn’t like defiance, but there remains the grave concern that she allegedly did not attempt to interfere in the molestation of a student and was only annoyed by a teacher not following orders. Following orders is apparently the core Catholic teaching. One wonders if this was related to the Nuremberg defence that went down like a lead balloon. In the 40s people were hung or shot for following orders that lead to enormous suffering, I would have hoped the Catholic church could think of something a bit better than that to excuse their horrendous lack of care for children. Or, better yet, somebody in that vile institution could actually find it in their heart to say “no, rape is wrong, I’m doing something about it”. How many stories have we heard about investigations or convictions brought about because a priest, nun or teacher actually did their duty and went to the authorities? I cannot think of a single one.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Germany’s Roman Catholic church has revealed that at least 66 clergy had been accused of sexually abusing children and adults during a 10-year period, with most of the victims male.

    http://www.skynews.com.au/topstories/article.aspx?id=824367

  11. barriejohn says:

    And in Los Angeles:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-church-files-20121208,0,3376780.story

    In ordering church officials’ names redacted from abuse files, Judge Dickran Tevrizian said he wanted to prevent the files from being used to “embarrass or to ridicule the Church.”

    Obviously a frequent visitor to this site!

  12. barriejohn says:

    Tevrizian is of Armenian ancestry, and was appointed by Ronald Reagan. In 2005 he was the recipient of the St Thomas More Medallion Award from Loyola Law School. Draw your own conclusions!

    http://intranet.lls.edu/studentaffairs/groups/stthomas.html

  13. Marky Mark says:

    Ronald Ray-gun. The beginning of all our troubles with his trickle down, voodoo economics while increasing military spending 10-fold. Used the military to break the Air Controllers Union and classified the Sandonista Guerillas as terrorist when all they were was a bunch of Banana Pickers trying to organize and get a fair wage from Chiquita Banana Corp.
    And old Ronnie thought if one was not filthy rich it was their own fault, as he used the government to break unions who demanded a fair wage, and make his Corp contributors filthy rich. Glad to see his son, Ronny Jr is 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

    In his last term ol Ronny was truly off his rocker, suffering from Dementia, and his wife made decisions for him based off of Astrology. It is no wonder the American Middle Class’s downfall began during Ray-guns’ administration.

  14. Matt Westwood says:

    @Marky Mark: I concur with your political assessment and make a similar impassioned wail about the simultaneous affliction we Brits had: Thatcher the Snatcher. Her crimes are as legion as those of RR.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Marky Mark: How could you? Surely you must realize that, just like Hitler and Stalin before him, Ronny had no knowledge of the illegal acts being committed in his name (Iran-Contra Affair). If he had he would have done something about it!

  16. barriejohn says:

    Just as a matter of interest, the odious – and, of course, entirely blameless – Oliver North was raised as a Catholic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_North

  17. DCBrighton says:

    Perhaps tenuously playing ‘Barry’s advocate’ on potbellygate, when it comes to Catholicism, they have a big old rule book called the Catechism.

    Rule number 2288 demands maintaining as much as possible physical health. Number 2290 specifically states “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.”

    Jus’ sayin’