Priest’s paedophilia classified as a ‘disability’

Priest’s paedophilia classified as a ‘disability’

AFTER the Rev Gil Gustafson was convicted of child sex abuse 30 years ago, the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis decided to ensure his financial security for decades to come.

The priest was fined  $40 and sentenced to 10 years probation and six months in jail. He served four-and-a-half months. The abuse destroyed the life of his victim, Brian Gerrity, who died of drug abuse and AIDS at the age of 28.

According to this report, the church continued Gustafson’s priestly salary and health insurance, covered his living expenses and psychological treatment and paid for his education and training. It also gave him jobs in the chancery, helped him establish his own consulting business and steered clients his way.

In July 2006, Gustafson was declared “disabled” based on his paedophilia, the church said. This allowed him to collect disability payments on top of his earnings as a leadership consultant.

The archdiocese’s long-standing support of Gustafson, outlined in church documents and interviews, has angered abuse victims and their families. They say it’s another sign that the church cares more about the welfare of abusive priests than the children they assaulted.

Jeff Herrity, the father of a boy whom Gustafson was convicted of abusing from 1977 through 1982, asked:

Since when is a crime a disability? If that’s the case, everyone in prison should be disabled.

Herrity expressed his outrage and sorrow in this video.

The archdiocese said it is required by church law and “Christian compassion” to care for priests removed from ministry.

A statement from the church said:

Gustafson is permanently and totally disabled and is therefore entitled to benefits through the Pension Plan for Priests.

It has been 30 years since Gustafson’s last known instance of child abuse, the archdiocese said. Some of his clients say he is entitled to a second chance.

In response to written questions from the Star Tribune, the archdiocese stated that it removed Gustafson, now 62,  from ministry as soon as it learned of his abuse in 1983. He lived under supervision and held mass at a Bloomington monastery for nuns until 2002, the year Catholic bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy for priests who abused children. Officials in Rome sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance.

He cannot function or present himself as a priest.

The archdiocese hasn’t revealed how many abusive priests are supported by disability payments. The support is not included in the church’s report this month of $6.2 million spent on victims, priests and lawyers in abuse cases over the past 10 years.

While the church has been supporting Gustafson, the Herrity family has spent decades haunted by the trauma.

Photos of a smiling, sandy-haired Brian Herrity are propped up in the living room of their White Bear Lake home. Brian was one of several boys Gustafson admitted to abusing before a Ramsey County District Court found him guilty of molesting Herrity in 1983.

Brian was a “happy, happy kid,” who liked to jump on his dad’s lap and snuggle and later enjoyed speed skating and wrestling, recalled his father, who encouraged his son to become an altar boy at St  Mary of the Lake Church.

Gustafson, the parish priest, began abusing Brian when he was about 10, said his father. The abuse continued for five years – at the church rectory, the family’s home, on a bike ride, a trip to Valleyfair.

Brian’s class pictures reveal the transformation, from a friendly kid with goofy bangs on his forehead to “a person we couldn’t recognise,” Herrity said.

The years of abuse “mentally and physically destroyed him,” Herrity added. Classmates at Hill-Murray School mocked him after he went public with his abuse, his father said. He began a descent down a “path of destruction” that included drug abuse and promiscuity and ended in his death of complications from AIDS at age 28, in 1995.

Herrity said:

My boy is dead. Gustafson is getting paid.

The family also sees the abuse as a factor in the struggles of Brian’s older brother, Jeff, who died in 2010 at age 45.

Herrity added:

People who say, ‘Move on,’ don’t have a clue how sexual abuse tears at a family. You cope. But the family suffers forever.

The archdiocese paid for Brian’s therapy for a couple of years, Herrity said. A court settlement of $150,000 went into an account for Brian to tap at age 18. After paying the attorney, most of that money “went up his nose,” said his father, referring to his son’s drug use.

As Brian was dying from AIDS, Herrity said he met with the Rev Kevin McDonough, the former vicar general who handled clergy abuse cases, to ask if the archdiocese could provide any financial help for the medical bills and hospice care. Instead, he said, McDonough “gave me a list of public social workers”.

After Gustafson’s release from jail, then-Archbishop John Roach pressed for his return to active ministry.

Scott Domeier, a former accounting director for the archdiocese now in prison for embezzling more than $600,000, said Gustafson was in a group of sexually abusive priests who were paid greater amounts than those paid to priests who were still active in ministry and in good standing.

In Gustafson’s case, the church also paid for his education, travel, room and board and other expenses, at least until 2007, Domeier said.

When Gustafson was hired as a leadership consultant for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis in 2009 some school supporters were outraged when his background became known.

The Rev David Haschka, a Jesuit official who has handled clergy sexual abuse cases and the school’s founding president, said he hired Gustafson based on a recommendation that he received after calling the chancery. Haschka recalled Gustafson’s criminal history but was assured by a priest personnel expert that Gustafson was safe, he said.

As far as I knew, Mr Gustafson had done everything he could do to straighten out his life and become a good citizen.

While his sponsors say Gustafson should be allowed to pursue his career, other Catholics say it is wrong for the Church to promote a paedophile priest.

LaVonne Murphy, a longtime church administrator, was so disturbed when she saw Gustafson at a National Ministry Summit in Florida in 2008, sitting with archdiocese colleagues, that she wrote a letter to Archbishop John Nienstedt. In it she said:

I am in utter disbelief that this man is still approved by the diocese to work with parishes as they vision and create goals and plans for the future. The man has got to make a living, but he shouldn’t be at a church doing it. It’s the same venue where he committed his crimes.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn



17 responses to “Priest’s paedophilia classified as a ‘disability’”

  1. Paul Cook says:

    These reports are just too many.

    Priests abusing boys and the church more interested in itself, its existence, its cover up, than the human lives these priests destroy.

    It is heartbreaking. Any one who is not concerned at this has a heart of stone.

    But didn’t I read somewhere that males wanting sex with males should result in those ‘guilty’ being killed by stoning. *

    Where actually is the humanity in these people.

    * consenting adults. Not child rape. Child rape should always result in a stoning.

  2. Angela_K says:

    I can barely contain my anger with this. Religious scum looking after themselves or covering up wrong doing with no remorse for the victims.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Time that religious belief was seen as a mental disorder, then he would have a genuine disability to complain about. Lee Rigby’s uncle appeared on TV tonight saying that the family “have never seen it as a religious murder”. I despair sometimes. What does “Allahu Akbar” mean?

  4. Matt+Westwood says:

    “Allahu Akbar” — sounds like the sound you make when you are simultaneously sneezing and vomiting.

  5. L.Long says:

    The xtian church did not give a schite for its sheeple!!??? Well! DAAAHH! This is news??? The boys suffering should have made him closer to JEEESSuuusss!!!! But his suicide shows he was possessed of evil spirits. YaDa! Yada! Yada!
    As long as the various groups keep giving religion MUCH more respect then it deserves this will continue, treat the church (any of them) as nothing more than an odd social club and things would improve.

  6. Robster says:

    Are there any religious clergy types that are innocent, totally innocent, not just of kiddie rape but embezzlement, telling lots and lots of lies and just being a bit daggy? I’d be bold enough to suggest no. As a collective, all clergy (no matter what flavour they come in) must be held suspect. If it’s in a dog collar it’s dodgy and best avoided.

  7. carl kolotylo says:

    Paedophilia is not a disability! Catholicism on the other hand…….

  8. charlie says:

    Well, well, what do you know. The RCC does NOT give a flying crap about the victims of abusive priests at all. To say that any child molester is disabled is an insult to all people who are disabled. It is an even bigger insult to humanity, but then, in my opinion, ALL religion is a huge insult to humanity. The church paid big money to this pedo priest so he could continue with his life. Oh, how very xtian of the church. And just what did the victim get? Not very much at all. A small sum of money and little to no real help, help that he really needed. That the church, not just the RCC, but ALL xtian churches will go to these ends to protect the pedophile priests/ministers/pastors/whatever their title, just proves that they value the image of the organization above the lives and health of the members and the law let alone common human decency. Apparently, being an xtian church means having no shame, no sense of morality or responsibility to the members of said church. Reports like this are appalling and yet, not a real surprise to me. I wish I was not so cynical, but the above report just re-enforces my cynicism.
    How, after reading this report can any sane, rational human being still believe that the RCC (in particular) cares about its members?
    I apologize for being quite a bit unorganized with my comment, but man, words fail at times like this. How sick is the RCC?

  9. ALL Religion is EVIL says:

    No surprise here. All religions are dangerous and riddled with people who wield power over society without being elected or even consulted, who repress ordinary people, who sell a non existent product under threat of condemnation to a mythical place called hell, who lie, who have unnatural sexual attitudes, who crave control over every aspect of the life of the individual, who crave respect, who are convinced they know what their god wants, who want to inflict their god on everyone else…… And yet millions of people, even well educated ones, are under the spell of this ultimate blight on humanity.

  10. eps says:

    I have been told time and again that the Christian god is the source of absolute morality, so atheists like me do not have morals. Yet there are so many of these men of god who committed such heinous crimes. I do not deny that there are always black sheep in any organization. But how about those in the church hierarchy (that involves a lot of men of god) that support or protect these criminals? How about the Vatican covering up these crimes? How can they claim to have morals? I see a huge amount of hypocrisy.

  11. Paul Cook says:


    it does rather seem, however, that abuse of children by catholics is not isolated. It appears systematic, and quite the ‘norm’. It is far far too prevalent.

    These are not black sheep these are depraved animals deserving only of slaughter.

    One chid abused is one abuse TOO MANY. And to be from such ‘religious types’ is wholly unacceptable.

  12. oldmanjenkins says:

    He should be in a regular prison, not free and about. He committed crimes against humanity and his bung-hole should be cherry red from all the arse play the boys will give him in lock up! “Officials in Rome sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance.” What a joke! As though the the church is above the law.

  13. Carlos says:

    Without endorsement of the immoral and illegal acts commited by this monster, pedophelia IS considered a mental disorder. Mental disorder ergo disability. Despicable

  14. Broga says:

    I wonder if a woman will get the same consideration. An RC postulant nun in a Washington DC convent is on trial for smothering her new born baby whose birth she wanted to keep secret. Help is already being sought from the most powerful source. The Little Sisters of the Poor said in a statement they were praying for everyone involved. That’s nice.

    The 26 year old nun is carrying the can. No mention of the identity of the father. He can’t be a priest as they are celibate. I don’t suppose a virgin birth would play too well in court although I don’t see why not. That phenomenon is already not only acceptable but popular, indeed required as a belief, by RCs.

    I feel sorry for the woman. Misled by the wiles of priests into becoming a nun. Probably ignorant about sex and whatever she was told certain to be warped by her repressed and frustrated superiors.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This may not be a popular idea, but if one can be born gay, one can be born a pedophile. Homosexuals are consenting adults, so I can see the difference. Pedophiles are demonized, they are attracted to those who can’t consent. They hide because of shame, and have no way to treat their issue, because it’s something nobody would admit. They seek jobs around children. Society is a little to blame.