Coolest Pastor Ever Calls His Basement Full of Arcade Games a Gift from God

Jeremy Wagner
The Basement Arcade in Warrenton
When he's not at work or serving as a children's minister, Jeremy Wagner puts his engineering skills to work bringing broken video arcade games back to life.

He's Frankenstein, and he's lovingly filled his Warrenton basement with 45 of his resurrected monsters -- all free and open to anyone who wants to play.

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Lawsuit: Priest Asked Teen to Dress Like a Woman, Not a Child, Before Sexual Abuse

Joseph Jiang's mug shot
Even after a Cathedral Basilica priest asked the archdiocese to reassign him for personal reasons, the church allowed Joseph Jiang to have unsupervised contact with the minor he is accused of sexually assaulting in her home and on church property, according to a lawsuit.

Update: The criminal charges against Jiang were dropped Thursday. Read more in our story: Court Drops Teen Sex Abuse Charges for Catholic Priest Joseph Jiang

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St. Louis Lutherans Head to Philippines to Help with Recovery and Relief

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Rev. James CerdeƱola, president of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), updates church members after Typhoon Haiyan.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod plans to raise and distribute $1 million worth of aid and supplies over the next three weeks in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan tore through on November 8, causing wide-reaching devastation and more than 10,000 deaths.

The church planned to have members from Missouri on the ground in the island nation Wednesday to help the 23,000 baptized Filipino members and their communities after houses, churches and livelihoods were washed away in giant storm-surges.

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UPDATE: Kansas City Atheist Group Barred From Delivering Thanksgiving Meals To Poor

Kansas City Atheist Coalition
See update below: A group of Kansas City atheists have been forced to take their goodwill elsewhere after a Christian homeless shelter banned it from volunteering there during Thanksgiving.

Members of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition have spent the past two Thanksgivings distributing boxed meals for the Kansas City Rescue Mission, helping to feed thousands of the city's most impoverished during the holiday.

But this year the mission has chosen to include a religious flier along with those boxes. The proposed message will read: "God Loves You. You Are Not Alone."

"We are faith-based, and we've never contradicted that," says Julie Larocco, the mission's development officer. "It makes sense to us to send people out who are representative of who we are."

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St. Louis Archdiocese Paid $10 Million in 10 Years in Clergy Abuse, Misconduct Costs

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson
The St. Louis Archdiocese has paid $10 million in ten years in legal fees and victim payments associated with clergy misconduct, including sexual abuse, according to the church's annual financial report.

The Catholic Church in St. Louis paid $943,700 in abuse and misconduct costs in 2013, compared to $342,100 in 2012.

The costs recorded in a particular year don't necessarily come from cases filed or tried in that year, says chief financial officer Frank Chauvin.

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Archbishop Robert Carlson Asks to Dismiss Witness Tampering Charges in Sex Abuse Case

Archbishop Robert Carlson
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson asked a judge to immediately dismiss a lawsuit from the family of a teenage girl who claims he failed to prevent her molestation by Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang.

Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer did not immediately dismiss the case, which accuses Carlson of tampering with witnesses by asking the victim's family to return hush money paid by Jiang.

The archdiocese put Jiang on administrative leave last summer after he was charged with first-degree child endangerment for allegedly fondling a teenage girl on four occasions.

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St. Louis Archdiocese: No More Beer at Catholic Youth Events

Sharyn Morrow on Flickr
No more beer for you, soccer moms!
Starting today, all youth-oriented events in the St. Louis Archdiocese will be bone dry.

That means no more lingering over cans of Bud Light for parents at soccer games, trunk-or-treats, scouting activities or any other events aimed at youth, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson told St. Louis Catholics in a letter.

For the booster clubs that sold beer at Catholic Youth Council sports, the new rule means a major change in fundraising.

"Obviously, there is not going to be as much money," says Father Larry Huber of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arnold. "Now [the athletic association members] are scrambling. We were using the proceeds of the concessions stand," and especially beer sales, "to offset the costs."

Huber said his parish's booster clubs are looking for a new way to make up that money, possibly in increased ticket prices or a new fundraiser.

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Archbishop Robert Carlson: Old Files Shed Light on Long History of Handling Sex Abuse Scandals

Geerlingguy photo via
Archbishop Robert Carlson.
In July, a local family filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Louis, alleging that Archbishop Robert Carlson attempted to cover up a priest's sex abuse and tamper with evidence in the process. This suit, surrounding Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang, was filed after Carlson was subpoenaed in the criminal investigation of Jiang (who is accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl in her home). As the case moves forward this month, victims' rights groups are arguing that Carlson's inadequate response reflects a long history of mishandling abuse allegations.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an advocacy group based in St. Louis, has provided Daily RFT with newly released documents from 1984 relating to a case at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, involving then bishop Carlson. The letters, the group argues, shed light on his decades of direct experience with these kinds of cases and repeated efforts to downplay abuse.

"It's the antithesis of what a caring shepherd should do," says David Clohessy, SNAP executive director.

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Thomas Donovan, Priest Who Called 911 Tied Up, Gagging in Bondage Mask, Back to Ministry

News coverage of Thomas Donovan's 911 call.
The "bondage priest" is back.

Father Thomas Donovan was the man behind the 911 call heard round the world in which he told a dispatcher that he was in the rectory and needed help getting out of handcuffs. Why was he stuck? He said he was "playing with them" and needed to be rescued before it became an emergency. When cops arrived on that November day, they allegedly found him -- alone -- in some sort of leather bondage mask and an orange jumpsuit.

He was soon after granted a leave of absence and now, many months later, church officials say he is returning to the ministry -- headed in our direction to Alton. The Diocese of Springfield says it will be a "gradual" process.

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St. Louis Archdiocese Reiterates Gays Welcome in Church, "Homosexual Activity Is Forbidden"

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Earlier this morning, we posted our interview with Father Gary Meier, an openly gay St. Louis priest, who had some thoughts to share about Pope Francis's surprising remarks that he wouldn't judge gay priests (saying, "You can't marginalize these people").

Meier says the comments are a "breath of fresh air" and a nice change in tone from the "outright anti-gay, hostile statements" the church usually delivers.

Now, Daily RFT has another relevant local reaction to Pope Francis, this one from the Archdiocese of St. Louis -- which has a slightly different take than Meier.

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