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Ethics & Religion
April 21, 2016
Column #1,808
Catholic Bishops Are Unaccountable
By Mike McManus


The movie "Spotlight" won an Academy Award for its story of how The Boston Globe exposed the molestation of hundreds of children by 70 Boston Catholic priests - and the cover up of those crimes by Cardinal Bernard Law.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning series of 600 stories documented priestly abuse of children. That series sparked many more stories in other cities and local exposes of the problem.

The result is stunning: nationally, 6,400 children are known to have been abused by more than 600 priests. And new cases are arising regularly. The latest is in Altoona, Penn. where a Grand Jury recently reported "at least 50 different priests or religious leaders" victimized hundreds of children. The Grand Jury charged these terrible acts "are almost unbearable to comprehend."

The report noted that many victims reported feeling "black inside," who contemplated committing suicide. One mother said the abuse of her child "ruined our lives."

However, what's worse than the predator priests is "their enabling Bishops" who covered up the crimes, and sent the priests on to other parishes where they ravished more children. Some victims were "too deeply traumatized to testify in a court of law."

The Altoona Grand Jury stated, "The victims of child sexual abuse never escape their victimization; it is inequitable and unjust to allow their victimizers to escape accountability."

It urged Pennsylvania pass a law to "suspend the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims" to "allow adults who were victims of child sexual abuse to have their cases heard in a court of law."

I interviewed Charles Bailey, the survivor of sexual abuse from ages 10-12. He asserted, "I was raped by a Catholic priest in my own house and bedroom, who was supposedly counseling me to become a priest." The priest, Rev. Thomas Neary, served in 18 parishes over 45 years, ravishing 200 kids.

Yet he could not be prosecuted because New York State requires the crimes be reported by the victim's 23rd birthday! Bailey's rapes were so traumatizing that he did not even tell his wife about it for 30 years! Why? "I was so scared. I was afraid she would turn tail and run."

California passed a law giving victims a year to report offenses by priests, and 1,000 did so. Other states passed similar laws: Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, Georgia. However, New York's Legislature passed such a modification of the statute of limitations unanimously, but the Republican Senate voted it down.

Why? It is opposed by Catholic Bishops who fear lawsuits. Indeed, Catholic Dioceses have paid $3 billion to victims of priests.

However, as The Washington Post editorialized today, "Many victims, emotionally damaged by the abuse they have suffered, do not speak until years after they were victimized; by then, in many cases it is too late for them to force priests and other abusers to account in court."

Pope Francis has pledged "the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all." Yet, as the Post editorialized, there has been "scant accountability." In his visit to America, Francis said he would establish a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or ignored pedophile priests. The Post charged it has "come to naught. Not a single bishop has been called to account by the tribunal, which itself remains more notional than real."

The Executive Editor of The Washington Post, Martin Baron, was editor of The Boston Globe during its expose of predatory priests.

In fact, the Post's editorial noted that Pope Francis praised American bishops for "how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you." Yet "by its actions, the church's commitment to bring healing has seemed far from generous. And it seems perverse to address the bishops' `pain' when the real suffering has been borne by children."

Three reforms are urgently needed. First, every state should pass laws allowing victims of sexual abuse to seek justice in court.

Second, the Vatican tribunal should charge hundreds of bishops with covering up the crimes of priests. Virtually all have done so.

Most important, it is time to end mandatory celibacy of priests. Some say that celibacy should be "optional," so that some priests could marry. Charles Bailey thinks "Celibacy should be abolished. It is against human nature."

The shortage of priests is so acute that a tenth of parishes have closed and 3,500 of 17,500 parishes have no resident priest. Yet there are 17,500 "permanent deacons," who are allowed to perform some priestly functions though they are married.

Virtually all would become priests if they could.


Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus is a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To see past columns go to Hit Search for any topic.


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