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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,930
August 16, 2018
Church Hid Sex Abuse of 1,000+ Children
By Mike McManus

A Pennsylvania Grand Jury has accused 300 priests of sexually molesting 1,000 children, and added there are probably thousands more. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God not only did nothing, they hid it all for decades," the Grand Jury charged.

The 1,400-page report described some of the abuse with disturbing detail:

  • One boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13-15 whose abuser bore down hard on the boy's back, causing severe spinal injuries. The boy became addicted to painkillers and died of an overdose.
  • A priest raped a young girl in the hospital to have her tonsils out.
  • Another priest was allowed to stay In ministry after he impregnated a young girl and arranged for her to have an abortion.

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church surfaced in 2002 in Boston. The church has paid billions of dollars in settlements yet the scandal has only grown with time. A week before the Pennsylvania report, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, was forced by Pope Francis to resign when he was credibly accused of sexually abusing young priests, seminarians, and boys - decades ago.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the current Washington archbishop, is a prominent figure in the report because he was archbishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years when he did remove some abusive priests but allowed others to continue in parish ministry.

Unfortunately, only two priest molesters were prosecuted, due to the state's statute of limitations. "As a consequence of the cover-up (by bishops like Wuerl) almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted," the Grand Jury lamented.

Victims of child abuse have until they are 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges. "Due to the church's manipulation of our weak laws in Pennsylvania, too many predators were out of reach," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro asserted at a press conference.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he was raped by a priest at his Catholic school in Berks County, PA. The same priest, he charged, sexually abused one of his childhood friends who committed suicide in 2009.

Rozzi called on fellow legislators to pass a law that would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of sexual abuse of children. That's a major solution which was endorsed by the Grand Jury.

It also called for a law to allow older victims to sue a diocese for damage inflicted upon them as children, tighter laws that mandate the reporting of abuse and an end to nondisclosure agreements when settlements have been reached.

Pennsylvania has conducted more investigations of church-sparked child abuse than any other state.

What it found was that the church hierarchy covered up major crimes by its priests to protect the church's reputation - with no sense of responsibility to protect children from its predatory priests.

Worldwide, many national law enforcement agencies are targeting child abuse by the church's priests. In Chile, prosecutors and police are confiscating documents and looking for evidence of crimes that were not reported to police. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that authorities were raiding the headquarters of Chile's Catholic Episcopal Conference.

In France, Cardinal Phillippe Barbarin is facing a trial on criminal charges of not reporting sexual abuse. In Australia, an archbishop was recently convicted in a criminal court for concealing sexual abuse.

Even in the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, a top lieutenant of Pope Francis, will soon stand trial for charges related to sexual offenses.

However, no report to date has been as thorough as that by the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania. Some bishops deny that the church has concealed abuse. "There was no cover-up going on," asserted Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh. "We have over the course of the last 30 years been transparent about everything that has in fact been transpiring."

On the contrary, the Grand Jury asserted church officials followed a "playbook for concealing the truth" that involved minimizing the abuse by using such words as "inappropriate contact" instead of "rape."

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press conference, "They protected their institution at all costs. As the Grand Jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims."

Every state needs to appoint a Grand Jury that will invest the months needed to document what has happened in each diocese. Certainly one needed reform is to remove statutes of limitations, so guilty priests may be prosecuted decades later.

Finally, the church should make celibacy optional, so that married men could serve as priests. You have not heard of any Protestant denomination plagued by clergy molesting children.

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.

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