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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,940
October 25, 2018
More States Investigating Catholic Crimes
By Mike McManus

After Pennsylvania's Attorney General reported that 301 priests had molested more than 1,000 young people, the Attorneys General of a dozen states and Washington D.C. have launched similar investigations.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine began an investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington which includes both the city and Maryland suburbs. Pope Francis accepted resignations from the last two Cardinals in Washington - Donald Wuerl and Theodore McCarrick.

A Pennsylvania Grand Jury reported that when he was Bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, Wuerl did remove some abusive priests, but allowed others to continue in their parishes. McCarrick, Wuerl's predecessor in Washington, was removed from ministry in June amid allegations he sexually abused a teenager decades ago.

During an August appearance on a radio show, Racine said his office's phones were "burning up" with calls urging him to investigate wrongdoing. He set up an online portal for victims to report abuse by D.C. clergy. Ironically, McCarrick was one of the country's most outspoken church leaders fighting abuse when scandals erupted in Boston in 2002.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced he is investigating the abuse of children in the Baltimore Archdiocese. The Archbishop told his priests, "It is clear we are a church in crisis and that crisis is one of trust. It is my hope and prayer that this independent review...will bring about greater trust in the Church."

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has issued subpoenas for all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, and set up a hot line for anyone to report abuses. The New Jersey Attorney General quickly followed, announcing a criminal task force investigating sexual abuse by Catholic priests. It will be led by Robert Laurino who is creating a Grand Jury and has set up a hot line for victims.

U.S. Bishops will hold a weeklong retreat in January in Chicago to discuss the growing scandal.

The Archdiocese of Boston has already paid $10 million to 86 victims of sexual abuse by just one of its priests!

Unfortunately, due to statutes of limitation on sex crimes, almost all of the crimes documented by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, cannot lead to criminal prosecutions. The situation is similar in New York. In many states, the initiative cannot come from the state Attorney General, but must come from local District Attorneys.

In Nebraska, the state's three diocese have received an inquiry from the Attorney General. The Dioceses of Lincoln and Grand Island are cooperating, but Omaha did not immediately respond.

A Washington Post story asserted that the result of state probes "could cause many U.S. Catholics to leave the church, as happened after a national probe in Ireland. "People are much less inclined to belong to institutions that are suspect," said Judge Michael Mertz, a federal judge in Ohio. "There's no doubt that a lot people have left because of doubting the integrity of this particular institution."

It is more than doubt. It is anger. "We have been betrayed," said Mary Pat Fox, a parishioner in Cardinal Wuerl's archdiocese. "We are angry and frustrated and we want action." They are focusing their anger and anguish on the bishops - even more than the perpetrator priests. They are demanding that the church step in and hold negligent bishops to account, the Washington Post reports.

At a conference organized by Voices of the Faithful, a group formed by Catholic laypeople in 2002 to advocate for victims and for church reform, Ms. Fox, who is president of the group, asserted, "Waiting to see if they are caught in these civil investigations is not the answer. The church must take action to correct the situation now and remove the bishops that have moved priests around."

Some bishops are trying to get ahead of the new wave of scandal. In recent weeks, many have announced that they are releasing the names of priests in their dioceses who have been credibly charged.

This is a step that abuse victims and advocates have requested for years. Tucson took that step in 2002, but few dioceses have followed Tucson's lead. Texas dioceses are considering it.

In Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone released a list of 42 accused priests. But local TV reporters investigated and found that he had withheld many names from his secret archives. The actual number was more like 96 - more than double his released list.

The Attorneys General of Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico are also investigating.

There is hope.

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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