Report details how priests sexually abused thousands of children in the US

Report details how priests sexually abused thousands of children in the US

- in Opinion
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The leadership of the Catholic Church in Philippines, as represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has been very vocal in attacking President Rodrigo Duterte for his policies; particularly those relating to the war against criminals involved in the illegal drug trade.

They have used the pulpit as a platform for politics, lending it to the likes of disgraced Senator Leila De Lima and former President Noynoy Aquino, under whose watch the drug menace grew to epidemic proportions.

But while the priests and bishops have taken every opportunity to vilify President Duterte, they have remained adamantly silent about the abuses being perpetrated by their own kind against innocent children in the Philippines and all over the world.

In order to show the world the true nature of these monsters, we are publishing the introduction to the grand jury report released in connection with the investigation being done on sexual abuse by priests in the United States. In it are the sickening details of how these supposed men of God raped, molested, and abused thousands of children. And how the bishops and the institution itself allowed them to do it again, and again, and again.

So the next time you hear these Bishops and priests attack Duterte for doing his job of protecting the innocents from criminals, ask yourself – what have they done to our children?

Introduction

We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.

We were given the job of investigating child sex abuse in six dioceses – every diocese in the state except Philadelphia and Altoona -Johnstown, which were the subject of previous grand juries. These six dioceses account for 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. We heard the testimony of dozens of witnesses concerning clergy sex abuse. We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents. They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands.

Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were pre- pubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.

As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted. But that is not to say there are no more predators. This grand jury has issued presentments against a priest in the Greensburg diocese and a priest in the Erie Diocese, who has been sexually assaulting children within the last decade. We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses – which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways. And there may be more indictments in the future; investigation continues.

But we are not satisfied by the few charges we can bring, which represent only a tiny percentage of all the child abusers we saw. We are sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated. This report is our only recourse. We are going to name their names, and describe what they did – both the sex offenders and those who concealed them. We are going to shine a light on their conduct, because that is what the victims deserve. And we are going to make our recommendations for how the laws should change so that maybe no one will have to conduct another inquiry like this one. We hereby exercise our historical and statutory right as grand jurors to inform the public of our findings.

This introduction will briefly describe the sections of the report that follow. We know it is very long. But the only way to fix these problems is to appreciate their scope.

The Dioceses

This section of the report addresses each diocese individually, through two or more case studies that provide examples of the abuse that occurred and the manner in which diocesan leaders “managed” it. While each church district had its idiosyncrasies, the pattern was pretty much the same. The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid “scandal.” That is not our word, but theirs; it appears over and over again in the documents we recovered. Abuse complaints were kept
locked up in a “secret archive.” That is not our word, but theirs; the church’s Code of Canon Law specifically requires the diocese to maintain such an archive. Only the bishop can have the key.

The strategies were so common that they were susceptible to behavioral analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For our benefit, the FBI agreed to assign members of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to review a significant portion of the evidence received by the grand jury. Special agents testified before us that they had identified a series of practices that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files they had analyzed. It’s like
a playbook for concealing the truth:

First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.”

Second, don’t conduct genuine investigations with properly trained personnel. Instead, assign fellow clergy members to ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations about the colleagues with whom they live and work.

Third, for an appearance of integrity, send priests for “evaluation” at church -run psychiatric treatment centers. Allow these experts to “diagnose” whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest’s “self -reports,” and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child.

Fourth, when a priest does have to be removed, don’t say why. Tell his parishioners that he is on “sick leave,” or suffering from “nervous exhaustion.” Or say nothing at all.

Fifth, even if a priest is raping children, keep providing him housing and living expenses, although he may be using these resources to facilitate more sexual assaults.

Sixth, if a predator’s conduct becomes known to the community, don’t remove him from the priesthood to ensure that no more children will be victimized. Instead, transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.

Finally and above all, don’t tell the police. Child sexual abuse, even short of actual penetration, is and has for all relevant times been a crime. But don’t treat it that way; handle it like a personnel matter, “in house.”

To be sure, we did come across some cases in which members of law enforcement, despite what may have been the dioceses’ best efforts, learned of clergy sex abuse allegations. Some of these were many decades ago, and police or prosecutors at the time simply deferred to church officials. Other reports arose more recently, but involved old conduct, and so were quickly rejected on statute of limitations grounds without looking into larger patterns and potential continuing risks. We recognize that victims in these circumstances were understandably disappointed there was no place they could go to be heard.

But we have heard them, and will tell their stories, using the church’s own records, which we reproduce in the body of the report where appropriate. In the Diocese of Allentown, for example, documents show that a priest was confronted about an abuse complaint. He admitted, “Please help me. I sexually molested a boy.” The diocese concluded that “the experience will not necessarily be a horrendous trauma” for the victim, and that the family should just be given “an opportunity to ventilate.” The priest was left in unrestricted ministry for several more years, despite his own confession.

Similarly in the Diocese of Erie, despite a priest’s admission to assaulting at least a dozen young boys, the bishop wrote to thank him for “all that you have done for God’s people…. The Lord, who sees in private, will reward.” Another priest confessed to anal and oral rape of at least 15 boys, as young as seven years old. The bishop later met with the abuser to commend him as “a person of candor and sincerity,” and to compliment him “for the progress he has made” in controlling his “addiction.” When the abuser was finally removed from the priesthood years later, the bishop ordered the parish not to say why; “nothing else need be noted.”

In the Diocese of Greensburg, a priest impregnated a 17 -year -old, forged the head pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate, then divorced the girl months later. Despite having sex with a minor, despite fathering a child, despite being married and being divorced, the priest was permitted to stay in ministry thanks to the diocese’s efforts to find a “benevolent bishop” in another state willing to take him on. Another priest, grooming his middle school students for oral sex, taught them how Mary had to “bite off the cord” and “lick” Jesus clean after he was born. It took another 15 years, and numerous additional reports of abuse, before the diocese finally removed the priest from ministry.

A priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg abused five sisters in a single family, despite prior reports that were never acted on. In addition to sex acts, the priest collected samples of the girls’ urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood. Eventually, his house was searched and his collection was found. Without that kind of incontrovertible evidence, apparently, the diocese remained unwilling to err on the side of children even in the face of multiple reports of abuse. As a high-ranking official said about one suspect priest: “At this point we are at impasse – allegations and no admission.” Years later, the abuser did admit what he had done, but by then it was too late.

Elsewhere we saw the same sort of disturbing disdain for victims. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, church officials dismissed an incident of abuse on the ground that the 15 -year -old had “pursued” the priest and “literally seduced” him into a relationship. After the priest was arrested, the church submitted an evaluation on his behalf to the court. The evaluation acknowledged that the priest had admitted to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys – but the sado- masochism was only “mild,” and at least the priest was not “psychotic.”

The Diocese of Scranton also chose to defend its clergy abusers over its children. A diocese priest was arrested and convicted after decades of abuse reports that had been ignored by the church. The bishop finally took action only as the sentencing date approached. He wrote a letter to the judge, with a copy to a state senator, urging the court to release the defendant to a Catholic treatment center. He emphasized the high cost of incarceration. In another case, a priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The bishop expressed his feelings in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” But the letter was not for the girl. It was addressed to the rapist.




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