WASHINGTON: A report by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury reports on the Catholic Church epidemic of child abuse. Furthermore, the report implicates more than 300 Catholic priests who sexually abused children over the last seven decades. Knowing of the epidemic of abuse, those priests were then protected by a Catholic Church hierarchy who covered it up.
The investigation, one of the most comprehensive inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history, identified 1,000 children who were victims. However, the report says that there are probably thousands more.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on child abuse in the Catholic Church
The Grand Jury reports states:
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, but hid it all for decades.”
The 1,400-page report described some of the abuses in disturbing detail. In Erie, a 7-year old boy was sexually abused by a priest who then told him he should go to confession and confess his “sins” to that same priest. Another boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13 to 15 by a priest who bore down so hard on the boy’s back that it caused severe spinal injuries.
He became addicted to.painkillers and later died of an overdose.
One victim in Pittsburgh was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross as priests photographed him. Priests gave the boy and others gold cross necklaces to mark them as being “groomed” for abuse. One priest raped a girl who bore him a child. Another made his victim get an abortion.
The report notes four cases in the Scranton diocese in which bishops and other church leaders allowed predator priests to continue in the ministry. The leadership also used confidentiality agreements with settlements to silence the victims. In one instance, they provided tuition for a boy to attend a school in the diocese.
The case of Rev. Thomas D. Skotak.
Skotak repeatedly sexually assaulted a minor female between 1980 and 1985. The minor became pregnant. Skotak provided aid to arrange an abortion in 1986. When Bishop James Timlin became aware of the situation, he transferred Father Skotak to another parish and in 1989 offered $75,000 to the girl and her family contingent on a nondisclosure and confidentiality agreement.
After the settlement, Bishop Timlin sought to reassure senior Catholic leaders in Rome that Father Skotek’s “criminal” acts would likely remain hidden. Sadly, we can fill.pages with reports such as these and that is what the Pennsylvania Grand Jury did.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury details a decades-long cover-up of the Catholic Church epidemic of child abuse
The unfortunate fact is that the decades-long cover-up by the church hierarchy has created a situation in which few criminal cases may result from the massive investigation because most instances of abuse are too old to be prosecuted because of statutes of limitations.
One answer many are now calling for is a re-thinking of the whole idea of statutes of limitations.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he was raped by a priest at his Catholic Church in Berks County. Pa. The same priest, he said, sexually abused one of his childhood friends, who killed himself in 2009. Rozzi called on fellow legislators to pass measures that would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of sexual abuse of children.
In addition to ending such limitations, the grand jury 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.
Widespread corruption and child abuse in the Catholic Church
Corruption in the church has been widespread, from parish priests to bishops and beyond. In July, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick , former Archbishop of Washington, resigned after being accused of sexually abusing children and adults for decades.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington, figures prominently in the report because he led the Pittsburgh diocese as its bishop from 1988 to 2006. It reports that, at times, he removed abusive priests, and, at other times, guided them back into parishes.
The fact is that there has been no full accounting of abuse in the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Peter Isely, a longtime advocate for victims of sexual abuse, said groups have long been pressing the U.S. Government for a national investigation of child sex abuse, particularly in the Catholic Church. Isely, who was abused and is a spokesman for the global group, Ending Clergy Abuse, said that a five-year inquiry in Australia is “the gold standard,” but that other nations, including Canada, Germany, and Ireland, have conducted national reviews.
“Imagine if they did what was done in Pennsylvania, but nationwide?” he said.
In Chile, prosecutors and police are raiding church offices, confiscating documents and looking for crimes that went unreported to police.
Pennsylvania grand jury report will lend new momentum to nationwide statute reform efforts
“This will reignite these battles at the state level,” said Michael Moreland, a law professor at Villanova University, a Catholic school outside of Philadelphia.
The grand jury also urges a two year “civil window” in the existing statutes of limitations that would allow victims to sue the church for damages no matter when the abuse occurred. “These victims ran out of time before they even knew they had a case,” the grand jury wrote.
In the past, the Catholic Church has lobbied fiercely against any such provisions which would hold it accountable. The church argues that it would be left open to “financial catastrophe.” Given the church’s role, that might, many would argue, constitute simple justice.
What would Jesus do over the Catholic Church epidemic of child abuse
How would Jesus react to a church acting in His name in such a manner? When it comes to the abuse of children, consider these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Anyone who welcomes one little child like this in my name, welcomes me. But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”
We know how Jesus reacted to money changers and others who were corrupting the temple, a much lesser offense than child abuse. When Jesus and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem for Passover they found the holy temple corrupted by merchants and money changers.
Jesus expels them for having turned the temple into a “den of thieves” through their commercial activities.
In John 2:13-6, we read,
“And making a whip of cards, we drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And we poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
Nathan W. O’Halloran identifies the actions of Jesus with “a calculated prophetic action evocative of the temple condemnation in Jeremiah 7:1-15. The Gospel of Mark uses the phrase, “Then he taught them ..” as Jesus references the prophet Jeremiah. The quote from Jeremiah reads:
“Are you to steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal, go after strange gods that you know not. and yet come to stand before me in this house which bears my name, and say: ‘we are safe; we can commit all these abominations again?’ Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves, I, too, see what is being done, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 7:9-11).”
The Catholic Church portrayed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report is not a “den of thieves” but something far worse. One can only imagine how Jesus would respond to those who have inflicted such horror, pain and suffering in His name.
Lead Image: By El Greco - 1. Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork2. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., online collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3373066