It is often said that the cover-up is worse than the crime. When it comes to child sexual abuse, that is a difficult concept to grasp. However, when a church official, such as a bishop or cardinal, discovers that a parish priest has molested a child, what should he do?
Over the past 70 plus years, the answer has been ‘don’t tell anyone, transfer him to another parish, and if the victims squawk, pay them off and silence them. The problem with that policy, of course, is that the priest will repeat the offending conduct everywhere he goes. That’s how we get thousands of victims and an international scandal rather than an isolated crime. The cover-up was and is, indeed, worse than the crime.
Recent reports out of Germany, Philadelphia, Washington DC and elsewhere are blowing the lid off of a scandal that has been going on for almost 100 years. Multiple states have reported new investigations, and, as an attorney who has handled these cases, there are multiple states (Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and Nebraska) where these disgusting crimes may have been committed that are not being presented in the national and international news. Minnesota, Michigan and Louisiana come to mind. More and more states will discover criminal activity and join in the fray.
The Church has promised transparency and cooperation, but its’ prior behavior suggests otherwise. In my fictional account of the scandal, Betrayal of Faith, a sinister and secret Church organization, The Coalition, is assigned the task of covering these crimes up, by any means necessary. While I doubt that such an organization formally exists, I can tell you that when an attorney handles these cases in the civil justice system and sees the level of deception, manipulation and criminality, it certainly feels like some type of sinister force is pulling the strings of a massive cover-up. Files are routinely destroyed; victims are paid to keep silent.
After almost 70 years, these issues are a hot topic. Finally, state governments, rather than the press, are investigating and scrutinizing the scandal. After almost 4000 kids in Germany, 1000 kids in Pennsylvania, hundreds of priests, the possible crimes of a high level Catholic official in DC and an accusation that the Pope himself knew of those crimes, we are finally seeing action. I called for this in the early 1980’s when I battled the Church in Michigan. Instead, the cover-up continued, over a billion dollars has been paid to victims (often hush money for silence) over the many decades since, and nothing has changed.
According to reports, the Pope will be meeting with US Catholic Church leaders today. It is reported that the conversation will center on these upcoming investigations. It is time for high level officials to be held accountable. Should those who knew about these crimes lose their jobs and spend some time in prison? Isn’t it time to restore sanity in leadership? Why aren’t we appalled to discuss ‘priest’ and ‘child abuse’ in the same sentence? Why has this been tolerated for so long? Isn’t it time for a top-down analysis and purge? Germany and Pennsylvania are not anomalies; they represent typical diocese behaviors of conspiracy, concealment and cover-up as a matter of policy.
It is high time for a federal investigation. Charities should reconsider whether they wish to support an organization that conspires to cover up criminality. Tax-exempt status, federal and state aid, even diplomatic relations should be on the table. It is time to get serious with these people. Any other organization or industry would have quickly been toppled in the wake of a scandal like this one. What service or product would you knowingly buy from a child molester? But parishioner routinely permit criminals to preach the gospel and educate their children. What’s wrong with this picture? There has to be standards. This is a massive breach of the public safety. We will be watching and waiting for action from the Vatican and from Pennsylvania. These issues, at long last, can and must be handled by serious people in a serious manner. Only then, will we prevent decades of future victims.