The Roman Catholic Church’s Summit on Priest Sex Abuse: A Hollow Gesture
Bishops and other leaders from the Roman Catholic Church have begun a summit in the Vatican to address priest child sex abuse. According to the Pope, “healing for victims” should be as major a concern “as profound renewal of the church at every level.”
Is this a hollow gesture by the Church to give the appearance that they are going to take the issue of priest sexual abuse seriously? It is doubtable. We have heard this tune before and have seen no real action by the Church. In fact, in Philadelphia, where our principal office is located, the Archdiocese was chastised by a Grand Jury in 2005 for their alleged complicity in allowing known or suspected pedophile priests to remain in service in Philadelphia parishes in close proximity to children which resulted in continued abuse of numerous other victims.
When the 2005 Grand Jury report was issued, the Church took “action” by setting up a victim assistance hotline under the guise that this would act as “healing for victims” and the Church truly wanted to help victims of sexual abuse. However, as has been the case for the past several decades, the Church failed to do the right thing when it came to priest child sexual abuse. Their true intentions in setting up this hotline had nothing to do with helping victims. It was learned as a result of the 2011 Grand Jury report that the victim assistance hotline was being used as a defense litigation tool. Information obtained from victims who contacted the victim assistance hotline was turned over to the Archdiocese attorneys in order to begin formulating a defense and gathering information to discredit the victim in any potential civil case.
As the summit in Rome begins, the Church in Pennsylvania continues to spend exorbitant amounts of money on lobbyists in Harrisburg to ensure that pro-victim legislation is not passed. This is the reason that pro-victim bills which have been introduced in the legislature have failed to pass. These bills would abolish the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases or create a two year window for sexual abuse victims to bring a civil claim without any bar due to the statute of limitations.
The Church continues to refuse to apologize or take responsibility for the priests that it moved from parish to parish even knowing of their proclivity to sexually abuse children. The Church still does not get it and refuses to take the issue of priest child sexual abuse seriously. One of the areas that will be addressed at the summit is advising all Church employees to follow civil law and cooperate with law enforcement officials when there is a criminal investigation of a priest for sexual abuse.
It makes absolutely no sense why Church employees and officials need to be told to cooperate with law enforcement when there is a criminal investigation of a priest for sexual abuse. Isn’t that common sense? Members of the clergy are mandatory reporters under Pennsylvania’s child abuse mandatory reporting law. If the Church was concerned with “healing for victims,” why wouldn’t they be doing everything they can to cooperate with law enforcement officials to ensure that a priest never does this to a child again? How about mandatory psychological evaluation of all priests or a special priest abuse official in every diocese who would investigate every allegation of abuse with law enforcement? The simple answer is they still don’t get it.
The strength it takes for victims to come forward and force the Church to take responsibility has been the only way that people in our community can truly understand what the Church has done and continues to do when it comes to victims of priest child sex abuse.
Priest and Church Sex Abuse Lawyer – Brian Kent
If you would like to discuss your case with Brian Kent, a former prosecutor and now civil sex abuse lawyer, please call 800.220.7600.