WARNING: Graphic Images
Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, this week released the results of what may be the most comprehensive state investigation into child sexual abuse and cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s history [1A].
Examining over 70 years of church records, the grand jury investigation identified 301 predator priests, and more than 1000 child victims, across six dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton). Sexual abuse by priests was earlier uncovered in two other Pennsylvania dioceses (Philadelphia and Altoona).
The Catholic Church sex scandal first began to surface in the 1980s . A seminal investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002 led to the criminal prosecution of five predator priests .
Subsequent investigations revealed a widespread pattern of abuse across the United States and the globe, with an institutional cover-up extending to the Vatican. Despite complaints, predator priests were moved seamlessly from parish to parish, and allowed to continue in ministry, sometimes for decades.
As Shapiro expressed it:
“Church officials routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling and inappropriate conduct. It was none of those things. It was child sexual abuse, including rape [1B].”
Some 17,000 victims have come forward in the US. Papal apologies and new protocols have done little to correct the situation.
Victims were primarily boys. However, girls were victimized, as well. One 9 y.o. had his mouth washed out with holy water after oral sex . Another victim was 18 months of age, and still in diapers.
Along with oral sex, abuse included groping, forced masturbation, vaginal and anal penetration.
When complaints were made to church hierarchy, victims were accused of fabricating lies (or seduction, if pregnancy resulted).
Tragically, most of the predator priests identified by this investigation will never be brought to justice. Many have died or aged beyond prosecution. Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations bars suits for monetary damages after victims turn 30 y.o. The state cannot file criminal charges after victims turn 50 y.o.
Fifteen US dioceses and archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection, as a consequence of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Last month, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington stepped down – the most senior resignation to date .
Lack of Transparency
The Catholic Church still does not make its investigations or disciplinary proceedings public.
The church does not release the data it gathers; has not set up an internal tribunal for bishops accused of cover-up, despite the recommendation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established in 2014; and allows church leaders involved in cover-up to resign without explanation.
As important, it has failed to establish guidelines on how to respond to complaints of sexual abuse or cooperate with civil authorities.
[1A and 1B] Huffington Post, “Catholic Church Covered Up Child Abuse by 301 Priests in Pennsylvania: Report” by Carol Kuruvilla, 8/14/18, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pennsylvania-report-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse-scandal_us_5b2d4062e4b00295f15c56db.
 Wikipedia, “Catholic Church sexual abuse cases”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_sexual_abuse_cases.
 Wikipedia, “Catholic Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Archdiocese_of_Boston_sex_abuse_scandal.
 Pope Francis, himself, had defended Bishop Juan Barros of Chile, long accused of participating in and covering up abuse. Five Chilean bishops have since resigned. See, The Guardian (Reuters), “Pope Francis in Chile sexual abuse scandal: ‘I was part of the problem’ “, 5/2/18, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/02/pope-francis-chile-sexual-abuse-scandal-part-of-problem.
 Washington Post, “Why the Vatican continues to struggle with sex abuse scandals” by Chico Harlan, 8/12/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/why-the-vatican-continues-to-struggle-with-sex-abuse-scandals/2018/08/12/483e16e2-9439-11e8-818b-e9b7348cd87d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.545efc28783b .
 Metro, “Priest made boy, 9, give him oral sex then washed his mouth out with holy water” by Jim McCloskey, 8/15/18, https://metro.co.uk/2018/08/15/priest-made-boy-9-give-oral-sex-washed-mouth-holy-water-7844069/.
Sexual abuse in the evangelical church will be addressed in Part 2 of this series
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24 responses to “Predator Priests, Part 1”
I’ve been working on my own post about this Anna,and it’s amazingly similar to your own so I will defer to you on this.
As I was writing I was struggling with the words to convey my outrage at the magnitude of the abuse. Then it dawned on me that what I was most upset about was the lack of outrage from society in general.
We will gather by the tens of thousands to march against the President,but our own children being raped and abused draws not even a whimper. This is an indictment of our nation’s spiritual condition, leaving one to suggest that we have passed the point of no return. Only a reprobate people could remain silent in the face of such tragedy.
By instituting this massive cover up,the Catholic Church has in effect consented to this abuse at the highest levels and rewarded these predators for their vile behavior.Can anyone deny that this church is an abomination in the sight of God? This is no “Catholic bashing”,the facts speak for themselves,as will your follow up post about abuse in the Protestant church. The fact is that the Church,the body of Christ here on Earth,is a compromised entity in league with the devil himself.
While the victims may never receive justice this side of Heaven,we can rest assured that nothing escapes the Almighty. He is the defender of the weak and defenseless,and there will come the day when judgement will be forthcoming.
Like Heaven,Hell is eternal,and there will be no escaping it for those involved in such wickedness, regardless of church affiliation.
I agree, Ron. We may not be able to effectuate justice for these victims here on earth. But we can rely on God to do that in the next life.
It goes deeper. This form of abuse is rampant in all aspects of society and seem to not only be devoid of outrage but is encouraged.
I wrote a short article that sheds light on this. https://realitydecoded.blog/2018/08/12/remember-that-story-about-child-sex-rape-and-incest-that-became-a-hollywood-blockbuster-that-everyone-seems-to-love/
To be sure, rampant sexual abuse is quickly becoming a sick,perverted ‘normal’ in this world. As open as society has become, with seemingly no subject off limits to talk about, sex abuse by the clergy is strangely off limits, or so it would seem.
Many victims are reluctant to come forward out of concern for damaging the church’s reputation. Victims, of course, are members of the Body of Christ — on equal footing with the clergy. They ARE, therefore, the church.
This breaks my heart. And it makes me so angry. The evil is incomprehensible.
I was never Catholic, but I have some close relatives that are Catholic, and I have visited a number of Catholic churches in my lifetime. When I was a deeply troubled 15-year-old, I sought the counsel of a Catholic priest. He did not molest me, but he did caress my bare arms for several minutes, in a very sensual, inappropriate way. I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. I did not know what to do.
Twenty years later, I moved to a state more than 1,000 miles away. Again, I visited a Catholic church. The priest asked to meet me with me in private, because I was new in town and, he said, he wanted to get to know me. Different priest, different parish, different decade. And he, too, began caressing my bare arms in a very sensual way! I left then, and never went back.
I love the beauty and pageantry of a Catholic mass. But I cannot understand, at this point, how anyone can remain a Catholic.
I grew up Catholic, Lee, so I feel this very deeply. The Catholic Church sex scandal is a tragedy for victims, and a travesty for the church.
Anna, may I ask if you are you still Catholic?
I left the Catholic Church when I lost my faith. When the Lord drew me back, years later, I returned as a non-denominational Christian. I know from firsthand experience that He is greater than any single denomination — Catholic, protestant, or orthodox.
There is an irony here. The Catholic church did not only shield priests. They shielded anyone acting under their umbrella that would reflect poorly on the church. It was a short Jewish doctor in our case.
For decades I have tried to convince victims of such abuse to join together and march on the government to put a stop to such abuse, but each group seems intent on the maintaining the spotlight or selling books about their stories or generally profiting on their abuse. I’m fairly certain we could put an end to this sort of thing by filling up the squares and streets of Washington, D.C.
Predators will people any profession that gives them access to children. Parents trade their children for money and drugs and such. This will blow over again unless the thousands and thousands of victims join up to stop it.
Great post Anna,
The Vatican is a power all its own..
I have read that even parents took the side of priests when a child came forward.. God must judge in the end, He is sovereign.
Upon reflection, and from my Own experience as a catholic priest, would say that the reason the authorities find it difficult to take strong action against erring priests is that there are so few of them (priests).
It takes a minimum of 7 years of training. Taking my case, in my First of Seminary studies, there were 28 of us. Only 7 got ordained.
For all that, it is Both Criminal, and Sinful, (which is worse), not to take strong action against the erring ones. Paradoxically, Strong Action ‘Would’ bring in More vocations, I believe.
This is where I believe in Violence. If I were the Parent of an abused Kid, I would Thrash up the culprit, making sure to give Lots of ‘Lasting’ pain, without maiming him, – and, according to the 11th command, making sure that I am Not caught for the act.
I cannot endorse violence, Swami. I know, however, that your comment is from a place of empathy and grief. The evil is so overwhelming, we are almost at a loss how to respond.
Yeah, Anna, I know are the different ends of the spectrum on that. Regards. 🙂
Thank you, Anna, for this expose. These reports are troubling and heartbreaking. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing and they are right there in positions of authority in the church. As Christians, we must be sober-minded and alert. Our adversary goes about, not only as a roaring lion, but also disguised as a gentle lamb, seeking whom he may devour. We must continue to expose, enlighten and educate people. You are doing a great job, Anna❤️.
You are very kind, Gbolabo. ❤ Yes, that is exactly what these predators are — the wolves in sheep's clothing of which Scripture warns us. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7: 15).
The amount of abuse that continues to occur within this organization is more than disturbing. The Apostle Paul mentioned that after his death there would be those that come into the congregation that would not treat the flock with tenderness (Acts 20:29). Jesus Christ will clean up this mess once and for all. Matthew 24:42 reminds us to “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Jehovah will not allow this and other atrocities to continue indefinitely. Although there are many priests out there that are not involved, those that are guilty of this abuse will not escape God’s wrath (Matthew 25:41-46).
I agree wholeheartedly. It astonishes me that these predator priests and the hierarchy that continues to protect them do not recognize this.
I wonder what percentage of Catholic priests are pedophiles.
The combination of a vulnerable target population and protection by an uncritical church hierarchy seems to be irresistible.
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