New Issues in Church’s Child Abuse Scandal

Nicole Sotelo in NCR (National Catholic Reporter- here) initially discusses the Catholic Church’s failure to discipline pederast priests, something discussed for over 30 years. But then she breaks new ground. Even in the rare cases when the Church removes (laicizes) abusive priests, they do nothing to prevent these priests from abusing other children.

As previously discussed (What is “Laicizing” a Priest?), when the Church laicizes a priest, they do not fire him. The Church relieves them of official duties, but continues to pay them, and often provides housing as well. Ms. Sotello informs us that these laicized priests are unsupervised, and often put in position to further abuse children.

Ms. Sotello attempted to track 33 former Chicago priests that were charged with child abuse and subsequently laicized or otherwise removed from priestly duties. She was able to locate 29 of the 33. Half of them (16) lived close to a school or daycare center – presumably in church facilities, though this is not specifically mentioned.

Only 1 of the 33 was placed on a sex offender registry. The Church concealed this information, defeating the purpose the registries and increasing the risk to children. When contacted, the Chicago archdiocese said it “has no authority over former priests.” First, this would not prevent them from putting names of child abusers on the registry. Second, since they still support the former priests, it is at best disingenuous to deny any authority over them.

Ms. Sotello concludes with two paragraphs, which I repeat verbatim:

“Most of all, Catholics can continue to advocate for holding bishops accountable for the sexual abuse crisis. This month marks the 15th anniversary of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In this document the U.S. bishops pledged "to act in a way that manifests our accountability to God, to his people, and to one another in this grave matter."

Contrary to their pledge, few bishops have been held accountable for harboring abusive priests from the law. Neither the Vatican nor the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken steps to hold bishops accountable in a systemic way, let alone to hold a truth commission. Rather, these officials and their predecessors remain responsible for the fact that many former abusive priests who should be in monitored, mental health environments are walking free today.”

NCR generally suppresses or whitewashes reports of Church misconduct. This is a rare exception.