I cover a lot in today's post: a study out of Germany documenting priests abusing children, Pope Francis meeting with church leaders from the U.S., and the resignation of a priest in West Virginia over sexual harassment allegations.
Our first story is a leaked study conducted by three German universities. They found that between the years 1948 and 2014, 3,677 children were the victims of "some form of sex attack" carried out by 1,670 Roman Catholic priests in Germany. On Wednesday, a report detailing the results of the study leaked before it was due to be released on September 25th.
The report comes several weeks after a grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed the details of 70 years' worth of abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy there, and now several other U.S. states are conducting similar investigations.
The study in Germany was actually commissioned by the church. 38,000 documents from 27 Catholic dioceses were reviewed.
Among the distressing findings was the fact that only 38% of the perpetrators were prosecuted, and most of the ones that did get prosecuted ended up receiving minor punishment.
Just like with other stories of predatory clergy members, many of the priests committing these acts were moved to other communities. The church gave no warning to the parishioners in each new community of what the priests had done elsewhere.
More than half the victims were 13-years-old or younger, and about one in six cases involved rape.
Commenting on the report, Bishop Stephan Ackermann said in a written statement, "We know the extent of the sexual abuse that has been demonstrated by the study. We are dismayed and ashamed by it."
"Dismayed and ashamed by it." WELL I HOPE SO! You should be feeling that and much more!
News of the German report broke on Wednesday, and then yesterday Pope Francis met with several leaders of the Catholic Church from the United States. I wrote about the meeting earlier this week, but it is worth revisiting for a few reasons.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, led the group of clergy from the U.S. visiting the Vatican yesterday. Later on Wednesday though, we learned that DiNardo himself is now accused of protecting a predatory priest.
Of course he is. At this point I am starting to think it is a prerequisite for becoming a cardinal.
Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, the priest that DiNardo is accused of protecting, was arrested this week in Conroe, Texas. Two people have accused LaRosa-Lopez of fondling them when they were teenagers. According to the victims, they met with DiNardo to discuss what happened. DiNardo assured them that LaRosa-Lopez would be removed from contact with children. Then the victims discovered years later that LaRosa-Lopez was working as a priest at a church 70 miles away.
DiNardo and his colleagues met with the pope yesterday, and according to DiNardo, "We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States -- how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange."
But neither DiNardo, the United States Conference of Bishops, Pope Francis, nor the Vatican have announced any concrete actions that have been approved to protect the laity from predatory priests. As I have already written about before, Francis has mostly just stuck with total silence, or just suggesting "penance and prayer" as the solution. And with the news of the accusations against DiNardo, it does little to inspire confidence that he is really out to protect victims.
It was also revealed yesterday that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia. Bransfield resigned over accusations that he sexually harassed multiple adults.
Bransfield turned 75-years-old this week, and so it is not unusual for him to resign, but what makes this a news-worthy case is that Pope Francis ordered the archbishop of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into the accusations against Bransfield.
These news stories about the Catholic Church and their abundant committing of abuse (and constant protection of priests who commit this abuse), are becoming so constant, so repeatedly covered, that we should take care to consider the damage they cause.
More than 1,000 victims were covered in the Pennsylvania report. Nearly 3,700 victims were covered in the report from Germany. These people have often suffered horrible consequences from the abuse they were subjected to. Some victims committed suicide. Some spent years in and out of prison, or addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some became homeless because they could not hold down a job. They were tormented by the emotional and physical pain they suffered.
The victims deserve justice, and for them we should remember that exposing these criminal acts can help ensure these priests are held accountable for all the horrors they have inflicted on others.