On Wednesday this week, the Illinois attorney general's office accused the Catholic Church of concealing the scope of allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy. The office announced that while the church had only found cases against 185 members of the clergy credible, the state's investigation found accusations against 690 members of the clergy, adding more than 500 names to those identified by the church.
The office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan did acknowledge that there is a difference between a credible charge and an accusation. What the attorney general's office has found troubling is that since they began their probe in August they have so far found that church leaders are not conducting thorough investigations into accused members of the clergy. In their own words: "allegations frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all."
There has already been some push-back against the statement made by the attorney general's office. William Kunkel, the counsel for the Chicago archdiocese called the announcement unfair and false. Kunkel said, “The idea that clergy sexual abuse of minors is more extensive than [we] reported is just false. We don’t see lawyers, doctors, schools publishing lists like this,” he said of allegations not found to be reasonably credible. “It’s not fair to put out a list of people accused, any more than it would be fair to put out a list of accused reporters.”
Way to protect your client, Kunkie. The reason you do not see lawyers, doctors, or schools publishing lists like this is that most schools do not have an extensive history of covering up for and protecting predators within their organization who abuse children at such a horrifically ludicrous scale. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is so far beyond the pale there is no point of comparison.
In case you have been trapped in a cave for the last few years, the Catholic Church is in the middle of a harrowing scandal unlike any it has faced in the modern era. The church came under fire in the early 2000's when the Boston Globe published a series of articles revealing the details of several priests who had been abusing young boys for years, and Cardinal Bernard Law, who was among the church leaders that covered up for them. The priests who committed the abuse were all arrested and convicted, but Law moved to the Vatican and was protected from justice.
While the Boston scandal was bad, it has been dwarfed by what the church is now facing, both in the United States and abroad. With huge stories of abuse in Pennsylvania, Germany, Australia, and more, the common theme seems to be that leaders within the church always protect the clergy and the church's reputation, rather than help the victims. On the contrary, they often tend to threaten, silence, or besmirch the victims.
Pope Francis has done a rather dismal job of handling the scandal in the past several months. He has blamed Satan, blamed people for holding the church to a standard that is too high, and at other times just maintained silence.
Last month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met and the top item on their agenda was putting to vote two measures that would improve the church's response to abuse allegations here in the U.S.
The Vatican canceled the vote. Now, the two measures up for vote would not have been a perfect solution, but from what I have read about them, both measures would have been improvements on what the church has now, which is not much.
The two measures that were originally on the agenda for the bishops to vote on were, first, the establishment of guidelines for bishops to follow in any cases of sexual abuse, and second, the formation of a lay commission that would be involved in the investigation of bishop misconduct.
Terry McKiernan, a longtime survivor advocate, is trying to force the church to produce lists of the accused that are more accurate and meaningful. Even in recent weeks, McKiernan said on Wednesday, that many lists published by the church around the country have names of abused clergy omitted.
A major problem right now is that there is no standard within the Catholic Church for what constitutes “credible" accusations. Many Catholics, and the rest of the public, are left wondering if church leaders are really doing anything about the accusations presented to them.
“There’s a big debate about what ‘credible’ means, but these lists are clearly incomplete in a number of ways. Or at least there is lag before names are added,” McKiernan said. “Let’s face it, an allegation is an allegation, and very few are unsubstantiated if the diocese does the work to look into it."
Talking about why the church is doing such a poor job of following through on investigating allegations, McKiernan said, "they don’t want to acknowledge the crisis they’re in."
A spokeswoman for Madigan's office said that the six Illinois dioceses have had to add another 45 names to their lists of accused priests since Madigan's office began their investigation in August.
Maura Possley, the spokeswoman for Madigan, said that the attorney general “felt it was important for transparency purposes and for survivors to know she’s taking this seriously. She has said from the get-go, she thinks they have a moral obligation to provide a full and accurate accounting of child sexual abuse.”
The appallingly slow pace with which the Catholic Church addresses its disgusting criminal behavior is mind-boggling. It is also infuriating, not just because it directly involves protecting predators who primarily prey on children, but also because these same monsters love to claim the moral high ground when arguing with anyone who does not believe in their faith.
The Catholic Church is a dinosaur of an organization, and it is time that it goes extinct. Anyone who supports the church is directly supporting a criminal enterprise of unprecedented corruption.