Clerical abuse campaigner Richard Sipe has sent us this new assessment of the renewed state of the clerical abuse scandal in the United States following the release last month of the second lengthy Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation into the sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by archdiocesan clergy and employees. Mr Sipe concludes that the prosecution of a higher level official in the Church grows closer and the abuse scandal for the institution is far from over in the United States.
Cardinal Rigali Avoids Prison ... For Now!
by A.W. Richard Sipe
On January 21, 2011 the Philadelphia Grand Jury under District Attorney R. Seth Williams issued a Report on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. The entire text (124 pages) is included in the attached PDF which you can download or view HERE. It is the finest, clearest, and most complete account of the pattern and practice of the Catholic Church in dealing with priests who abuse minors and their victims. If you want to know the real dynamics of the Catholic clerical system read this report.
In short: the Grand Jury released what has been termed a "sordid" (in content) report on clergy sex abuse. This led to the arrest of a Catholic schoolteacher and three archdiocesan priests on rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges:
in 1996 and 1998. So much for the church's claim that clergy abuse is in the distant past.
Cardinal Bevilacqua who was not indicted, but whose hands were obviously dirty according to the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report (after 6 appearances), escapes an indictment again because he has "dementia" and cancer.
There have been priests accused and convicted of child rape before, but what is very significant for the entire church in the U.S. is that the supervising priest, William Lynn, is indicted for the endangerment of children. (Cf. LA and Mahony). The noose is getting closer to episcopal necks as investigations get more objective and the pattern of abuse in the system is laid out. Children are endangered precisely because cardinals know exactly what their Vicars do. Vicars do exactly what their boss wants. (Cardinals do exactly what their boss wants — that is the Pope.) Bishops and cardinals use an elaborate system of denial to cover their tracks. Chancery offices are filled with people who will take the "fall" for their boss. Bishops — especially cardinals — act like Hogan's Heroes Sergeant Schultz, they proclaim "I know nothing" or "they did it". Or, as Governor Frank Keating portrayed them, as operating like "cosa nostra".
Cardinal Rigali was on the defense immediately once the report became public and he claimed, "there are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them". This, of course, is not what the Report laid out for all to examine. The Grand Jury could trace 37 credibly accused offenders who are still in ministry.
Rigali went on YouTube to reassure the faithful of his sadness for abuse, but he thumbs his nose at the problem and victims — all of the faithful — as he pulls a legalistic hat-trick when he insists, "Mistakes are one thing…Intentions are another". No evidence of effective reforms or real responsibility are evident in his statements. PR hustle, yes.
Cardinal Law was not pursued for criminal behavior, not because the Massachusetts Grand Jury Report lacked evidence, but because state law demanded "criminal intent" to convict.
It remains to be seen if Lynn will be convicted. Will he be a foil for his superiors? Will he tell what he knows in a criminal trial? A common church trick to avoid exposure is to have an indicted priest plead guilty, take his sentence and receive an annuity as reward.
Scrutiny of bishops and cardinals will not be dissuaded by protestations of sadness and sorrow for abuse. The time for apologies is over. Now is the time for responsibility.
This second Philadelphia Grand Jury after two years of investigation concluded that:
These conclusions are strikingly similar to previous Grand Jury Reports. Note the first U.S. investigation to examine and assess the problem of sex abuse in the diocese of Rockville Center, New York — the Suffolk County Supreme Court Special Grand Jury published on January 17, 2002:
The Massachusetts Grand Jury reported on priest sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston on July 23, 2003. Its conclusions are so commensurate with the Philadelphia findings that if the locales are redacted the content would be indistinguishable. For instance from Boston:
The widespread abuse of children was due to institutional acceptance of abuse and a massive and pervasive failure of leadership. Officials knew the extent of the problem for many years before it became public. Officials did not inform authorities of allegations. They withheld information from investigations. They failed to adequately investigate allegations. Officials transferred abusive priests to other parishes or dioceses. They failed to supervise priest abusers. In short they put children at risk for abuse.
Why? To preserve image and save money.
There is no evidence that things have changed in Philadelphia since a prior Grand Jury Report was published in 2005. But this current report is more dangerous for the clerical establishment because it comes closer to laying indictable blame for continued clergy violation of minors exactly where it really is — with the boss, the cardinal, or at least at this stage with his vicar.
Until this message becomes operative, effective and implemented the Roman Catholic Church will continue to select, produce, hide, and defend sexually abusing priests.
A recent press headline may indicate change in the civic pressure on the modus operendi of bishops in the United States:
(Reuters) The Archbishop of Philadelphia and his predecessor were accused on Monday [February 14] in a civil lawsuit of endangering children by concealing the identity and sexual abuse of predatory priests from law enforcement to save the church from a costly scandal. Among the seven people and three institutions named in the lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia were the current Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali, his predecessor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Monsignor William Lynn, the Rev. Richard Cochrane and Martin Satchell, who has left the priesthood.
Stay tuned for developments. The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is not over.
Richard Sipe, is the author of eight books on sex and celibacy in the Catholic church, most recently as co-author of Sex, Priests and Secret Codes. He also has been an advocate for hundreds of victims of child sex abuse in the church. After spending 18 years as a Benedictine monk and priest, he was trained as a clinical counselor to deal with the mental health problems of priests. During that training and therapy he conducted a 25-year ethnographic study of the celibate/sexual behavior of the clergy population. His study, published in 1990, is now considered a classic. Internationally known, Sipe has participated in 12 documentaries on celibacy and priest sexual abuse aired by HBO, BBC, and other networks in the United States, United Kingdom, and France. He has been widely interviewed by media including CNN, ABC, NBC, CNBC, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, People magazine, Newsweek and USA Today.
Further information can be found on Richard Sipe's website: www.richardsipe.com
What are your thoughts on this commentary?
©2011A.W. Richard Sipe