(Jan. 31, 2019) The priest sex abuse crisis that has plagued the Catholic Church for decades continues. Despite numerous apologies from the Pope on down, and pledges to do better, the Catholic Church has consistently shown an inability to police itself. We see in one child sex abuse story after another how church officials not only fail to prosecute or even dismiss abusers, but hide and coddle them instead. Instead of being dismissed – at the least, or sent to jail, as they should be – many abusers are sent by their “superiors” to other parishes where they are set free to assault the children of other unwitting parishioners.
How can such devious actions by the church not result in clergy abuse lawsuits? What other recourse is available to the trusting victims of predatory priests and their underhanded enablers?
Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
The shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report released this past summer (with its 1,000 victims, 300 credibly accused priests) has made more churchgoers than ever more conscious of their church’s failures to protect the children in their charge. The sheer numbers related in that report have sent many people into a crisis of faith – if not in their spirituality, at least in the church itself. Many have, as a result, ceased to attend their church. The sheer numbers for many are simply too large to dismiss. The clergy sex abuse numbers not only don’t lie; they are decidedly shy of the reality. Every expert on the subject recognizes that the stigma of sharing child sex abuse stories leads most people to suffer quietly alone.
Law Changes Help Victims
But all that may be changing. As the public discussion of the unspeakable broadens, more and more people are coming to terms with their prior abuse, including lawmakers who this week helped change law in New York to give the abused longer periods of time in which to file a claim. The result is helping to remove some of the stigma attached to a person’s sharing his or her own story of sex abuse.
Priest Sex Abuse by the Numbers
- Money paid out by the Catholic Church to sex abuse victims: $3 Billion
- Number of priests credibly accused of abuse: 6,800
- Survivors of Priest Sex Abuse: At least 19,000
The Catholic Church Compensates Victims
The Catholic Church has faced priest sex abuse allegations for decades worldwide. An analysis by BishopAccountability.org, finds that the church has paid out more than $3 billion to victims.
The same organization has found that more than 6,800 U.S. Catholic priests have been credibly accused of sexual abuse in the U.S., and at least 19,000 people still alive have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a U.S. Catholic priest.
Most recently, in Houston, Texas this week, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and other Texas dioceses are expected to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children today.
KHOU in Houston presents a look back at the long-running crisis:
The Servants of the Paraclete opens in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, as a treatment center for priests accused of molesting children.
Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, a priest in the Diocese of Lafayette, La., is indicted on 34 counts of sex crimes against children. According to 60 Minutes, he is the first priest in the U.S. to face a criminal trial for child sex abuse. He pleads guilty in 1986 and is sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Rev. Thomas Doyle and Gauthe’s attorney, Ray Mouton, release a report, “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner.” It warns bishops about predatory priests and outlines how sex abuse allegations should be handled. Doyle says church leaders dismissed the report.
A Dallas jury awards a landmark $119 million judgment against the Catholic Church to 11 clergy sex abuse survivors. The victims’ attorney says, “I hope this wakes up the Pope.”
The Diocese of Tucson is the first religious order to release a list of accused priests.
The Boston Globe runs a groundbreaking story of how the church allowed a known molester priest to transfer in and out of parishes rather than remove him. (See the movie “Spotlight.”)
After meeting in Dallas, Texas, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops establishes the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” commonly known as the Dallas Charter. It calls for zero tolerance for priests who sexually abuse children. It fails to address Catholic bishops who cover up cases or allow abusive priests to continue.
The Diocese of Fort Worth becomes Texas’s first to release a list of credibly accused priests.
In his book, “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes,” Rev. Tom Doyle traces the history of clergy sexual abuse of children to A.D. 98, the same century the church was founded.
New Hampshire names 27 priests accused of abuse following the attorney general’s five-year audit of the Diocese of Manchester.
The Associated Press reports the Catholic Church fails to monitor former priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children.
Pope Francis meets with clergy sex abuse survivors and promises “zero tolerance” for priests who abuse children.
The movie “Spotlight” is released. The award-winning film follows The Boston Globe’s investigative Spotlight team as it shows how the Catholic Church hides priest sex abuse scandals.
In a two-year inquiry into clergy sex abuse, a Pennsylvania grand jury releases a report which concludes that 300 Catholic priests sexually abused 1,000 child victims over seven decades.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, overseer of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls for more church accountability and transparency.
DiNardo announces all Texas dioceses will release a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors by the end of January 2019.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office searches the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Chancery and secret archives for documents containing information on sexual abuse by Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez. He is charged with four counts of indecency with a child.
During its search, the DA’s office said it found other documents relating to sex abuse. Those documents, the DA’s office said, were turned over to the Texas Rangers for investigation.
Pope Francis calls for all priests who have raped and molested children to turn themselves in. He promises the church will never again cover up clergy sex abuse.
The Illinois Attorney General releases preliminary findings in an investigation that reveals the state’s six dioceses failed to disclose sex abuse allegations against 500 additional priests and clergy members.
U.S. Catholic bishops gather in Illinois for a weeklong retreat of prayer and reflection related to the clergy sex abuse crisis.
KHOU 11 Investigates releases “Unforgivable,” a 30-minute documentary detailing the clergy sex abuse crisis and its impacts on survivors, their families and the work by an attorney and a priest to make a difference.
Jan. 31, 2019
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and other Texas dioceses are expected to release lists today of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children.
The world’s Catholic bishops are scheduled to gather in the Vatican with the pope to discuss preventing priest sex abuse.
And so the problem and the discussion continues. Clearly, some progress has been made for victims, but there is a long way to go, as so many continue to suffer in silence.