3 Priests to stand trial for covering up sex abuse: Now what about the rest?

by John McKiggan

Three Franciscan priests have been ordered by a Judge in Pennsylvania to stand trial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy for covering up sexual abuse by a fourth Priest.

The priests are charged with enabling Brother Stephen Baker to sexually abuse a number of boys at Bishop McCort High School. According to witness testimony during the priests’ preliminary inquiry, the accused, Father Giles Schinelli, Father Robert D’Aversa and Father Anthony Criscitelli knew that Baker was a pedophile and yet the accused priests continued to assign Baker to jobs where he would have contact with children.

Systemic cover up?

A grand jury report said that two Roman Catholic bishops in Pennsylvania helped cover up sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests over a 40 year period. Bishop James Hogan who headed the Pennsylvania diocese between 1966 to 1986 died in 2005. Bishop Joseph Adamec retired in 2011. Adamec refused to testify at the grand jury based on his right to refuse to provide evidence that might incriminate him. It does not appear that Bishop Adamec is going to face any criminal consequences for possibly covering up abuse during his 25 year tenure as Bishop.

Bishops promised to prevent abusers from working with children

In 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made front page news when they agreed that:

“ …from this day forward no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic church in the United States. We Bishops apologize to anyone harmed by one of our Priests and for our tragically slow response in recognizing the horror of sexual abuse”.

Unfortunately the actions of Catholic Bishops in the United States (and other parts of the world) speak louder than words.

Bishops criminally charged for abuse cover up

In recent years the Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas city, Bishop Robert W. Finn was convicted of failing to report child abuse by Father Shawn Ratigan. In Minnesota Arch Bishop John Nienstedt and auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche resigned after prosecutors accused them of covering up sexual abuse within the Diocese of St. Pail and Minneapolis.

Pope says abusers should be severely punished

Recently Pope Francis gave a speech in St. Peter’s square where he said:

“ We mustn’t tolerate abuses on minors. We must defend minors and severely punish the abusers.”

What about the ones who covered up the sexual abuse?

I agree whole heartedly with Pope Francis’ statement. But is the Catholic church prepared to act on those statements? And if people who sexually abuse children should be “severely punished” shouldn’t those who enable and cover up sexual abuse of children face a similar punishment?

I’ve been representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse for 25 years. I have represented hundreds of survivors of historical abuse. In many, even most, cases we have found evidence that persons in authority were aware of the child abuse and failed to act or, even worse, took steps to protect the abuser.

Until the people that enabled these pedophiles to harm children are also held to account there appears to be little motivation for institutions to change the way they respond to allegations of sexual abuse..

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