In a recent post, I noted the fact that in many other countries, investigations of abuses in the Catholic church were undertaken nationally by government commissions because of the wide range of abuses that occurred and the large number of clergy and nuns who participated in them and the higher officials (bishops, archbishops, and cardinals) who helped in the cover ups. In Germany, an internal report that was commissioned by the church and conducted by three universities and was leaked to the press says that 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014. But given the limitations of the information accessible to the researchers, the actual number is likely to be higher.
Die Zeit wrote that researchers weren’t allowed to look at the original church files but had to provide questionnaires to the dioceses, which then provided the information.
In their conclusions, the researchers write that there was evidence that some files were manipulated or destroyed, many cases were not brought to justice, and that sometimes abuse suspects — primarily priests — were simply moved to other dioceses without the congregations being informed about their past.
In the US, however, the investigations have been largely of individual dioceses and local churches and clergy. The release of the report by the grand jury in Pennsylvania about abuse across that entire state seems to have shaken things up. Now the attorney general for the state of New York has issued subpoenas to every diocese in the state as part of a statewide investigation of sexual abuse of minors. The state attorney general in New Jersey has created a task force to investigate abuses in that state as well.
The church is finding that the shield of reverence that once protected them (shown so well in the 2015 film Spotlight that I reviewed here) is falling apart and prosecutors are seeing them as just another corrupt organization and using harsh language.
“Predators in every diocese weaponized the Catholic faith and used it as a tool of their abuse,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a new conference last month. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all — for decades.”
Even Hugh Hewitt, a very conservative Catholic columnist, has said that it is time for the justice department to also open a nationwide investigation into the church because of the systematic lying by bishops about the extent of the abuses.
I believed, earnestly, that the American Church at least had cleaned house in the beginning of the new century. I thought, as did millions of other Catholics, that all of the bishops had actually come forward to the National Review Board that made its report almost 15 years ago. As a Catholic layman, I didn’t need to ask too many questions about follow-up because, well, a new generation had arisen in the hierarchy and they were hell on wheels on the criminals. Super-lawyer Bob Bennett, a board member, wouldn’t let them get away.
Except it turns out Bennett seems to have believed all the bishops, and the best of the cover-up artists weren’t testifying to the board. The disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick did. Wouldn’t we love to see that transcript now.
Many bishops kept on keeping secrets, and a few, like Donald Wuerl, the now-disgraced archbishop of Washington, was even so brazen as to hold himself out as a reformer even as he allegedly hid stories as shocking as that of a child porn ring run by priests in his diocese. That ring had been halted before Wuerl got to Pittsburgh as its bishop, but Wuerl didn’t testify about it or scores of other lurid cases to the board. He allegedly kept the worst scandals under wraps, made a conspicuous display of resolve in a handful of cases, and then allowed some known predators to move about the country provided they didn’t come too close to the line, which was risk to Wuerl’s career.
Wuerl, the alleged accomplice of many such men, presides at St. Matthew’s in Washington, still there because Francis doesn’t want … what? Bad press? To implicate himself in the McCarrick nightmare of abuse and licentiousness?
Last time I wrote about this, I was hoping for 49 other state attorneys general to follow the Shapiro example. Now I think the number should be 50, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions; so shocking is [Chicago’s Cardinal Blase] Cupich’s indifference to child rape that it seems time for the Justice Department to move in. Cupich’s brazen diversion seems a signal that he and many others will refuse to cooperate with any civil authorities, would refuse to investigate themselves and will continue to conspire to keep criminals from justice and victims from knowledge and recompense.
There are reports that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C who led the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania diocese for 18 years and was implicated in the cover ups in that state, has contacted the pope about his possible resignation. His predecessor as archbishop of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has already resigned. And yesterday, the Vatican announced that the pope has convened a meeting in February of 2019 of the presidents of each country’s conference of bishops to discuss the worldwide crisis.