A Chicago Tribune article titled Religious orders differ from dioceses on abuse procedures – and pay the price reports on how Catholic orders such as the Jesuits, the Christian Brothers, and the Franciscans do not necessarily follow the same procedures in response to accusations of criminal behavior against their respective members.
While bishops who head dioceses in the United States claim to follow guidelines set forth in The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and at least pretend to listen to the Lay Review Board it established in 2002, ‘religious’ orders decided to participate in an accreditation system with Praesidium, a company located in Texas.
In the article, reporter Manya Brachear quoted the director of religious accreditation, Christy Schiller, explaining why Catholic orders continue to employ, pay, and house known child molesters or rapists.
“From a public safety perspective, that’s really a commitment to safety. They’re willing to supervise the man who’s not been through the criminal justice system instead of kicking him out and letting him move in next door to my family.”
Of course, the reason serial rapists dressed as Catholic clerymen are often able to escape the criminal justice system is because of antiquated Statutes of Limitations (SOL).
Because childhood sexual abuse and sexual assaults are so heinous and often involve a lopsided imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the victim – particularly in cases when the rapist is a Catholic religious figure who, according to Church teaching, is on some kind of higher plane of humanity than the rest of us lowly mortals – it can take years or decades before the victim feels empowered enough – or even remembers – the traumatic events. By then, the SOL has expired and the rapist gets away with his or her violent and disgusting crimes.
The biggest opponent to reforming said statutes, no matter in which state the idea comes up, is the Roman Catholic Church. No expense is spared on attorneys, lobbyists, or propaganda to defeat SOL reform and, of course, all of the money used for such purposes originates from the pockets of lay Catholics and taxpayers.
Until all of the SOL on child sex crimes are eliminated, serial rapists – priests or not – will continue to get off Scot free without so much of an investigation or arrest. So, the next best solution would be to publicly identify these monsters so that parents could keep their children away from them and out of harm’s way, somewhat like the sex-offenders’ registry.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has repeatedly urged Catholic dioceses and orders to release the names of all the known child molesters in their ranks, for the safety of the public. While some dioceses have done so – begrudgingly and probably incompletely – the orders are still lagging behind, as the Tribune’s article reveals.
Why the resistance? Schiller explains:
“We’re more than a group that has an abuser. We have another mission. We’ve got work to do.
Schiller and her clients are afraid of “victims and their advocates and imagine protesters descending on their communities once an accused cleric is identified and located”, so states the article.
This is true. Several years ago, shortly after I and two other advocates arrived at the parking lot of a so-called Christian Brothers office in Burr Ridge, Illinois, two squad cars pulled up and we were questioned by two police officers. There was no media there and we had no signs or props. All we were doing was standing on the sidewalk outside the office building, quietly chatting with each other, waiting to see if any media would show up. Eventually, we were shoved out to the curb in calf-high snow drifts. Nice Christians there.
Maybe if those Christian Brothers had invited us in out of the cold, we’d be getting somewhere. Fat chance.
On another occasion, two survivors, another advocate, and myself showed up at the national headquarters of the Servites which is connected to the Our Lady of Sorrows basilica on the west side of Chicago. Having spent much of my life as a Roman Catholic, I wanted to see the inside of the basilica. I would later learn that I had attended weddings of relatives there when I was too young to remember. While inside the basilica, I used the restroom. As soon as I left, someone locked the door behind me because one of my companions wished to use the restroom as well and couldn’t.
As with the Chicago Archdiocese, as soon as Church employees find out we are survivors and advocates, they go into lock-down mode, dial 9-1-1, and treat us like terrorists.
As I told one of the officers with the Chicago Police Department, it’s too bad those same employees don’t bother calling the cops when they walk in on one of their own sodomizing an 8 year-old girl or a 12 year-old boy.
The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t care about protecting children. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about dioceses, orders, here or abroad. The Roman Catholic hierarchy cares about one thing – protecting itself – and it is willing to sacrifice innocent children to do so.
(Featured photograph by Cristina Gottardi and Unsplash)