Could there be a more shrewd way for child molesting clerics to avoid getting caught than this: legally changing their names?
The Catholic clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis is exploding in Australia. A few months back, a newspaper there noted the case of Fr. Peter Chalk.
In a story that seems ripped from Hollywood, Peter Murphy, a sex abuse victim, went into a meeting with senior church officials wearing a wire, with police listening in on their conversation. During the meeting, Fr. Brian Gallagher – the head of Chalk’s order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart –revealed that at least eight allegations had been levied at Fr. Chalk. Yet somehow, Gallagher did not believe it was his responsibility to report Chalk to police.
Instead of being in jail where he belonged, Chalk was able to leave Australia. He moved to Japan where he changed his name and became a teacher, giving him numerous opportunities to abuse more kids. Instead of doing the right thing and reporting this predator to police, the MSC allowed him to escape justice and public scrutiny, and likely allowed him to hurt more kids.
Sadly, this is not unique. Right here in Missouri, two such cases leap to mind:
--In 1983, Fr. Carmine Sita was convicted of abusing a New Jersey boy. He was sentenced to five years on probation. Less than a year later, however, Catholic officials urged him to legally change his name – to Fr. Jerry Howard - and quietly sent him to Boonville MO, without warning parishioners. There, he sexually assaulted several boys from 1983-1988. (He’s in jail now, but may soon be freed if a judge deems that the statute of limitations on his crimes has run out).
--In 2003, Fr. James Beine was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for exposing himself to three elementary school students in 2000-2001. However, the decision was overturned on a technicality in 2005, at which point Fr. Beine was released from prison and began to call himself “Mar James.” Although he was defrocked in 2005 and had his teaching certificate revoked in Missouri in 2007, he was last known to be living in the Las Vegas area where he applied for a teaching license that same year. While that license was denied, Fr. Beine remains free from jail and using his assumed name.
Cases like these remind us of how reckless and deceitful church officials have been in the past and continue to be today. Failing to report these predators is bad enough, but allowing them to move elsewhere and change their name (and in the case of Fr. Sita, actively encouraging it!) is a gross miscarriage of justice. These incidents are reminders to us that any time someone sees, suspects or suffers child abuse, the first report must be made to the police, not the church.