Still Going On: Catholic Charities in Houston under Federal Investigation for Failure to Report Sexual Abuse of Minor

And just when I think I can't read anything more stomach-churning about the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors in Catholic institutions, this story comes along:  the Houston Chronicle reported this past week that Catholic Charities of Houston-Galveston is under investigation by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for filing false reports about a case in which a boy at St. Michael's Home for Children was allegedly sexually assaulted repeatedly while under the home's care.  The assaults are said to have involved the sexual abuse of this resident by other minors in the home's care.

ORR places minors caught crossing the U.S.-Mexican border in temporary care.  It had been placing minors with three Houston-area shelters operated by Catholic Charities up to this month, when ORR notified Catholic Charities that it plans to withdraw children and teens from Catholic Charities facilities because the organization "deliberately misled" ORR about the 1 July sexual assault of a boy in St. Michael's care.  The shelter did not file a report of the incident until 5 July, and when it did so, omitted the information that the boy had been sexually assaulted.  The shelter also did not seek medical care for the boy until after the 5 July report was filed, and then only because the federal agency demanded that it take this step.

The ORR investigative report states,

ORR discovered there was an intentional plan by CCGH Senior Management to intimidate and or pressure staff to not disclose material facts of the July 1, 2011, incident to ORR in order to 'protect the program.
 
As this media release by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests(SNAP) states, ORR has identified this case as one of "egregious abuse and cover up."  And as this statement released on behalf of SNAP by executive director David Clohessy notes,

Keep in mind who we’re talking about here. An eight year old child. From another country. Who is hundreds of miles from home. Who may not speak English. Who’s been taken from his or her family. Who probably stands about four feet tall. Who probably weighs 50 to 60 pounds, about as much as two golf bags. And who was, just weeks ago, anally penetrated and then essentially ignored by those who were paid to take care of vulnerable kids.

And as I read this analysis and think about it in light of the announcement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week that it plans to open an office to protect the religious liberty of Catholics, because Catholics' religious freedom is supposedly under "assault" by the federal government, I want to ask Archbishop Dolan and his brother bishops: Really?!  You really expect me to be concerned about an imaginary assault on my religious freedom when Catholic institutions are still withholding vital information about cases of sexual assault of minors from government agencies?

And so those agencies have to dig and investigate to protect children placed in the care of Catholic institutions because the agencies assumed that a Catholic institution would provide loving, protective care to minors.  Is this what religious freedom is really all about: your freedom and your right to ignore and skirt laws requiring you to report cases of abuse of minors to the proper authorities?

And do you really imagine you have the moral credibility to talk convincintly to the American people and to American Catholics about imaginary assaults on Catholic religious freedom by the federal government, when institutions under your authority continue to behave as this branch of Catholic Charities has done?  You've made a huge deal out of your moral obligation to keep children out of households headed by same-sex couples.  You've threatened to shut down Catholic Charities adoption programs because you regard homes headed by gay couples as unsafe for children.

As you make these claims about the dangers posed to children by same-sex couples when children placed in the care of Catholic Charities can be treated as this young Latino boy was treated just this summer in Houston?  The question demands to be asked: is a child placed with a loving, committed, morally upright gay couple in more danger with that couple than in a Catholic institution?

 So, really?  You really expect me or anyone else to listen to you when you brandish your big moral stick, Archbishop Dolan?
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published this page in News Story of the Day 2011-10-03 09:32:00 -0500
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