The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is chiding the U.S. for “failing to fully pursue cases of child sex abuse in religious groups,” according to news accounts.
The committee is right. In a number of western democracies (such as Ireland and Australia), courageous political leaders have launched governmental investigation into heinous clergy sex crimes and cover-ups on a regional or national scale. But little if anything of comparable significance has happened in the US.
There hasn’t been a single legislative hearing – at the state or national level – into this horrific and on-going scandal, much less any real meaningful legislative reform. (The exceptions are California, Delaware and Hawaii where civil “windows” have been adopted, giving more victims a chance to expose more child molesting clerics and complicit church officials in court).
Simply put, there has been – and still is – a far too cozy relationship in the U.S. between some governmental and law enforcement officials and some church figures.
The right to practice one’s religion is precious. Even more precious, however, is the right of children to grow up without being sexually violated, especially by those who claim to be religious guides.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean one can yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. Nor does freedom of religion mean one can conceal and enable child sex crimes. All too often, corrupt men and women, under the guise of their professed spirituality, protect criminals and endanger children. And all too often, secular officials with the power and duty to safeguard society’s most vulnerable kowtow to the actual or perceived wishes of these corrupt men and women.
It’s ironic that secular authorities in the US have done so little to investigate the clergy sex abuse crisis, given that so many US journalists and victims have done so much to expose and prevent such crimes and cover ups in the future.
There have, however been a few, isolated bright spots:
--The attorneys general of Massachusetts & New Hampshire convened grand juries to investigate Catholic officials (both reports were released in 2003). The Reilly Report of Boston, MA is available here, and the Manchester Attorney General’s report is available here.
--A Bristol MA prosecutor, Paul Walsh publicly disclosed the names of 21 credibly accused child molesting clerics who had successfully run out the statute of limitations on their crimes. A news report is available here, and the original list is available at this link.
--Local prosecutors in six jurisdictions have convened grand juries to look at not just the predator priests’ crimes but also the church supervisors’ complicity.
We hope U.S. lawmakers will read and take seriously the Committee’s report. Then, we hope they will act.
Read the story here...