It’s pretty clear that Owensboro Catholic officials have endangered kids – and broken the church’s abuse policy - for years, by hiding at least one credible child sex abuse allegation against a priest from parishioners and the public.
Last week, Fr. Louis Francis Piskula was arrested and charged with sodomy and child sexual abuse. The official statement released by the diocese admitted that Fr. Piskula "had not been in any ministerial assignment since 2002 in accordance with the policies enacted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
In plain English, what this means is that Fr. Piskula had been secretly ousted from active parish ministry a decade ago because of a credible child sex abuse report.
Yet, as best we can tell, neither Owensboro Bishop William Medley, nor his predecessor Bishop John McRaith, nor any other current or former diocesan staffer ever disclosed this fact.
And their secrecy, we fear, may have enabled Fr. Piskula to molest again. We have no evidence of this, but the chances seem slim that a child molester kept “under the radar” for decades would assault a child in 1978 and never touch another kid again.
Shame on every single one of them. Shame on them for keeping silent about the abuse report back in 1994. Shame on them for keeping silent about it in 2002, when the US national church abuse policy was adopted and allegedly mandated such disclosures. And shame on them now, for deliberately using vague language on Friday and for not clearly telling families what they need and deserve to know: that at least several Owensboro Catholic officials (and probably dozens of them) knew that Fr. Piskula was – or likely was – a child molester. Shame on them for acting so irresponsibly, deceitfully and callously for so long.
Part of that “Charter” and those abuse policies supposedly requires “openness and transparency” in clergy sex abuse cases. Keeping secret for 18 years about a credibly accused child molester is morally wrong. But it’s also an obvious violation of the charter which bishops themselves drafted and adopted and promised to honor.
(How do we know the 1994 allegation against Fr. Piskula is “credible”? Because they wouldn’t have ousted him if it hadn’t been. And how do we know that allegation involves child sex abuse? Because they wouldn’t have referenced the “Charter for Child Protection” if it hadn’t.)
This week, America’s bishops will meet in Atlanta. They and their public relations staff will pat themselves on the back. They’ll puff out their chests and claim, again, that they’re reformed. They’ll praise their own policies and procedures about abuse.
But policies and procedures are meaningless if they’re repeatedly violated and none of the wrongdoers are ever punished. That’s what’s been happening in the church for decades. And sadly, that’s what will almost certainly happen in Owensboro.
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