First, let’s remember the grand jury cited concerns about 37 active priests last year, not 27. Philly archdiocesan officials quickly split hairs and distanced themselves from ten of the accused, saying they belong to religious orders or were incardinated elsewhere.
That’s disingenuous. These ten worked in Philly parishes around Philly kids approved by Philly archdiocesan staff. So it’s reckless for Rigali, Chaput and others to act secretively and irresponsibly with these ten accused clerics. It’s wrong to use technicalities to “pass the buck” on potentially dangerous child predators.
Here’s what we think MAY happen today:
-Chaput may announce the hiring of another staff person or the tweaking of archdiocesan abuse policies again (neither of which will have any meaningful impact).
Here’s what we think WILL happen today:
-Some priests will be permanently removed from ministry (because allegations were deemed credible).
-Fewer priests will be restored to ministry (because allegations were deemed “unsubstantiated”).
-Few details will be given.
And here’s what we think SHOULD happen today:
-Much more detail should be given.
-Chaput should announce that he’s personally visiting every parish where priests with “unsubstantiated” allegations have worked and begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward and shed light on the accusations, one way or another. (Instead, we predict he’ll do the bare minimum and make no real outreach efforts.)
-Chaput should repeatedly stress that “unsubstantiated” doesn’t mean “innocent” and that it’s the duty of every current and former church employee and member to seek out the truth and share it with authorities.
-Chaput should remind his staff and flock that changing a child predator’s job title doesn’t cure him. So if kids are to be safer, the credibly accused child molesting clerics should be prosecuted, convicted and jailed. That will only happen if more people with information and suspicions call the police. And that will happen best if Chaput gets out from behind his desk, ignored his lawyers, and personally visits sites where predator priests have worked and begs people who saw, suspected or suffered abuse to step forward to secular, not church, authorities.
We hope that no one will get complacent. We hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups will speak up, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect kids and start healing. We hope that this long, tortuous, secretive and highly flawed church process will remind citizens and lawmakers of the need to reform Pennsylvania’s archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly child sex laws, especially the statute of limitations. Those laws enable institutions to deal with child sex crimes internally and irresponsibly. Until those laws are fixed, horrific child sex crimes will continue to be covered up by timid, self-serving officials who value their power and reputations more than kids’ safety or victims’ healing.
Finally, let’s not kid ourselves about these so-called church “investigations.” No matter how many new lawyers are hired or how impressive their credentials might be, clerics control priest personnel files. So the church hierarchy still controls what material lay employees see and don’t see. History shows us and common sense tells us that no institution can effectively investigate or police itself, certainly not an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male one with a horrific track record on children’s safety.