Florida Office of Statewide Protection Releases Report into Clergy Abuse
Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution has released a report on their investigation into Catholic sexual abuse in their state. We are grateful to the office for looking into this issue and urge them to keep their hotline and communication channels open.
The efforts by attorneys general in Florida has so far not resulted in the same arrests that we saw following the investigations in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Still, the report lays bare critical facts that show how Catholic officials protected and shifted abusers, preventing their prosecution and allowed “depravity, abuse, and criminal conduct” to continue in the state of Florida.
Stated plainly in the Florida report is a fact that is already known and understood by survivors and advocates: “This investigation uncovered acts by the Church and its personnel that enabled sexual abuse of minors in Florida by its priests and prevented or obstructed discovery, investigation, and prosecution of such crimes.” This exact same behavior has been found by every attorney general that has so far investigated sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and speaks to the nationwide use of the “circle of secrecy” that Pennsylvania A.G. Josh Shapiro detailed in his 2018 clergy abuse report. With each report, the truth becomes clearer: the institutional Catholic Church has actively worked to prevent parents and parishioners from learning about abusers to the detriment of children, families, and communities across the globe.
The report indicates that many of the still-living priests identified were only saved from prosecution by the expiration of the criminal statute of limitations. We hope that this news will awaken legislators in every state that has not yet abolished the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse to work to do so now so that future children are not prevented from seeking justice because of archaic laws. Such reform should be accompanied by civil SOL reform as well so that those institutions that covered-up for abusers can also be held accountable. We believe that this will be a huge help in preventing future cases of abuse.
While the report seems to indicate that current Catholic officials in Florida are properly routing complaints to the authorities, we nevertheless encourage all survivors to report to law enforcement themselves and to do so before going to the Church. We also urge the attorney general’s office to keep their reporting hotlines open – following the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, hundreds more survivors came forward, empowered by an office that took their stories seriously. We suspect the same would be true in Florida.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)