Scathing Report into Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Released
A report into abuse and cover-up within the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was just released today, and it is a scathing indictment of the church officials’ handling of cases of abuse and cover-up.
The report released by McAfee and Taft in Oklahoma City goes into much greater detail than most other reports commissioned by church officials. Notably, it is one of few that goes into detail about crucial information which church officials often leave off their own reports: when were allegations received, and what actions church officials took in response.
Thanks to this report, we know that those actions usually involved quiet, internal conversations, instructions to destroy records relating to those conversations, and little if any effort made to report the allegations to law enforcement. These are obvious cases of cover-up that were designed to protect abusive priests instead of children. We can only wonder how many survivors were ignored by the church and suffered in shame and self-blame as a result, or how many children were victimized by priests that church officials had already been warned about.
It is notable that this report found an abuser rate of 2%, less than half the rate acknowledged by the USCCB themselves and 4 to 5 times lower than abuser rates found in secular reports. SNAP’s research, as well as the findings of at least 17 secular authorities – such as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro or former New Hampshire Attorney General Philip McLaughlin – show abuse rates of from 7 to 11%. Not one Catholic diocese investigated by secular authorities has come in below 7%, so we can only assume that the 2% rate found in Oklahoma City is due to the established practice of destroying documents and sloppy records-keeping. And this begs a crucial question: Where are these other abusive priests? Still in ministry? Move to other Dioceses?
To us, this report reveals an all-encompassing effort within the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to cover up crimes, prevent the public from learning the truth, and to protect institutional reputations instead of children.
In addition, this report says nothing about abusive lay employees or nuns and hence is limited in its scope and its utility for making Catholic kids safe. Hundreds of nuns and catholic lay employees have been accused of abuse. Some likely in Oklahoma City. The national organization for nuns, in fact, has been asked by SNAP to start publishing lists (link). They have refused.
Further, we are shocked to discover that the Diocese’s #2 employee, its Chancellor, was married to the Diocese’s outside counsel, and, that secret archives were stored at their home, presumably to try to manipulate rules around attorney-client privilege. We believe this conflict is grave and likely harmed any reporters of abuse for the duration of this strange practice.
So, we believe it is imperative that the Attorney General of Oklahoma begin an immediate investigation. Previous investigations by attorneys general have identified wrongdoers still in ministry. In fact, several investigations have led to the arrest of active priests, such as in New Jersey and Michigan.
This is especially critical since, thanks to this report, we now know that church officials in Oklahoma City only began reporting all allegations to law enforcement in late 2018. There are likely still priests who were investigated internally instead of by properly trained professionals in law enforcement.
This report shows, in stark detail, that the promises and policies laid out in the Dallas Charter are meaningless without the ability to enforce them. We hope that everyone in Oklahoma will read this report, recognize that institutions cannot police themselves, and join our call for secular investigations today.
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)