Has the Catholic Church done enough?

By Elizabeth Tenety Washington Post religion reporters Michelle Boorstein and William Wan reported Friday that many Catholic priests accused of … Continued

By Elizabeth Tenety

Washington Post religion reporters Michelle Boorstein and William Wan reported Friday that many Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse ‘simply vanish‘ from public view or accountability. In many cases, Catholic officials claim that they are no longer responsible for those priests who have left or been forced out of ministry.

Boorstein and Wan’s report published on the heels of a Delaware settlement where $30 million in damages was allotted by a jury to a man who suffered priest abuse as a child.

Many victims groups continue to assert that the church has still not done enough to protect children and hold accountable the 5,768 American priests accused between 1950 to 2009.


(During a recent visit to his old church, David Fortwengler said he still wrestles with the effects of his childhood abuse by a priest. The last time he was at the Oxon Hill church, he said, was with a detective in 2002 after he filed a report. More here. Katherine Frey / The Washington Post)

One reason for the lack of information on accused priests is the decentralized nature of church record-keeping. Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told Wan that church policy is to leave “up to the individual dioceses how, or whether, they keep tabs on priests who are removed from the ministry or defrocked after sex-related allegations.”

But church officials say they’ve made progress against clergy sex abuse. From Boorstein and Wan’s report:

[Walsh] and others said the church has made enormous strides on the issue of clergy sexual abuse over the past 10 years – reporting priests who have abused children to authorities, releasing an annual survey on the number of accusations, devoting staff and resources to training and background checks, and removing priests even when police can’t or won’t press criminal charges.

Do you think that the church has done enough? What do you think the responsibility of church officials should be towards priests removed from ministry? What more would you like to see done?

More On Faith and the Catholic sex abuse scandal:
On Faith panel question: Has the Pope Benedict XVI done enough?

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • wireman65

    The fact that they’re BANKRUPTING an entire church means NOTHING to them!!!The RCC has proved itself to be morally bankrupt.

  • vicsoir1

    What’s the big deal about pedophilia among the Catholic Church’s priests and hierarchy? The very concept of religions, all 35,000+ of them, is appealing to persons around the planet that see an opportunity as a preacher, minister, evangelist, priest, or cult official to take sexual advantage of those they can hornswoggle into believing they are God’s designated spokesmen on the road to salvation, blind faith, of course, being the sole ingredient used to corral their naive followers.

  • Sajanas

    My experience coming from the Lutheran church can shed a little light into how a church should react. They had a big sex scandal in the 90s, which occurred with one pastor, and the church did have to pay a pretty big cash settlement. The aftermath of that resulted in some pretty stringent policy changes. Any people who work with children have a full background check done, for starters. Secondly, I think its common place to make sure that there is always more than one adult to look after children. I spent plenty of time with our pastors as a kid, but there were always other adults around, especially on trips. The biggest thing though is to teach children that abuse is never acceptable, no matter who is doing it. I was taught that at an early age, and I think every kid should have it taught to them too.

  • areyousaying

    Catholic parents:Know the signs of “grooming”www.suite101.com/content/how-pedophiles-groom-victims-a49648DO NOT report your suspicions to the Diocese or a Catholic DA.Call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child.

  • pgould1

    Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating got it exactly right eight years ago when characterized the Roman Catholic hierarchy (i.e. Bishops and Cardinals) as acting like the Mafia in their efforts to avoid public scrutiny.To date: No Catholic Bishop or Cardinal has yet to lose his bonnet for actively protecting, nurturing, and in come cases, promoting the pedophile priests in their charge. The cover up continues.And so it goes…

  • Cthulhu3

    Is the Catholic Church doing enough? Yes, in fact, now it is–and much more than secular society is doing to protect children from pedophiles. Think of all the pedophile public school teachers, coaches, child-care workers–not to mention people’s own family members (fathers, uncles, siblings)–who slip through the cracks and harm our nation’s children. Perhaps families should be sued when they do not turn in relatives to the police–sociologists can testify that family members are very often complicit in the cover up when it comes to protecting pedophiles. Think of all the pedophiles using the internet to lure children and conduct their nefarious crimes. The Church is responsible for none of this, but society at large is.I do not know what the Church can do about men it has defrocked, removed from the priesthood, and whose records and crimes are now in the hands of civil authorities. It is not a private police force with the authority to track all former or current Catholics, clergy or otherwise. The pedophiles need to tracked by our civil authorities.

  • Cthulhu3

    By the way, there is no state of “Deleware”. It is spelled “Delaware”.

  • WESHS49

    Over the years the Church has covered up dispicable incidents of sexual abuse of children by priests.As a result the Church has lost all credibility when it comes to matters of morals.Hopefully the credibility of the Church will be restored over time. It will not be restored however when the hierarchy that brought about this deplorable situation are still running the Church.They have not only destroyed the reputation of the church but they have cost its members millions if not trillions of dollars.There is not a democratic country or business public or private that would allow those in charge to remain in office if they had permitted and defended those who are guilty of the sexual expoloitation of children.

  • areyousaying

    Where are the rest of Americans who have meekly and silently allowed this Church to be arrogantly “above the law” in this sexual abomination against children and God ? Why are you so afraid of this Church? If this is “Christ’s Church,” does that mean He buggered little boys, too? Is this what it means do be “Catholic” and “Christian”

  • areyousaying

    RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. § 1961), a law that increases the severity of penalties for crimes performed in conjunction with organized crime. The law states that any person or group who commits any two out of a list of 35 crimes (known as racketeering activity in the U.S. Code) including sections 2251, 2251A, 2252, and 2260 (relating to sexual exploitation of children) within a decade and can be determined to have committed them with similar results or similar intentions can be charged with racketeering.

  • DonVicente

    These crimes are terrible. So are some crimes committed by members of the military services. When a military member is punished by court-martial and is expelled from the service (e.g. a dishonorable discharge), they lose track of the FORMER member, since he is no longer in the “system.” If the Washington Post asked about a separated military member, the Pentagon could not tell what happened AFTER he was “drummed out” of the service.

  • timothy2me

    “As a lifelong Catholic, I resent all of these people coming “out” and wanting A MONETARY SETTLEMENT! What good is a payout going to be … if they were molested, it seems that counseling would be better to deal with it. The fact that they’re BANKRUPTING an entire church means NOTHING to them!!!”How many of the victims do you think have found themselves in prison? How many victims have been turned into pedophiles?Lets get one thing strait the victims are not bankrupting the RCC. The actions of priests are. I don’t think even 10% of the victims have come forward. And before I forget II find your “coming “out”" comment disgusting. Now go warm your pew.

  • SMPTURLISH

    One benefit coming from civil lawsuits like the recent one in Delaware is that it just might put enough pressure on the bishops that they will decide it is in their best interests to “do the right thing even if it’s for the wrong reason.” What do I mean by this? Well, church leadership has not done the right thing for the right reason for decades where the sexual abuse of individuals is concerned.Perhaps now the right thing will be done because if it is not done the cost will be in the millions of dollars in judgements.The recent landmark award in Delaware against former priest and serial sexual predator Francis DeLuca and St. Elizabeth parish is a case in point.Arguments for punitive damages will commence there on December 6, 2010. Money, it seems, is THE one thing that has made any impression on church leadership.Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says that “the church has made enormous strides on the issue of clergy sexual abuse over the past 10 years, etc.”Let’s be clear on this:The fact that the USCCB did ANYTHING AT ALL was because of the exposure brought to bear by the shocking stories first reported in the Boston Globe in 2002.Reporting priests, surveys, devoting staff and resources, etc., etc. was something that the bishops were FORCED TO DO because such their backs were up against the wall. The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware will no more go bankrupt than the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA went bankrupt when they had to pay a 660 million dollar judgement to victims/survivors of sexual abuse. They borrowed money, sold non-ministerial properties, etc. No parishes were suppressed, no churches or schools were closed as a result of that settlement and neither were any programs shut down.Have any of the U.S. bishops admitted to being complict in the sexual abuse of one child? Have any admitted to enabling the abuse of children?Not to my knowledge.Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law was ridden out of town on a proverbial rail because of the archdiocese’s perfect storm which included:1 – the Boston Globe’s history making investigations, 2 – the fact that all church files, records including the confidential correspondence of bishops relative to the handling of sexual abuse including that of Cardinal Law were ordered into the public venue by the judge,3 – the rising up of the People of God and3 – the complete loss of confidence in Law’s leadership by the priests of the diocese.Granted, Bernard Cardinal Law was kicked upstairs but has any bishop been removed from office or disciplined in any way for his involvement in covering up for abusive priests?No. Deals have been made to avoid prosecution but the church has disciplined none of its own.Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

  • amelia45

    The big guys got away with ignoring the problem. Bernard Law, cardinal in Boston who ignored the problem of pedophile priests, resigned and then kept his appointment as a cardinal of the church and was given a church in Rome and is a member of the Curia. If I have my story straight, he also participated in the conclave that elected the current Pope – something that occurred several years after his resignation. The church did nothing to remove Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas after sex abuse scandles broke out there, allowing him to stay until he eventually retired years after the sex scandal broke.When is enough enough? I don’t know, but there are still too many in power in the Catholic Church who refused to investigate reports of pedophilia in their churches and who moved priests from church to church, trying to hide the problem. There are too many still in important positions in Rome who worried more about protecting the priests than in protecting the children.It is not enough to root out those who are pedophiles. It is also necessary to root out those who didn’t care enough to stop them. What is truly sad is that the legacy of the current Pope will be this scandal and his work to bring an end to it.

  • areyousaying

    I should have told my father so he would have killed my pervert “friend” and me both.Maybe his later victims and I would now would both be better off.How dare you Catholics hide and make excuses and apologies for these monsters? How dare you demonize the victims by referring to their “coming out”? How dare you adolescently cry “others do it, too” when others don’t pretend to be “Brothers of Christ” and have an international criminal organization to hide behind to get away with this. May your small and shallow God eternally fry you in the imaginary fires of hell you invented to manipulate your sheep with guilt and fear.

  • areyousaying

    Gomez is set to take Mahoney’s place in LA.SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on charges that he solicited a hit man to kill a teenager who had accused him of sexual abuse. Authorities said John Fiala first offered the job to a neighbor, who blew the whistle and helped police arrange a sting. They said Fiala got as far as negotiating a $5,000 price for the slaying before investigators moved in.The 52-year-old clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his suburban Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. In April, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family, who accused Fiala of molesting the youth, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint.The abuse allegedly took place in 2007 and 2008, when Fiala was a priest at the Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in the West Texas community of Rocksprings, a rural enclave known for sheep and goat herding.The family’s lawsuit also named the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archbishop Jose Gomez, alleging that church leadership should have known Fiala was abusive.The suit was filed just a month before Gomez was introduced as the new incoming leader of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He is currently serving as an assistant to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who will retire next year. Gomez then automatically becomes archbishop.When he learned of the murder-for-hire investigation, the boy “was terrified and rightly so,” said San Antonio attorney Tom Rhodes, who represents the family. As far back as 2008, Fiala threatened the teen, and repeatedly brandished a pistol, Rhodes said.Fiala “began saying, ‘If you tell anyone, I’ll hurt you. I’ll hurt your family, your girlfriend,’” Rhodes said. “It was more than once he threatened him with a gun.”

  • areyousaying

    Part IIIJail records list Fiala’s attorney as Rex Gunter in Dallas, but he was in court Tuesday and did not return a call from The Associated Press. Fiala is charged with one count of solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.San Antonio Archdiocese spokesman Pat Rodgers said Fiala has been removed from the public ministry, meaning he cannot present himself as a priest.Authorities removed him in October 2008, before the accusations of sexual assault emerged, because of his interference with the custodial relationship between the teen in Rocksprings and his grandmother – a case the sheriff’s office investigated. Authorities have not disclosed the nature of Fiala’s interference.”We were shocked by the allegations and saddened by the story,” Rodgers said. Since Fiala was removed from the public ministry, “we haven’t contacted him, and haven’t had any reason to contact him.”Rhodes said Fiala originally met the accuser in 2007 and was a frequent visitor at his grandparents’ house, where the teen was living. He often came bearing gifts, including new a cell phone and MP3 player, and eventually gave the boy cash to help buy a car.Fiala used the pretext of private catechism lessons to be alone with the boy, Rhodes said, and in 2008 took the teen to a youth event in the town of San Angelo, Texas, during which he raped him in a motel room at gunpoint.”He’s a dangerous predator and has been since at least 1988,” Rhodes said. “The church has known how dangerous this guy is for many, many years. They had full knowledge, we believe, and the documents seem to bear that out – that they knew what a bad person he was and what a danger he was to children.”

  • fgominho

    The root of the Roman Catholic Church pedophelia problem can be found in their desobidience of 1st Timothy 3:2. All this because a darn Pope way back deemed his foolishness superior to God’s wisdom!

  • wireman65

    No they have not. And until they excommunicate all who had knowledge and did nothing or participated in the cover-up they won’t.

  • usapdx

    No. Pull all that commit the act of being class as a pedophile totally out of service for life as well as pull out of the RCC administraters any that silenced the truth to protect the image. The RCC must have a new pope and then Vatican III to turn the RCC around to be honest on all matters as well getting away from the focus on the RCC administration but to the RC members. What whould CHRIST do?

  • Sajanas

    Till there is mandatory reporting, the guilty priests are put on sex offender lists, and the people who were moving the priests around are forced to apologize and resign, they have not done enough. Release all their documents too. Till then, the Pope’s talk of ‘penance’ rings hollow, because he is still trying to protect the church from litigation, and people forming a bad opinion of it. But the whole point of penance is accepting just punishment isn’t it? Its obvious to me they just want the problem to go away, rather than suffer the just consequences of their actions.

  • snapjudy
  • HawkSprings

    The Catholic Church really needs to come down like a ton of bricks on pedophile priests. Since the Catholic church is obviously not going to turn them over to the authorities to be prosectued, they should have some kind of monastery where they send these guys that is like a prison boot camp for those men where they are on minimum rations and work from dusk til dawn.

  • DaveHarris

    It’s kind of awkward for Catholics to punish officials who covered up for and enabled pedophiles when the Pope himself is guilty of this. Anybody dumb enough to believe in these guys deserves the treatment they get.

  • blasmaic

    Some people complain that Scientologists follow their ex-members too closely, and now others complain that Catholics don’t follow their ex-priests close enough.They kick out priests who would not be convicted in criminal court, and then get blamed because they don’t track them like they were convicted, registered sex-offenders.There just wasn’t much news in that news article. I’m not sure why they attempt to talk to all the priests. What information were they seeking from them? In what way was their input relevant to the discussion?

  • jcrrt

    Please make sure to refer to it as the Roman Catholic church because there are independent catholic churches that have no affiliation to Rome and their mishandling of this mess.

  • thebump

    There never will be enough to pacify the media and the dissidents. Time to move on.

  • slamming

    As a lifelong Catholic, I resent all of these people coming “out” and wanting A MONETARY SETTLEMENT! What good is a payout going to be … if they were molested, it seems that counseling would be better to deal with it. The fact that they’re BANKRUPTING an entire church means NOTHING to them!!!

  • thebuckguy

    The Church keeps stonewalling. The catholic Church in other countries often has gone further such as Ireland. Also the Church has tried to embed this in a lot of homophobic rhetoric, when not all of the abuse has been male on male.It’s important to put this in the context of abuse in other faiths. Mainline Protestant denominations often have better procedures in place. The fundie/evangelical world which often lacks institutional checks and balances seems to be rife with sexual abuse, as well as swindles and embezzlement. It would help if the media also paid attention to them. I have to wonder if its the fear of rightwing nastiness that prevents this or the general ignorance of religion by many journalists.

  • walden1

    No, and Catholics never will make up for their sins, not in this or any other world. Their god is dead.

  • Roblit1

    The Church should disband, 2000 years of abuse is enough…..

  • krankyman

    As a lifelong Catholic, I resent all of these people coming “out” and wanting A MONETARY SETTLEMENT! What good is a payout going to be … if they were molested, it seems that counseling would be better to deal with it. The fact that they’re BANKRUPTING an entire church means NOTHING to them!!!Posted by: slamming | December 3, 2010 12:46 PM Cardinal Law actively covered for these pedophiles. He sanitized their records and moved them from one Diocese to another without ever informing the new flock about the wolf he had just placed in their midst.And his punishment for this? A promotion and transfer to the Vatican where he will presumably be safe from subpoenas from law enforcement.While his is one of the more celebrated and egregious of cases I believe it is certainly not the only one. Reports from Ireland reveal cases of official misconduct that are even worse.While I understand your pain over the financial settlements you should first realize counseling is not free and these victims may never be fully healed of the pain they have experienced.And sadly, it seems the only way to get a response from the RCC hierarchy was through attacking their worldly treasure.Perhaps a better church will emerge from this.

  • djah

    So long as Bernard Law wears crimson in a place of honor in Rome instead if sack cloth in a mission in Africa, the hierarchy will not have done enough to repair the evil it actively protected. They remain more concerned with the trappings of the Church than the teachings of Christ and more enamored of the Republican Party than of the Body of Christ.

  • DwightCollins

    gays cannot be priests…

  • mars11

    areyousaying and walden1: your personal experiences are most regrettable and filled with lament. The moral abuses have harmed causesing suffering to victims and RCC alike. Acusing, blaming and demonstrating contempt; although, understandable. is unbased. Once again, your pan is shard and hopefully you will receive comfort. The RCC will move onward, if with renewed leadership and enhanced accountability.

  • Desertdiva1

    I’m not sure how faithful Catholics can dismiss the subject of pedophilia like they do. The current Catholic church has a Pope that while acting in an official capacity failed to act on two cases that I know about locally. There is direct evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger failed to act on and buried for years the pedophile charges of both Rev. Michael Teta and Msgr Trupia. Then let the paperwork languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from Bishop Manuel Moreno. Moreno kept pleading for Trupia to be removed as a major risk factor to the children and adults that he has contact with in his official capacity. There is no indication in the case files that Ratzinger ever responded. Today he’s called Pope Benedict and a holy man he’s not. Nostradamus predicts this is the last pope and I don’t think it will come a day too soon for many of the pedophiles victims. Let’s hope Nostradamus got that prediction correct.

  • jsutton1

    Yes they have done enough – enough to disband themselves. They have conducted and enabled a veritable Holocaust of Children and no one really knows for how long. Children all over the world have been routinely tortured by the “holy” representatives of this religion. They should stop trying to ask for forgiveness. Have we “forgiven” Hitler yet, and would we, if he ever so humbly asked us to? They should ask their god to forgive them, and stop parading around in fancy costumes telling other people how to conduct their lives.

  • cprferry

    The critics want:So they conspire together. Trial lawyers release documents, theological critics purposely mistranslate the documents, groups suggest conspiracies, the media puts it altogether. All to attack the Church on 30-year old crimes that were prevalent across all organizations for failures supported by respected professionals and limited by civil authority.No one holds the police or courts accountable for these failures. Just the Church. Meanwhile society goes on promoting the sexualization of children and marginalizing the rights of children and healthy sexual behaviors.

  • cprferry

    DesertDiva1,

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