Reports of Priest's Children Sexual Molestation

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Posted by Enuma Elish ( on February 09, 2002 at 18:20:45:


Boston- Among Catholics here, the floodgates of rage and disappointment poured open this week.

On Radio talk shows, in chatter at convenience stores and in emergency” listening sessions” convened hastily by the Archdiocese of Boston, the faithful vented anger and frustration over daily disclosure that scores of pedophile priests worked in the region with the full knowledge of church officials.

As the number of implicated clergy members soared to 80, the crisis grew so deep that nearly half the Roman Catholics polled said Cardinal Bernard Law should resign.

The turmoil over what church official knew, when they knew it and what they did or did not do to protect themselves and their parishioners had rocked a region that is more than 50% Catholic.

“This is our Sept. 11,” Boston College professor Thomas H. Groome said Friday.

By week’s end, the archdiocese had given law enforcement authorities the names of at least 80 priests accused of Sexual Misconduct with Minors over the last 20 or more Years.

The archdiocese also announced Thursday that Six more priests had been suspended. Earlier in the week, the archdiocese relieved Two other priests of duties, also following accusations that they had sexual relations with children.

Both actions came days after Law publicly insisted that all priest in his jurisdiction who were suspected of sexually abusing children had been removed from their duties.

In the poll of 800 adults taken by the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV 51% of those surveyed were critical of the cardinal and how he has handled the growing scandal. The displeasure was aimed specifically at Law, the 70-year old archbishop of Boson. In the same poll, only 16% of respondent had an unfavorable view of Pope John Paul II, and just 4% had adverse opinions of their own parish priests.

The survey found that 64% said church leaders care more about protecting the accused priests than helping the victims.

“I think for a long time people have known that the church had been aware of these problems and has not acted expeditiously,” said Lisa Cahill, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, a Jesuit institution.

“Part of what’s appalling,” she continued, “is the extensiveness of the problem, based just on the number of these priests that keep surfacing in New England. Every day, you hear about six more cases.”

Recently, the archdiocese said it had settled so many child sexual abuse claims against it that a multimillion-dollar insurance fund was running dry.

Scandals involving pedophile priests have hit parishes across America- in recent decades. Thousands of adults have come forward to say they were abused as children and many priest have been sent to jail.

At first, accusations against Father James Geoghan seemed no different. The 66-year old defrocked priest was charges in three separate criminal sexual abuse cases dating from the 1980’s and 1990’s. More than 130 people have claimed they were fondled or molested by Geoghan, who also is a defendant in 84 civil lawsuits.

But in the course of the Geoghan investigation, Law was forced to tell prosecutors that the priest’s pattern of pedophilia was no secret in the local Catholic hierarchy.

Law abruptly promised to supply law enforcement agencies with names of priests suspected of such behavior. He organized a panel including medical experts to look into sexual abuse within the church. The cardinal also appealed for public understanding, urging Catholics to pray for him as he faced this difficult situation.

On Jan. 25, he vowed, “There is no priest, or former priest, working in this archdiocese in any assignment to whom we know to have been responsible for sexual abuse.”

Day later, he removed Two more priests for alleged child molestation.

The archdiocese did not respond to request Friday for an interview with the cardinal. However, after returning from the Vatican, Law told local reporters at Logan International Airport: “Our intent is to do everything we possibly can to ensure the protection of children.”

Around the archdiocese, the scope of the scandal-and its growing momentum-continued to shock Catholics, who expressed frief, outrage and, most of all, a sense of betrayal.

“You have an organization that is based on faith, and part of that faith derives from your confidence in the institution that houses that faith,” said Paul Nace, a real estate developer in Newton who was raised Catholic.

“When events happen that call into question that institution, at a very basic and moral level it also calls into question your faith,” Nace said.

As horrific as the spiraling number of clergy sexual abuse cases might be, “the most disturbing part is that it appears that decisions were made to protect the institution at the expense of the victims,” Nace said. “You got to head-on, loggerhead collision with everything that institution is supposed to stand for.”

Groome, a former priest and author of a new book called “What Makes Us Catholic,” said that to Catholics, the church represents a vastly more important institution than in some other denominations.

“We have obviously exaggerated the importance of the institution,” he said. “Everybody has a priesthood, and everybody invests in their priesthood, but nobody in the Western world has invested in their priesthood the way Catholics have. This is why all of this is so desperately shattering.”

Mitchel Garabedian, an attorney representing 84 plaintiffs in civil suits against Goghan, said his clients have had their faith ravaged by their experiences.

“They can not seek spiritual relief anywhere because of what has happened to them,” Garabedian said. “The very entity they want to turn to has in a sense helped them to be molested. It is mind boggling.”

Some of the claims he has looked into involving the Boston archdiocese date back more than 40 years, Garabedian said. Far from surprised that so many names of alleged predator priests have been put forward by the church, “I’d be surprised if more a named were not revealed,” he said.

“There is a serious problem within the Archdiocese of Boston,” Garabedian went on. “For decades they have been imprisoned by pedophiles and shackled by their own denial.”

The troubles at the archdiocese took a new turn late in the week when a family in which priests abused both a father and son files a suit against Cardinal Law. The latest legal action-the first directed at the cardinal himself-claims Law “intentionally” and “recklessly” inflicted emotional damage on Thomas and Chrisopher Fulchino by knowingly assigning a pedophile priest to their parish.

Law, archbishop of Boston since 1984, is the senior Roman Catholic prelate in America. Twice this year he has declared that he will not step down.

“I do not believe that submitting my resignation to the Holy Father is the answer to the terrible scourage of sexual abuse of children by priests,” he wrote in a Jan. 26 letter to area Catholics.

The poll found that church attendance has not declined significantly because of the scandal. But 1 in 5 Catholics said they were contributing less money to the church as a result of the controversy.

The archdiocese-wide survey was taken Monday through Wednesday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Groome said, “one of the reasons I like this church is it is full of sinners and I feel at home. But you make a distinction between sin and crime. The criminals you can’t have in your chancery.”

As to whether the cardinal should resign, Groome said, “A month ago I said no, he should ride it our, clean up the mess. I did think a month ago he was capable of putting the thing back together. This morning, I am not sure.”

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