A Bittersweet Anniversary

This weekend marks the five-year anniversary of the 2007 Los Angeles Archdiocese’s $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims of child sexual abuse by priests, religious, employees and volunteers. While the financial settlement has allowed many Los Angeles victims to get therapy, healing and a sense of justice, the real reason many of these victims came forward still remains elusive.

To date, the public still has not seen the tens of thousands of pages of sex abuse and cover-up documents. Those are still “stuck in the system,” and the latest ruling by an LA judge will require that all names in the documents be redacted.

Hundreds of former priests are still living unmonitored and unsupervised in communities full of children. Although the LA Archdiocese pays for retirements of many of these men, they refuse to take responsibility for the safety of children around these known predators.

And Cardinal Roger Mahony, who supervised many of these predator clerics? Well, he’s enjoying retirement.

Despite this, we cannot ignore the bravery and tenacity of the Los Angeles victims who fought long and hard – and received more justice than thousands of victims across the nation. Fortunately, the fight for justice is not over.

3 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Anniversary

  1. So will these priests — some of whom have only been accused, not convicted or confessed — live in a community next to the thousands of teachers who have been credibly accused of the same thing? And is the next neighborhood over for creepy uncles and other family members who have abused relatives? Are the public school districts going to fund and monitor the teachers, and who will do the same for the creepy uncles?

    Make no mistake, child molesters deserve their own special place in hell. That goes for priests, teachers, parents, scout leaders, accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. But priests are still American citizens with the same rights as others. And Joelle, why no mention of the dozens of Orthodox Jews who are being protected by Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes? Why no special community for them?

  2. I offered this suggestion 5 years ago. I’m putting it on the table, again.

    War Tactics Should Be Applied to Abusers and to Those Who Offered Protection
    By Mike Ference

    Every day brings new evidence that we no longer live in a civilized and principled society. The worst part, it usually concerns another case of sexual misconduct involving a Catholic priest, young children and a church hierarchy that helped to cover up the case.

    The recently unveiled federal grand jury investigation into the Los Angeles Archdiocese and it’s leader, Cardinal Mahoney clearly suggests that a regime change should have been made long ago.

    To be sure, media pressure and public outrage and a billion dollars in pr fees, legal fees and settlements have inspired displays of contrition from Mahoney But as more and more cases of abuse — and cover-up — come to light, one begins to wonder whether Mahoney should be considered any more trustworthy than, say, Saddam Hussein.

    So — what should be done if the grand jury finds Mahoney to be just another member of the hierarchy more concerned with protecting dysfunctional sex freaks than innocent children? Given the level of wreckage and anguish caused in the lives of so many people, it seems appropriate to look to the war on terror for a model strategy.

    A first prong of attack might involve a Special Forces unit made up of highly skilled and trained military personnel capable of tracking down and obtaining confessions from any current or former priests accused of acts of sexual abuse against children. If rights are violated, if military personnel sometimes go a little too far, so be it. The Catholic Church had ample opportunity to fess up and repent. Those incapable of civilized behavior shouldn’t expect the rights and privileges of civilization.

    A deck of cards can be created to help identify hard-to-find priests as well as the disgraceful church leaders who permitted, and in essence, condoned the sexual abuse of young children. Photos of the most deviant and reprehensible church officials accompanied by a list of their offenses will encourage us all to do our patriotic duty in helping the authorities track down suspected priest-terrorists or at least be able to identify the culprits as they come and go freely because their sins where covered up and the time to criminally prosecute has expired.

    Another option would be to divide the nation into territories. A color-code warning system would be established, alerting parents about abusive priests being transferred into their respective regions. Depending on the designated color for a particular region, parents would know whether their children should serve at Mass, go on field trips, or even attend Catholic school that day.

    To aid this unique war on terror, a pool of money should be collected, not involuntarily from taxpayers, but voluntarily from those decent human beings who believe crimes committed against our children are sins that God takes very seriously. Some of the funds raised could then be turned into outrageously tempting reward sums for information leading to the capture of our targeted criminals. Once the rogue clerics have been imprisoned and forced to talk, I recommend that their confessions be given to someone like Steven Spielberg or George Romero. Hollywood writers and producers could create a blockbuster movie like Roots or Schindler’s List to serve as a bitter reminder that these crimes should never again be permitted to occur. Tom Savini could be hired to recreate the horror on the faces of child actors chosen to play parts.

    Proceeds from the movie could go to victims of abuse and their families. And no matter how old the crime, compensation would be available. There should be no statute of limitations when the rights of children have been violated by those who lived much of their adult lives perched on a pedestal heightened by the trust of innocent and vulnerable believers. In fact, I would extend compensation to the second and perhaps even third generation of sufferers. It would certainly include siblings denied the experience of growing up with a brother or sister untraumatized by such abuse. And since crimes of abuse tend to echo, it would extend to the victims of the victims as well.

    If all else fails, is it any less rational to declare war on the Catholic Church as part of a war on child abuse than it was to declare war on Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda and apparently had no weapons of mass destruction) as part of a war on terror? How many innocent children have been verifiably lost to this menace — and how many more will be lost if we don’t make a preemptive strike?

    As horrific as sexual abuse by priests may be, the perpetrators might merit a more forgiving place if only their superiors had the courage to do the right thing. For a few, counseling and close supervision might have been enough to prevent future abuses. Others clearly required something more intensive — a mental hospital or a prison.

    But repeated abuse, as well as willfully hiding the crimes and the criminals — as far as I can see, this brings us much closer to the realm of mortal sin. And the sinners include not just the church hierarchy, but also attorneys who ill-advised parents not to buck the system and take on the Catholic Church, or may even have provided inside information to thwart legitimate cases against the church, law enforcement officials who may have thought it best to warn church officials of pending investigations, and janitors, housekeepers, teachers, and employees of the Catholic Church who kept silent because of concerns about a paycheck, a 401K, a pension, or a fear of standing up to church authorities. God has a place for everyone — and if you abuse children or protect the abusers of children, we can only hope that your place is called hell.

    1. Mike F. – I really like your ideas here. Clearly those of us who are serious about justice for victims need to think about new strategies. The lawsuits should continue, of course, but the limitations of the current process are now becoming very clear.

      Who would have thought ten years ago that the RCC, after having paid out billions of dollars, and having been bombarded daily by horror stories of abuse worldwide would still show absolutely no willingness to take responsibility for its actions?

      The resistance of the enemy continues unabated. He continues to develop tactics to divert the course of justice. He is willing to spend unlimited amounts of money to defend and support sexually-abusive criminals and reward administrators who should be in jail.

      I would like add one idea that occured to me during the recent trial of Mr. Lynch when the stories came out of the Secret List and the shredding. Every archdiocese has these Secret Lists. The police in Belgium have raided these offices, forced them to open their safes and seized secret documents. U.S. police are apparently not willing to do this (yet).

      Why don’t Catholics fighting abuse (and their supporters) go into the offices and engage in some civil disobedience–take the secret documents and make them public. Another possibility would be to release uncensored versions of documents which the church has been ordered to release but has been able to “redact”. Both of these actions have a certain amount of risk to them, but that is a small price to pay for progress in this long, painful struggle.

      The RCC is the only religion in the world that claims to be a state, essentially because of treaties it negotiated with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. It uses this status to protect itself. I think it is way past time to show this organization that its crimes have consequences-organizational and personal.

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