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Austin Cline

Police, Courts Helped Catholic Authorities Hide Sexual Abuse

By August 4, 2005

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Did it ever seem strange to you that Catholic Church authorities were able to cover up so much sexual abuse for so many years? How were they able to hide so many priests abusing so many children over the decades? It turns out that, at least in some places, they had the assistance of civil authorities: police, politicians, judges, and more who looked the other way.

The Toledo Blade, one of the few decent newspapers left in the nation, reports:

Over the past 50 years, those sworn to enforce the law and protect children repeatedly have aided and abetted the diocese in covering up sexual abuse by priests, a three-month investigation by The Blade shows.

Beyond past revelations that the diocese quietly moved pedophile priests from parish to parish, The Blade investigation shows that at least once a decade - and often more - priests suspected of rape and molestation have been allowed by local authorities to escape the law....

Diocese leaders won’t discuss how they and their predecessors worked with law enforcement authorities for decades to ensure pedophile priests avoided the spotlight. But the cover-up has been confirmed by former police officers and the diocese’s former spokesman, Jim Richards, who said church leaders “knew who to call in the police department” to keep cases quiet.

Doesn’t such behavior deserve to be labeled ethical and legal corruption? It’s certainly a betrayal of the responsibilities that public officials have and it occurred at the highest levels:

Under Police Chief Anthony Bosch... , once state leader of the church’s largest fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, established an unwritten rule during his tenure between 1956 and 1970 that no priests should be arrested - even in the case of child abuse, according to four former police officers interviewed for this story. “You would have been fired,” said Gene Fodor, who served on the force between 1960 and 1981....

Such a policy - tacitly approved by authorities - led to untold suffering by those victimized, said David Clohessy, the executive director of a national advocacy group for clerical sex-abuse victims, called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Ultimately, it meant that innocent kids were raped and sodomized and wounded victims were isolated and revictimized, and complicit church officials were given every reason to continue in the cover-ups because it paid off for them,” he said.

The official police complicity in priests sexually abusing children (and, yes, allowing pedophiles to go uninvestigated, uncharged, and unpunished does qualify as complicity — in some ways, the police involved here aren’t much better than the abusers themselves) continues to create a danger for people today. Because the priests’ actions never became a matter of official records, it’s impossible to keep them away from children now. There are laws against pedophiles working in positions like teaching, but pedophile priests that the police let go have no such restrictions.

I recommend reading the entire report in the Toledo Blade — it’s horrifying, but it’s also important.

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