Much more work needed on clergy sex abuse cover-up


September 5, 2018

For those in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church who thought the fallout from clergy sex abuse scandals was over and dealt with, it is clear they were sadly mistaken.

Public outrage has been renewed by stunning new developments, including accusations by a former high-ranking Vatican official who said Pope Francis himself looked the other way in violation of his “zero tolerance” policy on sex abuse.

Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania grand jury under the state attorney general issued an exhaustive report on sexual misconduct by over 300 “predator priests” credibly linked to sex abuse of over 1,000 children since 1947. The report documents systematic attempts — mostly successful — to hide heinous conduct.

“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all,” the report said, noting N.M.’s Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs was a “laundry” for some, who returned to ministry in Pennsylvania — the faithful none the wiser.

Here in New Mexico, a law firm that has represented more than 100 survivors of clerical sexual abuse is urging Attorney General Hector Balderas to follow his Pennsylvania counterpart and impanel a grand jury to investigate “the institutional cover-up of child abuse by clergy in New Mexico.”

There’s no way to know how many such cases have occurred here over the years, but attorney Levi A. Monagle of the law offices of Brad D. Hall said in a letter to Balderas close to 350 claims have been brought to the attention of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe beginning in the early 1990s.

And “for every one case reported, there are many, many victims who haven’t come forward and remained silent, and many others who have committed suicide along the way,” he wrote.

All this is against the backdrop of the explosive story of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., whose resignation Pope Francis accepted in July. Allegations against McCarrick include abuse of minors and sexual relationships with seminarians, going back to 1994.

Then last month, a former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. accused senior prelates of complicity in cover-up allegations of sexual abuse by McCarrick.

Without question, the church has taken steps to address the problems of sex abuse. Former Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan made it a priority when he was brought to New Mexico after the departure of Archbishop Robert Sanchez, caught up in his own sex scandal.

The Archdiocese took a big step by releasing a list of all priests with credible allegations of abuse. It set up services for victims.

But it also fought to keep confidential virtually everything in lawsuits filed here.

Recent events show much work is needed for the truth to come out. Pennsylvania is closer, given the work by its AG. Balderas should do the same.

— Albuquerque Journal


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