Looking for Justice in Church Abuse Case
But It May Never Be Found
Philadelphia Daily News
July 20, 2006
When Some of Philadelphia's alleged victims of pedophile priests couldn't
get justice in the courts of criminal law, they turned to the courts of
But apparently, they may be disappointed there as well.
As Daily News staff writer Michael Hinkelman reported yesterday [see Hinkelman
article], the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has asked a federal judge
to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed by 12 people who say they were
sexually abused by area priests.
Named in the suit are Cardinals Justin Rigali and Anthony Bevilacqua and
the late Cardinal John Krol. They stand accused in the suit of engaging
in a conspiracy to cover up the abuses.
The charges are essentially similar to those leveled at the archdiocese
last year by a grand jury appointed by District Attorney Lynne Abraham.
In that report [see the Philadelphia
grand jury report], some 60 priests were named as likely abusers of
children, and the grand jury charged the archdiocese with essentially
setting up a scheme to avoid prosecution.
"The biggest crime of all is this: it worked," the grand jury
said. "The abuser priests, by choosing children as targets and trafficking
on their trust, were able to prevent or delay reports of their sexual
assaults, to the point where applicable statutes of limitation expired."
As expected, the archdiocese has hotly contested the jury's findings.
Meanwhile, the adults who once, as children, placed their trust in the
church are now looking for justice. It's likely they won't find it.
As a matter of law, the archdiocese may be on solid ground in its argument
that the allegations are too old to be heard under state regulations.
The plaintiffs are using racketeering laws to build their case that the
archdiocese engaged in a conspiracy. Those laws, known as RICO, were enacted
with an eye toward the mob, and applying them in this situation may be
a stretch. New laws are needed, yet Harrisburg has so far refused to act.
So, technically, the archdiocese may never be found guilty. And the archdiocese,
to its credit, has set up special programs to assist victims of pedophiles
within the clergy.
But you can't say it is innocent. The evidence is so compelling.
Here, in the court of public opinion, the church is the loser.