Why Not a Federal Investigation of Clergy Abuse?
By Robert L. Schmaltz
August 29, 2018
Following what may be the most comprehensive examination to date of clergy sex abuse across a single state, in Pennsylvania, attorney Jeff Anderson is now calling for a grand-jury investigation across Minnesota into clergy sex abuse. Such investigations have been announced in Missouri and Illinois. One is also being called for in New York.
It is with the heavy heart of a Catholic who serves the liturgy and the vexation of someone who personally knows some of the physical, mental and spiritual struggles that lay in the shadow of traumatic experience that I now cannot help but question why these crimes are not being investigated and prosecuted at the federal level.
These organized sex crimes extend nationwide. The church has shown that it is unwilling to introduce concrete measures to prosecute the abusers within its own walls or to help those victims who have been savagely wounded. For these reasons it is time for the church to be held to account for its crimes against persons and against the nation.
The first step in the federal criminal-justice process, a federal investigation into responses to child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, USA, is long overdue.
Just as countless other sexual predators and serial offenders have been investigated and brought to justice by the FBI, it is time for federal scrutiny and law enforcement to intervene in a criminal case that — modestly speaking — is 80 years in the making.
Also, it is time for our representatives in Congress to find the political backbone to do their part in facilitating those efforts to better protect children against sexual abuse in the church and alleviate the impact of abuse on children when it occurs.
Given the details contained within the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the church cannot rightfully assume a position of ignorance or well-meaning. The only reasonable characterization of the church’s position is institutional willingness. A willingness to hinder the prevention and identification of sexual abuse and violence; a willingness to respond criminally to the victims of crime.
No institution may be allowed to boldly and sadistically break laws with impunity. The number of persons — of minors — who have been abused by priests is staggering. The record of abuse is widespread and well documented, underpinned by grand juries and attorneys general. On this, the Roman Catholic Church has failed in its obligation to Christ’s flock. Leaving them touched by evil and abandoned.
When I confess my doubt and uncertainty while praying for clarity, no longer am I led to hope the church will heal itself. It has become clear now, the light of justice must be allowed to intervene. If not for the trinity, the church, the lasting tradition of the saints, along with the many righteous nuns and priests who serve across the U.S. and around the world, then pray let the strength of those responsible for the enforcement of law and the administration of justice intervene for the flock.
Robert L. Schmaltz, of St. Paul, is a writer and ethicist.