IL church & elected officials must do more for kids’ safety

CHICAGO (IL) [St. Louis MO]

June 1, 2023

By David Clohessy

The top law enforcement authority in Illinois says there are 149 credibly accused child molesting clerics who are basically still being protected, even now, by Catholic bishops.

To these bishops, this is apparently some kind of minor bureaucratic squabble. To us, however, it’s an urgent public safety concern.

Bishops are essentially ignoring these 149 offending clerics. They’re essentially saying ‘We’re better at figuring out who’s dangerous than the Illinois Attorney General is.’

 Catholics should be outraged by their arrogance and recklessness. Catholics should insist that every single one of these predators be added to diocesan lists of those facing substantiated abuse reports.

 This self-serving refusal by bishops to be honest about the men who assaulted youngsters is dangerous.

 But another self-serving refusal by bishops is also dangerous. It’s their refusal to warn the public about the predator priests who walk freely – unmonitored and unsupervised – across Illinois right now.

 Catholics should also insist that their so-called spiritual leaders do this too.

 These men may not be working full-time in parishes and schools. But one of them may be tutoring at-risk kids this morning. One of them may be volunteering as a soccer coach this afternoon. One of them may be giving piano lessons in  his apartment tonight. 

Any prudent person would err on the safe side and regard these men as dangerous or potentially dangerous to innocent children.    

 The very least bishops can do is tell police and parents ‘Here are the guys to beware of. And here’s where they are now’ (or ‘Here’s their last known whereabouts’). Since bishops are refusing to do this – their simple but crucial moral duty – we’re doing it. Because we can’t stand the thought of one more boy or girl being assaulted by one of these predators.

Why won’t bishops take these prevention steps?

One reason: because they want to pretend they have no connection with or power over the roughly one third of Catholic clerics in Illinois who belong to religious orders (like Jesuits, Marianists, Benedictines).

That’s a disingenuous dodge.

Every religious order cleric lives and works in a diocese. He can only live or work there with the explicit approval of a bishop.

So in a desperate but obvious public relations and legal defense maneuver, bishops are making a ‘distinction without a difference,’ washing their hands of religious order child molesters.

With these predators, the issue is not who signs his paycheck. It’s who can oust him.

With these predators, the issue is NOT who’s their immediate supervisor. It’s who is their ultimate boss.

And again, a bishop is the ultimate boss of every religious order cleric because that bishop tells that cleric “You can work here” or “You can’t work here.”

Here’s a secular analogy: It’s ideal if a local bank manager fires a thieving teller. But if he won’t, the CEO must.

When a bishop wants to ignore a child molesting cleric who is or was in his diocese, he often claims it’s not his ‘policy’ to do so.

But a bishop writes his own policy. He can change it in any way at any time. He can also violate it with impunity, because the church is a monarchy and bishops answer to virtually no one.

So today, as they have for years, bishops make and break their own rules, in whatever way seems most advantageous to them in a particular case.

There’s one solution. It’s simple, cheap and efficient. It’s prudent and helpful. And it’s right: disclose and post, permanently and prominently, the names of every single proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting priest, nun, brother, bishop, monk and seminarian who is or was in every diocese.

Include their photos, work histories, when their abuse was first disclosed and their last known whereabouts.

That’s what helps protect still-vulnerable kids. That’s what helps heal already-wounded adults. That’s what bishops promise. That’s what Catholics deserve. And that’s what police and prosecutors need to catch and stop child molesting clerics.

Bishops are ducking, dodging and delaying. Eventually, they WILL post the names of religious order child molesters. Just like they eventually started suspending credibly accused abusers. And eventually started revealing credibly accused abusers. And eventually started posting the names of other child molesting clergy. And eventually started adopting zero-tolerance policies.

The only question is: how many more girls and boys will be hurt – severely and unnecessarily hurt – in the meantime.