Diocese: Roman Catholic Church the “model” Institution for Protecting Kids

By Paul Petrone
July 6, 2012

Monday, the Rev. Dennis Carey, formerly the pastor of Waterford’s St. Paul in Chains Rectory, was arrested for first-degree possession of child pornography. Court documents would later show that while there are no allegations of Carey sexually abusing children, the priest admitted to police he was addicted to child porn for the last two years.

For many, it seemed like another of many cases of a priest in the Roman Catholic Church being charged with a crime against children. But Michael Strammiello, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, said Thursday nothing could be further from the truth, calling the Roman Catholic Church “the model institution” when it comes to protecting children.

“There is no institution in America that has done more to protect young people than the Catholic church,” Strammiello said. “No institution has done more, invested more.”

Strammiello said the screenings of priests and the way child abuse allegations are handled has completely changed since 2001, when allegations of priests sexually abusing children began pouring in nationally. He said the church is constantly working on how to guarantee safety for children, and has done a better job than anybody of doing that.

“The numbers of any incidents have been dramatically reduced to practically zero,” he said. “But practically zero is not zero.”

Carey Case

Patch asked Strammiello how Carey could be viewing child pornography for at least two years in the Waterford rectory, and be caught by state police, not the Diocese of Norwich that oversees the church. Strammiello said the church’s computers are monitored, but the diocese does not have the same technology as the police and Carey might have had his own private computers in the rectory.

Strammiello said every priest is given a thorough background check, as well as every employee who works for the church. He said the Carey case has the diocese discussing its safety policies, and said “those talks are ongoing.”

Strammiello added that the Carey case was handled very quickly, as state police executed a search warrant on his computer on June 28th and he was arrested on July 1. Patch brought up that while the arrest was quick, Carey was viewing child pornography for at least two years, and would likely still be viewing the pornography it if it weren’t for state police.

“You can’t say that,” Strammiello said in response. “We might have (caught him) ourselves.”

Meanwhile, some victim groups maintain that the Roman Catholic Church is hardly the “model” institution for protecting children. Judy Jones, who is part of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the dioceses need to hold their bishops more accountable.

“The bishops never get fired,” Jones said. “There needs to be more accountability for the bishops.”

Church’s History

In 2001, allegation after allegation began to come in from American adults who claimed they were abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were younger. The stories drew intense media attention, to the point the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study the problem.

The college came out with its report in 2004, nicknamed the “John Jay Report,” which said not only were priests molesting children, but bishops were just moving the priests around from parish to parish rather than reporting them to authorities. The report found that of the 109,694 priests that served from 1950 to 2002 in the United States, 4,392 of them – roughly four percent – had substantiated claims of sexually abusing children against them.

There were several issues locally as well. For example, two priests, the Rev. Bruno Primavera and the Rev. Thomas Shea, both allegedly sexually abused children while serving as priests in New London.

Related Topics: Dennis Carey and Roman Catholic Church

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