Flood of sex abuse lawsuits means we’ll never trust the same way again

By Tom Wrobleski
Staten Island Advance
August 14, 2019

Named in lawsuits filed on Wednesday are, from left, Monsignor Farrell High School, Monsignor Raphael Pakulniewicz, St. Clare's Church and Monsignor John Paddack.

The world is never going to be the same. Not for parents. Not for kids. Not for church parishioners or leaders, not for those involved in Boy Scouts or youth sports.

We may never look at the school teacher or the babysitter the same way, or the neighbor who offers to give our kids a ride home.

We will never again trust like we used to.

The floodgates are open, and lawsuits against accused sexual predators are pouring out. Well-known and popular priests, coaches and youth leaders are being accused of heinous crimes against children, including here on Staten Island.

It’s taken decades for this to come to light. Being a victim of sexual abuse was something that people just didn’t talk about, whether the accused molester was a family member or friend, a clergy member or a coach.

There was no framework for kids to come forward and express what happened to them. Some didn’t even understand that they’d been violated. They might have blamed themselves. Some parents wouldn’t have believed an accusation against a trusted member of the community, even if it meant disbelieving their own child.

And we know now that the Catholic Church covered up sex crimes for decades. That priests who abused children were transferred from parish to parish, just so church leaders in one area could be rid of the problem. The police should have been notified. Instead, a cab was called.

The actual abusers are venal enough, but those higher-ranking church officials who kept the merry-go-round of transfers spinning are also offenders here. They are at the heart of a vast criminal conspiracy, a RICO case. They did nothing to stop the abuse. In fact, they actively helped to perpetuate it by washing their hands of the offenders, sending them off to unsuspecting parishes to prey anew. Jeffrey Epstein had nothing on them.

This flood of lawsuits is the church’s penance. Clergy members and church leaders are fortunate that it’s going to cost them mere money and not their freedom. They should count their blessings. Members of parishes that might be forced into bankruptcy to pay settlements may not feel so lucky, however.

The church gets a lot of attention because it’s an even deeper betrayal, if that’s possible, when clergy members who are supposed to be of stronger moral stuff end up right down in the muck with the rest of us. And, yes, because the church has very deep pockets. Valuable real estate. Priceless works of art. They can sell some stuff off in order to pay victims. So naturally they’re a target. And from all we know, they deserve to be.

But it goes beyond the church. It’s the Boy Scouts, another organization that has faced sex accusations in the past. It’s youth sports leagues. It’s schools. There are accusations being lodged against private citizens, people’s neighbors.

Has no place ever been safe? Will we ever think any place is safe again?

So now we go to court. Some of the accusations are decades old. They will be hard to prove. Or disprove. The victims and the accused both may feel like they got a raw deal when all is said and done. Money will help, but it won’t undo the pain. It won’t bring true justice. And everyone accused deserves due process. That could be tough amid the deluge.

And none of us are going to be unaffected by this. We’ll always be suspicious when somebody expresses an interest in our child. And that’s a shame, because children need mentors other than their own parents, people who maybe see something in them that their parents don’t. They need coaches to challenge them. Teachers who want to bring out the best in them. Clergy to inspire them.

It’s a shame if we let these sexual predators take all that from us.



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