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Catholic priest sex abuse scandals widespread in the U.S.

Many of our posts in recent months have focused on the ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandals in Philadelphia and other parts of the state. Sadly, the disturbing and frequent incidents of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by priests are a problem that spreads far beyond the borders of Pennsylvania. So too, are the alleged cover-ups by officials in the Catholic Church.

Clergy sexual abuse scandals continue to develop in parts of California, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; and Chicago, Illinois, just to name a few. Earlier this month, documents finally made public by the Archdiocese of Chicago revealed the true scope of the problem, which is much larger than most could have imagined.

More than 6,000 pages of once-secret documents now show that the Chicago Archdiocese was aware of (and covering up) sex abuse allegations from the 1980s and 1990s as well as the 2000s. News coverage of sex abuse allegations in Chicago were happening as early as 1990.

The information contained in these internal memos and letters is disturbing. In all, some 30 priests in the Archdiocese were accused of sexual abuse. Of those, 14 have passed away. The documents also reveal that religious officials and law enforcement agencies were reluctant to investigate allegations, and that Church officials seemed much more focused on relocating priests and protecting their reputations than about keeping children safe and pursuing justice.

Unsurprisingly, several of the priests who were reassigned multiple times continued to be the subject of misconduct allegations at each new assignment. At least one priest was reassigned even after the Bishop received allegations about two young men who had allegedly committed suicide after being molested by the priest.

Sadly, the allegations contained in these recently released documents are strikingly similar to allegations made against priests and Church officials in many other parts of the country. Unless the guilty parties are held accountable through an overwhelming barrage of criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits, there is little doubt that sexual abuse will continue indefinitely.

Source: NBC Chicago, "Chicago Archdiocesan Files Reveal Extent of Sex Abuse Cover-Up," Mary Ann Ahem, Jan. 22, 2014

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