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When it comes to child sex abuse, neutrality is not an option

Child sexual abuse is rarely ever a crime of opportunity. Those who abuse children are calculating and patient. As such, it is foolish to think that they would stop with one victim. For this and many other reasons, those who are aware of child sexual abuse but do not report it (when they have the power to do so) are complicit in the current crime and future ones.

This was one of the many lessons learned from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. And the lesson continues to play out in ongoing investigations into the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandals. How many children could have been protected if these serial abusers had been stopped decades sooner than they were?

A chilling example comes from Minnesota, where the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been mired in a clergy sex abuse scandal rivaling those we have seen here in Pennsylvania. In a publicly released videotape, a former Minnesota priest calmly gives a deposition in which he admits to and describes sexually abusing at least ten boys.

The former priest, who is now 80 years old and retired in 2009, has been accused of molesting more than 30 children throughout his 30 years in Minnesota parishes. Abuse claims seemed to follow him wherever he went. But rather than responding to the claims by calling the police or taking other actions, Church officials instead transferred him to other churches and parishes at least seven times.

After calmly describing despicable acts of sexual abuse against children, the priest was asked how many children he actually molested. He casually replied that he wasn’t sure, and that he would need to “study that out.” He still receives $1,600 every month from the Catholic Church as part of his pension.

How many victims could have been spared from this serial sex offender if other supposedly holy men and women had stepped in when they knew something was wrong? How can church officials protect those within their own ranks to the devastation of children within their parishes? Just how much money and effort have church officials expended covering up sex abuse instead of stopping it?

Source: CBS Minnesota, "Fmr. Minn. Priest Admits To Decades Of Sexual Abuse," Esme Murphy, June 11, 2014

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