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Pennsylvania priest charged with child porn and sex tourism

Last month, a Pennsylvania priest was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and engaging in sex tourism. Authorities say that for more than a decade, the 69-year-old priest would travel to countries in Central America under the guise of doing missionary work with young, male orphans. Instead, he allegedly sexually abused these boys.

Allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests are sadly common. Unfortunately, this case shares another trait common in abuse cases. According to news sources, the charity for which this priest worked became aware of his behavior in 2009 and reported him to church officials in the Pennsylvania diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Officials looked the other way for five years, and he remained the pastor of a church in Central City, just east of Pittsburgh, until he was arrested last month.

Thankfully, Father Joseph Maurizio Jr. is now in custody and is facing criminal charges that include possession of child pornography and traveling internationally for purposes of engaging illicit sexual conduct with minors. But what about the church officials who knew about his crimes and chose to do nothing?

According to BishopAccountability.org, a total of 27 priests have been publicly accused of sex abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese alone. And these are just the priests who have been publicly accused. There may be many others who were able to settle allegations privately. How many abusive priests could have been stopped if bishops and other church officials would have responded at the first sign of trouble? How many children could have been protected if church officials were held criminally and civilly liable for their inaction?

Source: The New York Times, “Pennsylvania Priest Accused of Abuse Was Reported 5 Years Ago, Records Show,” Trip Gabriel, Sept. 26, 2014

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