We have written many previous posts about the clergy sex abuse scandal facing the Catholic Church. To be sure, child sexual abuse does occur in other denominations and in other religions. But cases involving Catholic priests are too numerous to count, and the Catholic Church’s complicity in covering up these crimes is undeniable.
Unfortunately, bishops, archbishops and other church officials are rarely held accountable for protecting sex-offender priests and for failing to report child abuse. An archdiocese may file for bankruptcy after settling dozens of civil lawsuits, but criminal charges against priests and church officials are somewhat rare due to statutes of limitation. In light of this, the recent decision to file criminal charges against an entire archdiocese is making national headlines.
In Minnesota, prosecutors recently announced that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will be charged with six criminal counts, all gross misdemeanors. While many victims have come forward with allegations of priest sexual abuse within the archdiocese, the criminal charges are related to how the archdiocese mishandled allegations against a former priest who is now in prison. Prosecutors say that the archdiocese has been charged for its “role in failing to protect children and contribution to unspeakable harm,” referring to at least three victims of this now-incarcerated priest.
This is only the second time that an American archdiocese has been charged as a whole in connection with allegations of clergy sex abuse. No church officials in the archdiocese have been charged due to lack of sufficient evidence. Therefore, these criminal charges could result only in fines.
However, the message sent by prosecutors is an important one. For too long, apologists for the Catholic Church have tried to minimize the clergy sex abuse problem as a series of isolated crimes committed by priests who hid their proclivities. We now know that this was not the case, and cover-ups were standard practice.
One of the prosecutors noted that “The facts we have gathered cannot be ignored, they cannot be dismissed, and are frankly appalling, especially when viewed in their entirety. The allegations reveal a disturbing way in which this organization said it protected children when in reality it did not.”
Source: Minnesota Public Radio News, “Twin Cities archdiocese criminally charged in priest child abuse case,” Jon Collins and Madeleine Baran, June 5, 2015