U.N. faults U.S. for failure to prosecute abusive clerics

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is failing to pursue and prosecute clergy guilty of child sexual abuse, according to a recent … Continued

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is failing to pursue and prosecute clergy guilty of child sexual abuse, according to a recent United Nations committee report.

The U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, in a little-noticed Jan. 25 report, urged the U.S. to “take all necessary measures to investigate all cases of sexual abuse of children whether single or on a massive and long-term scale, committed by clerics.”

David Clohessy, the director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, described national efforts to deal with child-molesting clergy as “woefully inadequate.”

“There has been and continues to be too cozy a relationship between religious and governmental figures,” Clohessy said. “Other than a handful of local prosecutors, there’s been almost no action at the state or federal level.”

The U.S. Department of Justice did not return requests for comment, and the National Association of Attorneys General declined to comment. Abuse cases are typically handled by local and state prosecutors, not the federal government.

Child abuse scandals have rocked various Christian and Jewish institutions throughout the U.S. in recent years, with the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal that erupted in 2002 the most visible.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles stripped retired Cardinal Robert Mahony of his public duties after a court-ordered release of church documents showed that Mahony and others tried to shelter abusive priests from prosecution.

Clohessy said his group believes that if prosecutors were to target church leaders rather than individual priests, the problem would be solved much faster.

“If even a handful of bishops went to jail for enabling child sex crimes, we believe that that would introduce massive reform,” Clohessy said. “Predator priests would be caught after their third victim, not 33rd victim.”

Last year, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., was convicted of failing to report an abusive priest, and a leading churchman in Philadelphia received three to six years in prison for shuffling known abusers across the archdiocese.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the hierarchy does a “huge amount” in order to prevent sex abuse within the church — much of it learned after the abuse scandal came to light.

“Every diocese is audited every year to see that every year that parishes have safe environment programs,” Walsh said, “which include educating children so that they are aware of inappropriate contact by an adult, and are encouraged to report anything that makes them uncomfortable to a trusted adult.”

Some victims’ advocates have criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of sex abuse scandals during his reign, as well as before his election when he headed the Vatican department responsible for processing abuse cases.

The pope, for health reasons, will resign on Feb. 28, and some are now urging Mahony-who is eligible to vote for the next pope-to stay in the U.S. and not vote for his role in trying to shield known abusers from criminal prosecution.

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  • amelia45

    If Mahony has some moral obligation to decline voting for the next pontiff, would not the same be true of Rigali of Philadelphia and Brady of Ireland. And, even Dolan? All hid the crimes and the criminals.

    Mahony has much to answer for all by himself. But he does not need to become the scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb for the sins of all the bishops and cardinals. Each should bear his own sin, as publically as Mahony.

  • gilhcan

    Sister Mary Ann Walsh would not still be working for the US bishops without thoroughly supporting them, including all their atrocious cover-up of the sexual abuse of youngsters. That’s a shame, because while the Vatican is attacking US Sisters who have been doing a superb job for Jesus of the Gospels after leaving their enforced work in parochial schools for many generations, they have brilliantly outshine the clergy. It is precisely because they do a better job following Jesus that the men in the Vatican have been trying so hard to put them down, force them back under their control. The obvious jealousy and hatred of the church’s ordained clergy toward these dedicated women is proof of their rightness and goodness. Sadly, Sister Mary Ann Walsh is not one of them.

  • gilhcan

    You make ethical and moral sense. Unfortunately, this “celibate” dominated male church does not work that way. And the lay people only have themselves to blame. As with the voters of this do-nothing-for-the-people US Congress, the lay people of the Catholic Church should revolt much more loudly and effectively than they have. After all, to whom did all those raped kids belong, the lay people warming the pews and dropping their hard-earned bucks into the baskets to pay for sleazy accountants and lawyers to protect the abusing priests at the altars and in the pulpits and their cover-up bishops, or to those same pew warmers? Revolt is needed, big revolt.