Recognizing evil acts
I commend Attorney General Josh Shapiro for taking the initiative to conduct a grand jury report which identified, in detail, the horrendous sexual abuses by over 300 Catholic priests in our state, and lack of leadership within our dioceses to do anything to stop it. Had it not been for this report (even if it is not fully accurate) we would have still been kept under the veil of secrecy by the diocese.
It was obvious that the initial plan of action developed by each diocese was to conceal, prolong and protect the predator priests, protecting the reputation of their diocese, instead of helping the innocent victims. In essence, they closely adhered to their Omertà that places importance on silence and noncooperation with authorities on illegal activities. It was deeply instituted evil. Instead of reporting these crimes to proper authorities they conducted their own internal reviews by diocesan leadership.
Most of their recommendations included transferring, or shuffling, these predator priests to other parishes, putting them on medical leaves and even offering them lucrative retirement benefits. Anything just to exceed the statutes of limitations and avoid prosecution. It makes me sick to think of all these crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated. It was only when they were finally exposed in 2002 that the diocese implemented their zero-tolerance policy. .
Bishop Schlert, Diocese of Allentown, like previous bishops, said he inherited these problems. Reportedly, this is uncharacteristic of him, nevertheless it is NO EXCUSE. Prior to Schlert being promoted, he was an integral part of the “internal team” assigned by the then bishop, to cover up these crimes and protect the diocese. He openly stated that allowing these priests to retire was the “best option” to protect the innocent victims from further abuse.
Really? Putting them in what is called an “ecclesiastic jail” by providing them a pension, medical and even car insurance, while some of them even enjoyed their ocean front condos at the beach, does not seem like punishment to me.
Although the diocese is the main contributor to this systemic failure, others are also to blame. I blame their brother priests for not having the courage to do anything in fear of retribution from the bishop.
In situations where some of these crimes were brought to the attention of our justice system, the county district attorneys simply dismissed these claims as being criminal and forwarded them back to the diocese for in-house review. It was also a failure of our Legislature by having weak politicians, who were influenced by outside lobbyists, failing to pass laws that would have strengthened the reporting requirements and extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes on children.
The pope recently stated that there should be accountability for both the abusers and those who allowed this abuse to continue. I agree, not only should these predator priests be charged, but also any bishop, cardinal and diocesan administrator who was part of this horrendous and criminal cover-up.
The recommendations from this grand jury need to be implemented and legislation enacted to extend the statute of limitations for these crimes. I would also like to commend Allentown City Council for firing Tom Traud, Traud Law Firm, as their solicitor, due to his legal advice and involvement with the Diocese of Allentown during these years. We should also know how much money the Diocese of Allentown paid for the years of retirement, treatment centers, legal fees and settlements caused by these predator priests and paid for by the parishioners.
As a Catholic, I wholeheartedly believe in my Catholic faith, but I have NO faith in the institution of the Catholic Church. Recognizing evil, and calling it what it is, is NOT giving in to evil.
Robert V. Strauss,