Last month, a civillawsuit was filed that accuses two of the world's most prominentCatholic officials, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and CardinalNorberto Rivera of Mexico City, of shuffling a serial predator fromcountry to country. The priest faces criminal charges of molestingdozens of boys.
Just over two weeks ago, our group – theSurvivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP – sounded thealarm that a notorious pedophile priest from Ireland, Oliver O'Grady,is on the move again. Mr. O'Grady, defrocked, imprisoned and eventuallydeported to his native land, is reportedly heading abroad again,possibly to France or Canada.
On Oct. 25, a civil lawsuitwas filed in Florida accusing a Catholic priest of molesting a boy. Thecleric is a Malta native who was sent to Brazil, the United States,Haiti, back to the United States, and now lives in Malta again.
That same day in California, we in SNAP helped warn the public abouttwo abusive priests from Stockton who are believed to be have fled toMexico with the help of church authorities.
And thatafternoon in San Francisco, child molestation victims asked the U.S.attorney to investigate a Santa Rosa priest and his supervisors,including the bishop. This priest admitted molesting kids in May. Buthe too escaped prosecution by fleeing to Mexico, because the bishop andat least four other top church officials waited several days beforereporting the admission to law enforcement.
Last week, inMichigan, news broke that a priest who had molested boys there wassentenced to prison. He had been on the run in South America for years.Also last week, in Arizona, a priest pleaded guilty to sex chargesinvolving children. He was one of the few accused abusive priests whowas returned to the United States from Mexico to face prosecution.
We could go on and on, but here's the bottom line:
As predator priests become more scared of capture and complicit bishopsbecome more frightened of being exposed, more abusive clergy will besent abroad. It's a disturbing trend that was first exhaustivelyresearched and painstakingly documented in a 2004 Dallas Morning News series. Many had hoped this startling exposé would shame Catholicofficials into at least slowing the shuffling of dangerous priests fromcountry to country and prod bishops into at least doing more tosupervise and monitor admitted, convicted and credibly accused childmolesting clerics.
Sadly, that doesn't seem to have happened. There is some good news, however, on this front.
As victims become more courageous, Catholics more outspoken,investigators more sophisticated and prosecutors more determined, themovement of abusive priests across national borders is slowly beingrevealed – and in a few encouraging instances, reversed and punished.
Long-term remedies include reforming archaic laws that protectmolesters, like the dangerously restrictive statutes of limitationsthat prevent criminal or civil charges even being brought againstpredators who flee.
But short-term solutions lie with Catholics, both at the top and bottom of the church hierarchy.
At the top, bishops must obey U.S. law and immediately report known andsuspected abuse to the police. They must use their considerableresources to publicize the names of runaway priests and warn vulnerableresidents of the nations to which these predators are believed to havefled. At the bottom, lay Catholics must demand that their bishops takethese commonsense steps.
That may seem like a dauntingprospect. But lay Catholics should be encouraged by Pope Benedict'scomments last week to Irish bishops. In his most extensive remarks onthe clergy sex crisis, the pontiff urged Irish church officials to "torebuild confidence [and] establish the truth of what happened in thepast and, above all, to bring healing to the victims."
Stopping the international shuffling of potentially dangerous predatorypriests would be terrific place to start.
BarbaraBlaine and David Clohessy are leaders in a Chicago-based support groupcalled SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. You maycontact them through www.SNAPnetwork.org.