THIS WEEK, the Orlando Sentinel
wrote how a formerPhiladelphia Catholic priest named Nicholas Cudemo had made his home inCentral Florida. Another former Philly priest, Stanley Gana, hadresided in Orlando as recently as last year, the Sentinel
What made the story such a big deal is that the two men figuredprominently in the Philadelphia D.A.'s 2005 grand-jury report about sexabuse by clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
In the report, Cudemo was described by a clergy superior as "one ofthe sickest people I ever knew." Cudemo was accused of raping andimpregnating an 11-year-old girl, for whom he then arranged anabortion, and of abusing 15 other victims.
Gana was accused of raping a 14-year-old boy who'd come to him forhelp after an incident of sex abuse by a family friend. Sometimes, Ganawould have sex with the child and another boy at the same time.
The Church found the claims so credible, it booted the men out ofthe priesthood. Their names and photos now appear on the PhiladelphiaArchdiocese' "Child and Youth Protection" Web site page of accusedpriests and on the Web site of nonprofit BishopAccountability.org,which documents the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.
Where you won't find their names is on any Megan's Law Web site ofregistered sex offenders, because the statute of limitations on thecrimes they're accused of lapsed before they could face justice in acourt of law.
Such is the case with many pedophile priests who, though known tohave abused kids, have never been held accountable for their depravity.These men (who knows how many?) are living unmonitored in a way thatconvicted sex offenders will never be.
So the only way the public can take precautions is if people happen to learn - whether through a story like the Sentinel's or word of mouth - that a predator is in their midst.
If ever there was a problem in dire need of a solution better thanthis alarming work-around, it's this one, says Terry McKiernan, founderof Massachusetts-based BishopAccountability.org.
"Every D.A. in the country is aware of the seriousness of this situation," McKiernan says.
"Some of these men are dangerous criminals with multiple, credibleallegations of abuse, but there's no way for the community to knowwhere they are. We list them on our Web site, but we don't have theability to track them, or the legal right to disclose where they'reliving. We have no authority to require them to tell us when they move.It's very scary."
It doesn't appear that the Catholic Church is tracking them, either- at least not in a way the public can access as readily as a Megan'sLaw registry. The Philadelphia Archdiocese Web site, for example, notesonly if a priest has b
een laicized - i.e., defrocked - or has agreed to live a "supervised life of prayer and penance."
That's unacceptably sketchy information, given the archdiocese' lack of integrity in handling its sex-abuse scandal.
For all we know, these "supervised" priests are living in a group home across the street from Sesame Place.
Some will argue, of course, that a priest who has never beenconvicted of a sex-abuse crime is as entitled to his privacy as any ofus. And surely some priests have been wrongly accused.
But those are not the priests whom the Philadelphia Archdiocese hastaken great pains to identify on its Web site. Nor are they the menwhose acts are so sickeningly documented in the D.A.'s grand-juryreport.
If Philadelphia's Cardinal Justin Rigali really wanted to ensure "asafe environment for all our children," as he vows on the archdioceseWeb site, he would lead the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, whoseboard he chairs, to do something more proactive to protect our kids.
Like monitor the whereabouts of the priests whose crimes the Churchabetted by looking the other way for decades. And then share thatinformation with us.
He could also support bills, now working their way throughHarrisburg, designed to protect kids from sex abuse and offer thechance of justice to those who were too young to demand it when theywere victimized.
But a Megan's Law-type registry would be a start. I'm sure the archdiocese could find a legal way to implement it.
After all, it has excellent lawyers. They kept the Church out of court for years. *
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