The Sad State of Things:
Sadly enough, it is very difficult determining how many of America’s children are victims of molestation because most victims never come forward. According to the director of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and fellow sexual abuse survivor, David Clohessy, “Many child sex abuse cases are done gradually, under the guise of love or sex education, and so what happens is most victims don’t even realize until literally decades later. The overwhelming majority of us rationalize it. That’s how we as survivors’ cope with this stunning betrayal. We cope with it by denying and minimizing it.”
In an article written for Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/matter-personality/201210/why-dont-...) Dr. David M. Allen explains another reason people keep their abuse a secret:
"The strength of family loyalty was illustrated by a patient I saw who had been raised by a female relative rather than by her mother because the mother was a deadbeat parent. In an initial interview, the patient impulsively blurted out, for the very first time in her entire life, that the husband of this female relative had continuously molested her. She immediately burst into tears and could not stop crying for many minutes. One might assume that memories of the abuse had come flooding back to her and that this was the reason for the emotional breakdown, but as it turned out, that was not it at all. The woman kept repeating, "I can't believe I told someone! I can't believe I told someone!" After I calmed her down by swearing by all that was dear to me that the session was confidential and no one outside the room would ever have to know what she had revealed, she admitted that her biggest fear was that the woman who raised her would be irreparably hurt by the revelation that her husband had done what he had done. The patient could not bear the thought that this was what might happen. She owed the woman just too much."
Of course, the predators themselves use all sorts of ploys to keep their victims quiet and compliant such as threatening them or a loved one with violence should they tell, saying things like ‘look at who all you would be hurting, not just me…you would rip this whole family apart’, or stigmatizing them into believing they are the true perpetrator while the predator is in fact the victim, or asking, ‘Who do you think they’ll believe, you or me?’ Worse, many children who do acknowledge that what is going on is wrong and reach out for help in bringing the abuse to an end are shot down. Simply because whoever the child reached out to is incapable of acknowledging the possibility that somebody they’ve known for years could harbor such a dark and sick secret, that person often accuses them of being a liar, and the resultant omission enables the abuse to continue despite the victim’s efforts to stop it.
Experiencing sexual abuse during childhood can completely derail the developmental process with many victims exhibiting more delinquent and anti-social behavior alongside a decrease in academic performance as time goes on, as well as an increased probability of dropping out or attempting suicide. Victims often demonstrate a three to four-fold increase in substance abuse/dependence, are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse/dependence, and are much more likely to practice unsafe sex leading to an increased probability of teen pregnancy and transmission of disease. Women who were abused as children are three times more likely to develop psychotic disorders than nonvictims and experience an increased probability of developing eating disorders. Men who were abused as children have twice the rate of HIV-infection than nonvictims. As adults, victims are twice as likely to be arrested for property offenses and violent offenses than nonvictims.
Whatever the reasons may be, most victims carry this secret with them their entire lives and because of this we are left with little information to work with and so remain uncertain of the true prevalence of this crime much less its full effects on society. According to the Darkness to Light – a non-profit dedicated to empowering adults to prevent sexual abuse – website (https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/all_statistics_20150619.pdf) an estimated 1 in every 10 children, 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys, experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. That means that this year alone, 400,000 of the children born in America will eventually become victims of sexual abuse. Four-hundred-thousand! Out of these, only an estimated 38% will ever come forward.
According to former Professor of Sociology at the University of Sussex and founder of National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), Pete Saunders, “The average time for a victim to speak out is 22 years after the last incidence of abuse, but it can be much, much longer.” In their paper The Victimization of Children and Youth: A comprehensive Overview (http://unh.edu/ccrc/Child_Vic_Papers_pubs.html), sociologists David Finkelhor – director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center – and Patricia Hashima explain that children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Add 22 years to that age bracket and you come up with 29 - 35 and therein lies a problem. State laws contain a statute of limitations declaring that a victim must come forward and file suit by a certain age. For instance, in New York the age limit is 23, In Maryland it is 25, Pennsylvania barely scrapes by with the age limit being 30.
Although most victims who do come to terms enough with their condition to seek justice for the crimes committed against them are within their late twenties or early thirties, they are often too late, having bypassed the statute of limitation. This explains why several states have been passing reform bills in which the statute of limitations is extended upwards to the age of 50, thus paving the way for victims to come forward on their own time and still be able to seek the legal action against their predators that they deserve. Often these bills also provide a window of opportunity so that those who were unable to sue under the old law will have a certain amount of time to get their ducks in a row and file suit against their predators as well.
In what states have passed such laws, the results have been greater than one could hope for. Not only were victims allowed to find solace in knowing their predators had finally been exposed, but the proceedings of these cases have exposed countless previously unidentified child molesters. Since California passed their bill back in 2003, over 300 unknown pedophiles were exposed, no longer able to prey on our children. Passing the bill in Delaware lead to the exposure of pediatrician Dr. Earl V. Bradley, a man who had been preying on hundreds of children for years, at which point he alone was indicted on 471 charges of sexual abuse. In Minnesota, a ring of 69 pedophile priests were exposed. Hawaii discovered that a farmer named Jay Ram had been exploiting California’s foster care system to import foster children for molestation throughout the 80’s and 90’s. All this information and more is available at http://sol-reform.com/News/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Professor-Marci-A..... Despite these wonderful results, this trend of extending the statute of limitations from one state to the next has not always been easy. As of this writing, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been locked in a struggle between supporters of the change and their opposition for years now.
Naturally this begs the question, “Why would anybody possibly want to ruin the opportunity to provide victims with the justice they so much deserve and the possibility of exposing unidentified predators?” I believe the biblical verse I Timothy 6:10 explains it most eloquently, “For the love of money is the root of all evil...” This leads to the question, “Who could possibly choose money over children’s safety and well-being?”
• Insurance companies whose clients include the universities, boarding schools, and pediatric clinics exposed for their long history of sexual abuse, often involving dozens of victims across several decades; Penn State University with the Sandusky scandal, being a case in point. This case involved Jerry Sandusky being indicted on 52 counts of abuse and, according to an article by the New York Daily News (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/penn-state-paid-92m-result-jer...) cost the university $92 million.
• The various youth organizations whose history of sexual abuse, again involving dozens of victims across the years, have been exposed, like the Boy Scouts of America. Thousands of cases have been reported against this organization, a list of specific legal cases is available here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_sex_abuse_cases#Spec...) including a 2010 case in which the organization was ordered to pay $18.5 million in restitution to a former member who had been abused during the 80’s, currently the largest punitive damage award in the history of the US Justice System.
• The countless religious institutions going bankrupt after their long history of sexual abuse involving thousands of victims over the years were exposed.
There is one institution, however, that has been the most active in fighting any attempts to alter the statute of limitations, having spent millions of dollars in these efforts, none other than the self-proclaimed representative for the Divine here on Earth, the Catholic Church. According to bishopaccountability.org, the Catholic Church has been forced to pay over $3 billion in settlements and restitution to its sexual abuse victims in the US alone (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/settlements/) resulting in 15 diocese and 3 religious orders going bankrupt (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/bankruptcy.htm). The Church has proven that it is willing to fight these rather costly consequences of its own actions and it has no problem fighting dirty.
The Church’s Mafia-like Behavior:
Between 2007 and 2015, New York’s Catholic Conference spent $2.1 million in hiring some of the most influential lobbying firms like Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch & Associates, Hank Sheinkopf, and Mark Behan Communications to lobby, “issues associated with timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses”. Also between 2007 and 2005 the Catholic Conferences of Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey spent $5.2 million, $1.5 million, and $435,000, respectively. All of this even though, under US tax laws, any non-profit organization benefitting from a tax-free status like the Church is not allowed to engage in political activity like lobbying against reform bills which is why some law-makers are beginning to question the Catholic Church’s status as a non-profit organization.
“This is a way for the whole culture to say to survivors that they matter and that they are believed. Because when a survivor comes forward, in most states they are beyond the statute of limitations [to bring civil claims] and the message they get from the law is that what happened to you doesn’t matter,” says Marci Hamilton, the chair of public law at Cardoza School of Law. “It is clear they [the church] have bought into this strategy, which is to turn the church into the victim and to portray the victims as just seeking money and triangulating the parishioners against the victims, by saying the parish will go bankrupt and have to close schools.”
Hamilton’s accusations are confirmed in the actions of the Catholic Church surrounding this situation, actions which some have described as being mafia-like in nature.
In a newsletter published by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference in May of 2016 (available in full at http://www.pacatholic.org/oppose-unfair-retroactive-statutes-of-limitati...):
The Catholic Church has learned hard lessons regarding child sexual abuse and has taken responsibility for the abuse that has occurred within its ranks. The dioceses across Pennsylvania have implemented changes that offer assistance to abuse survivors and affirm that they are not at fault for the crime committed against them.
The Church has also taken great strides to protect children and provide financial assistance for services for survivors and their families, no matter how long ago the crime was committed, and for as long as necessary. Children and adults are trained to recognize and report signs of abuse to ensure that the children in our care are safe and secure. To date, Pennsylvania’s dioceses have spent over $16.6 million to provide compassionate and supportive victim assistance to individuals and families. Learn more about the Catholic Church’s assistance for survivors here.
Despite that, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would retroactively nullify the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit alleging childhood sexual abuse. It would force parishes, dioceses, schools, and charities to defend cases that are 20, 30, or 40 years old, long after the perpetrator and possible witnesses have died or clear evidence is gone. It could lead to the closure of parishes, schools, and ministries of today’s Catholics, who are in no way responsible for abuse that occurred decades ago.
The newsletter continues by urging Pennsylvania’s Catholic congregants to vote against the reform bill to extend the statute of limitations, contact state representatives and stand up for the Church – as opposed to the victims of the Church. Don’t forget that this is the same institution who for decades not only protected pedophile priests but enabled them to molest hundreds of more children by sweeping the cases under the rug, often lying to the victims by telling them that the predator had been defrocked and exiled from the church community, when they had just relocated them to an area whose population was ignorant of any such accusations and thus providing the predator with a fresh new flock to prey upon. In this newsletter that very same institution is essentially saying, “Okay, so some kids were raped but look at what all we’ve already done to help them, isn’t that enough?” No. It is not.
Even the opening sentence of the letter is misleading. If it were true that “The Catholic Church has learned hard lessons regarding child sexual abuse and has taken responsibility for the abuse that has occurred within its ranks,” then why all those years of trying to side-step responsibility by covering up the abuse and why these current attempts to side-step responsibility by lobbying against the reform bill movement? If the Church is taking full responsibility for what has happened then why the need for misdirection, pointing out all the parishes, schools, and ministries that would be hurt as if saying, ‘look at who all you would be hurting, not just us…you would bankrupt all these public service organizations we fund’?
The claim that reform ‘would force parishes, dioceses, schools, and charities to defend cases that are 20, 30, or 40 years old, long after the perpetrator and possible witnesses have died or clear evidence is gone’ is a blatant act of misinformation. It completely fails to acknowledge that these cases are being handled by the US Justice System and so must abide by the same legal rigor any other criminal case requires which means ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’. If the accuser is incapable of providing such proof then any actions against the accused will be dropped, no exceptions.
The newsletter also insinuates that such reform bills exposes the church to fraudulent claims by people looking to make a quick buck. By returning to the Darkness to Light statistics site (https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/all_statistics_20150619.pdf) we find that only 4% to 8% of reported sexual abuse cases turn out to be false, and most of these are made by parents caught up in custody battles as opposed to those looking to make a quick buck. By returning to the sol-reform.com site (http://sol-reform.com/News/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Professor-Marci-A....) you’ll notice a pattern arises involving false claims in those states who have succeeded in passing reform bills, despite the efforts of the Church: California – 1,150 claims filed, no false claims reported; Delaware – 175 claims filed, no false claims reported; Minnesota – 44 plus 419+ notices of claims filed, no false claims reported; Hawaii – 125 claims filed, no false claims reported. No false claims have been reported in any of these states. So, this newsletter’s insinuation is also a blatant act of misinformation.
The efforts of Pennsylvania’s Catholic Conference are being led by none other than Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput, a man who Marci Hamilton pointed out in an article by The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/17/pennsylvania-catholic-ch...) was transferred to Pennsylvania after having successfully killed the reform bill in Colorado. This is the same guy who came into the media spotlight after unintentionally releasing an e-mail in which he threatens state representative Jamie Santora, accusing him of “betraying” the Church then claiming he would suffer “consequences” for his support of the reform bill. Jamie Santora isn’t the only Catholic legislator supporting the reform bill who has felt dejected and betrayed by the actions of their own Church. On a local radio talk show, Catholic state legislator Martina White described feeling ‘crushed’ when her invitations to several planned events at local Catholic parishes were refused due to her support of the reform bill. State Representative Thomas Murt, who attends mass daily, confessed to a colleague that he felt ‘devastated’ after the priest at his church went into a 40-minute discussion about his involvement with the reform bill, and the allegedly negative effects it would have for the Church, while Murt was in attendance.
Representative Nick Miccarelli found that his involvement in the reform bill was released in his church’s bulletin, along with misinformation concerning the bill itself, “I’ve never had anything but good things to say [about my parish], so it was a heck of a shot, when you are out there telling people how much you think of a place, and that place doesn’t even give you a phone call before they print ... something that was not an accurate statement,” he said. Most of all, Miccarelli was frustrated by the bulletin’s suggestion that the supporting legislators such as himself were seeking to protect public institutions while targeting private ones like churches, even though the bill is quite clear that public and private institutions are both to be given equal treatment.
In light of these events, it’s no wonder legislator Mike Vereb had this to tell The Guardian concerning archbishop Charles Chaput’s efforts (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/17/pennsylvania-catholic-ch...), “This mob boss approach of having legislators called out, he really went right up to the line. He is going down a road that is frankly dangerous for the status of the church in terms of it being a non-profit.”
Kevin Gavin, acting as Chaput’s spokesman, shrugged off the allegations that the archdiocese was trying to ‘shame elected officials from the pulpit’, claiming, “I am not aware of any situations involving a pastor lambasting an elected official and they weren’t directed to do so. I do know of many instances where pastors shared with parishioners how representatives voted on [the bill]. They shared knowledge that is already public.” A bit of sleight of hand, that.
It’s not just the legislators who are being harassed by the Church, even some advocacy groups have fallen into the crosshairs of one of the most powerful and influential institutions on Earth. The director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy received a subpoena at his St. Louis home concerning the case John Doe B.P. v. the Rev. Michael Tierney and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in which four people were accusing Father Tierney of sexually abusing them. According to the subpoena, Mr. Clohessy was being told to turn over any and all documents the organization might have concerning repressed memory, any current or former priests in Kansas City, the diocese, Father Tierney, John Doe, or Rebecca Randles who was representing the accusers. According to the lawyers representing the Catholic Church and Father Tierney, they required this information from SNAP to investigate whether Ms. Randles violated a gag order by releasing any information about the case to SNAP prior to the filing of the case. Ms. Randles explains, “I certainly didn’t violate the gag order that is based on the ethics rules. And I did get an informal opinion from the Missouri bar ethics council indicating that it was acceptable to give an advance copy of the petition as long as my client had given me permission to do so.” Ten other victim advocacy groups along with the Missouri Press Association have filed supporting briefs claiming that the subpoena is unconstitutional.
The Missouri Circuit Court Judge, Ann Mesle, ruled that Mr. Clohessy had to release the files and be deposed because he “almost certainly has knowledge concerning issues relevant to this litigation”. When Mr. Clohessy was deposed, the lawyers representing the Church were finally given a chance to grill the director of SNAP, an organization William Donahue – the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York – describes as “a menace to the Church.” Strangely enough, many of their questions had nothing to do with the case at hand, involving instead matters of SNAP itself like its budget, donors and operating procedures as well as its directors and staff members. Clohessy commented, “It was not a fishing expedition. It was a fishing, crabbing, shrimping, trash-collecting, draining the pond expedition. The real motive is to harass and discredit and bankrupt SNAP, while discouraging victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers, police, prosecutors and journalists from seeking our help.”
While all this was going on in Kansas City, another SNAP employee was subpoenaed in the case of Jane Doe 92 v. the Archdiocese of St. Louis, et al. Just like Clohessy’s subpoena, this one also demanded all correspondence about repressed memory even though the Jane Doe case did not involve matters of repressed memory. The lawyer representing Jane Doe in the case, Ken Chackes claimed, “I assume there’s some kind of communication” between the church lawyers in both cities.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Bishops, swore, “There is no national strategy.” Consequently, the behavior of the Church while handling these cases suggests there is most certainly a national strategy at play against the reform bills movement. It is a most ungodly campaign of deception and distortion conducted in hopes of side-stepping the consequences of their actions and preserving the Church’s coffers at the expense of justice, victims of sexual abuse – not just those of the Church but ALL victims – and the legislators and advocacy groups with conscience enough to stand up and support them.
I think it only fitting to close with some words from none other than the man who inspired the formation of the Christian religion, and so its institutions, Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:27-28), “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
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