Hundreds of priests in Catholic churches scattered across Pennsylvania have been accused of sexual abuse on minors within the church. Acts involved thousands of children. There is a lengthy list containing various names of priests associated with accusations of sexual abuse in the churches throughout Pennsylvania.
Somehow, several Dioceses all within Pennsylvania, have managed to cover up 70 years worth of sexual abuse cases. Some priests were forced to resign, yet others were given jobs in other states, and still others continued to act as priests among the children they were abusing. The ring of terror has come to an end as investigators are finally able to prosecute some of the cases.
One report showed that a priest, Edward Ganster, had abused several children in the 70’s. Reports of abuse were not made know till the late 80’s, early 90’s. Ganster remained with the church for a while, however, he was on sick leave for mental health reasons. Afterwards, Ganster did not return but applied for a job at Disney World, and requested a referral from the church. Ganster was able to get the job and worked there for many years. The church knowingly hid the sexual abuse. They proceeded by allowing a predator to work at Disney World alongside many children in the 90’s, which allowed Ganster to slide out of any criminal convictions and continue possibly preying on children at the park. Ganster passed away in 2014 after working over 18 years at Disney World.
Of course, sexual abuse allegations are nothing new to the Catholic Church. However, many wish they were obsolete by the 21st century. Previously in Louisiana, 1985, 11 boys were found to be molested by priests in church. By 1990 books were written about the topic of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church, and it became a nationwide discussion after publications by the Boston Globe in the 2000s. As horrendous as these stories are, they are not shocking as being part of the Roman Catholic church has a long history of sexual abuse on children, especially boys. While many would think this type of problem would have dwindled over the years, it has escalated.
One recent case that is plaguing Pennsylvania this year, is one that was reported to the church 6 years prior. Dioceses ordered the priest to cease his actions, which included sending sexual texts to boys who he was aroused by during a tutoring lesson when he gave them hugs. The only reason anyone found out was because of the grand jury’s subpoena on the Diocese.
The grand jury said that their belief was that the church kept these scandals private with many tactics. Churches made vague reports, by avoiding scandals or rape, they called it inappropriate contact with the child or that they had crossed boundaries. Along with vague reports, they had priests with little to no training making diagnoses on priests who had committed sexual abuse, and had the priest ‘self-report’ their own predatory capabilities, whether contact with a child was made or not. When priests were removed, churches were told they were on sick leave, or they would say nothing to individuals in the church. If a community found out, the Dioceses would remove the individual and place them in a new location, so no one would know of the heinous child abuse these individuals had been involved with.
Another major issue with the Dioceses, noted by the grand jury, was that they continued to provide housing, food, etc. to the pedophiles involved. No matter what the abuse, as long as the public had not found out, and no one was involving the police, the Dioceses would keep the abuser in their care. This means that Dioceses were outright facilitating the abuser to keep doing what they were good at, sexually molesting and raping young boys and girls.
The detailed account typed and reported by the grand jury is almost 1400 pages long. Spanning years of abuse, many cases that cannot be revisited or charged due to the statute of limitations. Some of the more recent cases were not covered up by Dioceses in places like Erie, Pennsylvania. Which is a hopeful thing for the members of the grand jury, as they realize the absolute devastation this causes for the Catholic church and the trust they want to have with communities and church goers. Grand jury members also find it important that some of the abuse had been reported in more recent years, and was handled by law enforcement appropriately. This is cited as an upside and maybe a change in the Roman Catholic church, but it is a small change in comparison to the problems that were swept under the rug.
The sad truth about the thousands already reported; the grand jury report is sure there are more who did not have the resources or courage to report their abuse. While there are many who have come forward, not even a quarter of the cases can be tried as the statute of limitations limits the time for those cases to be tried. Their cases are long overdue and cannot be heard, which makes this prosecution of the Catholic church Dioceses in Pennsylvania of major importance. Reality is hitting for many of the individuals on the grand jury, families of victims, and victims themselves that they have run out of time to get justice for what has happened. However, that has motivated the grand jury to keep at it, and to write thoroughly of the current abuse and to make sure the perpetrators pay for their actions, that justice is served.
After a few weeks the Vatican finally responded. Reports say they claim to find these actions “immoral and criminal” at a base level. The Pope’s authority is ultimately under question in response to this event, and other related happenings across the world in Australia and Latin America Catholic churches, where other reports of church sexual abuse are arising. Those in the Vatican realize the weight these cases carry and how it looks for the church. Leaders of the church realize that confidence in the Catholic church and possibly the Pope as a leader is going to be under fire; not for an unjust reason of course. However, it does cause individuals, whether inside or outside of the church, to wonder what type of ministry it can be if it is any ministry at all when the innocence of children seems to be at stake.
Recent details have emerged that the Pope may have known of sexual abuse allegations across the country in Washington against now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarick. This accusation came from a former Vatican official by the name of Carlo Maria Viganò. Viganò states in his letter that Pope Francis knew about the 2013 sexual abuse allegations in Washington and did not take the right course of action against these reports.
The previous Pope Benedict XVI privately disciplined McCarick. This was made known to the current Pope Francis. However, instead of taking action, the upcoming Pope continued his track to becoming just that, the next Pope. In early July, the allegations became more serious and could possibly result in criminal charges. Ex-Cardinal McCarick is the first Cardinal to resign willfully in over a century. The investigation report starts 50 years prior to his resignation, so one can only imagine the sexual abuse that may have occurred for the past 50 years. McCarick continues to maintain his innocence despite the allegations against him.
Along with this allegation of knowing and allowing McCarick to continue as a Cardinal, working with young children and teenagers, Pope Francis is also under fire for his ‘apology’ to Ireland Catholics that have been suffering in the church for many decades. Pope Francis did not take responsibility or say something encouraging, aside from his apology, there was no indication that charges would be pressed and that the Vatican would deal with these abuse issues in a more just manner. For instance, pressing charges and investigating thoroughly all members of the Dioceses in Ireland, etc.
All of this adds up to question the Pope’s ability to handle sexual abuse allegations, and his judgment as a leader overall. Apologies are helpful if they take away the pain, but these apologies do not make up for the long overdue justice for many of these individuals. Many want justice served by prosecuting those responsible for these heinous crimes. Also, many want more investigations into Catholic churches across America and the rest of the world. Without proper investigation, by law enforcement rather than the church itself, there may never be true peace for many of those that have been afflicted.
Most recently during the month of September, New York’s attorney general has issued subpoena’s for every Catholic Dioceses in New York to investigate any allegation of sexual abuse. New Jersey quickly followed this example, and has issued subpoena’s for Dioceses all over the state. Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico also put in inquiries regarding subpoena’s for church Dioceses in their states. This movement could be the change those in the Catholic church and those afflicted by it have been looking for. However, this also means the Catholic church will undergo years of investigations and scrutiny. The trust people have for the church may dissipate during this time, and it will take many years to regain, if they ever can.
There are many details to come and an extensive report, which is able to be viewed by the public about the case in Pennsylvania alone. Many are hopeful the church will reform how they handle child abuse among leaders of the church, possibly by first involving law enforcement instead of trying to take matters in their own hands.