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Church sex scandal: Abuse victims want a full reckoning

Six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania have joined the list this week of people in the USA who are forced to face the ugly truth about child-molesting priests in their ranks.

But in dozens of other dioceses, there is no settlement, leading victims to question whether the church will ever really take responsibility or be held accountable.

“It happens everywhere, so it is not so much a question, where is happened, but in the place where the word is received, where the information about the access to?” said Terry McKiernan, the founder of BishopAccountability.org a Massachusetts-based non-profit group that tracks clergy sexual abuse cases.

Since the crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, dioceses across the country have dealt with similar revelations of widespread sexual abuse, with many of them forced to come clean with aggressive plaintiffs ‘ lawyers, especially prosecutors or relentless journalists.

In a few cases, namely in Tucson, Arizona, and Seattle, dioceses voluntarily names.

Dioceses in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Denver, San Diego; Louisville, Kentucky; and Dallas have all paid multimillion-dollar settlements to the victims. Fifteen dioceses and three Catholic religious orders have filed for bankruptcy to deal with thousands of lawsuits.

Only 40 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the US have released on the lists of priests accused of abusing children, and there are only nine investigations by a public prosecutor or a grand jury of a Catholic diocese or archdiocese in the U.S., according to BishopAccountability.org.

In many of the dioceses which have been examined, the figures are staggering: in the six Pennsylvania dioceses, 300 abusive priests and more than 1,000 victims since the 1940’s; in Boston, at least 250 priests and more than 500 victims.

All told, AMERICAN bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church goes back to 1950.

Phil Saviano, a Massachusetts man who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the beginning of the years 1960, at the age of 11 years, said that he hopes that the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, at the direction of attorneys general in other states to conduct similar investigations. He said that he doubts dioceses will release the names, unless forced to do so.

“My sense is that none of them plan to come forward voluntarily. It is always going to take some pressure from the public, the local authorities or the legal authorities,” said Saviano, whose story was one of the many by The Boston Globe in her 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning series and later in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who estimates he has represented 3,000 clergy sexual abuse, victims of all over the world since the 1990s, said he has sent letters detailing about two dozen allegations of abuse of the priests of the dioceses in Michigan, Ohio and Rhode Island, and received similar responses from all three.

“They say, ‘We feel very sorry for your customers, but it is outside the statute of limitations,'” Garabedian said, adding, “The church knows there is no legal aid, so that the church says it does not act responsibly and will not act appropriately.”

In many states, the statute of limitations to allow that people who are abused as children to file civil claims to only 21 years of age or a little older. In Massachusetts and other states hit hard by the crisis, which articles of association were amended after the scandal broke. But in many other states, the laws have remained unchanged.

The Pennsylvania grand jury said that in almost all cases there is, is the limitation period for the seeking of criminal prosecution.

The echo of what was discovered in Boston and other places, the grand jury report accused senior church officials of hushing up allegations against the priests, in some cases by shuffling them from parish to parish.

In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People have grief over the Pennsylvania findings and said: “We are committed to working in a particular ways, so that the abuse cannot happen.”

In the past few years, the AMERICAN bishops have adopted widespread reforms, including mandatory criminal background checks for priests and lay employees, a requirement that abuse allegations be reported to law enforcement, the suspension of the priests, while they are investigated, and permanent expulsion from ministry if the allegations are well-founded.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit who is a senior analyst for the Religion News Service noted, such reforms, but said that the Pennsylvania grand jury report a “wake-up call” to the other dioceses that they need to hire outside groups to do independent research, then publish the results. But he said he is doubtful that will happen.

“Many of the bishops feel, ‘Hey, that was done before I arrived here. I think it’s a shame that it happened, I’m sorry that it happened, but we have changed, this may no longer happen, my watch, because the procedures that we have put in place,'” Reese said.

“If they just had gotten all the dirt out at the beginning, all at the same time, then we would not suffer death by 1,000 cuts. It is just place after place, and frankly, it’s the same story in every place.”

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