The sex abuse scandals that continue to plague the Catholic Church drew more attention this week with the beginning of landmark trial in a Pennsylvania court. The case is important because it marks the first time a U.S. Catholic Church official has been charged with criminal offenses for how he or she chose to handle reports of abuse and other sex crimes allegedly committed by priests.
The official in question, now a Monsignor, supervised more than 800 priests while serving as the Philadelphia Diocese's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Prosecutors have charged him with two counts each of child endangerment and conspiracy, claiming that he repeatedly allowed dangerous priests to keep working with and around children during that time simply to protect the church and its reputation.
The Monsignor's defense lawyer acknowledged that the secretary of clergy position required oversight of sexual abuse complaints but also maintained his client fulfilled that responsibility. He said his client reviewed secret church archives in 1994 and came up with a list of 35 accused priests, which he then gave to his supervisors, including the archdiocese's Cardinal -- the person responsible for assigning and transferring priests.
Prosecutors obtained a copy of that list this year and believe the statute of limitations information provided with each entry on the list shows the church was primarily concerned about liability in future civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and sex crimes. The Monsignor's defense lawyer says the document shows that his client was simply trying to ascertain the scope of the problem.
Source: York Daily Record, "Atty: Monsignor 'won't run' from Pa. church abuse," Mary Claire Dale, March 26, 2012
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