We learned last year that hundreds of children had been abused by dozens of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — one that has fewer than 100,000 members (an astonishing ratio). Leaders in the Church were aware of the allegations and did little to nothing to prevent pedophile priests from pouncing again. In fact, they interfered with police investigations into the matter.
Yesterday, the Diocese announced some changes to how they operate, made in connection with local law enforcement. These are steps that, in theory, would help protect children in the future.
The new reforms include:
• The creation of an independent, multidisciplinary oversight board that will include a former U.S. attorney and a Lutheran clergyman;
• The retention of an outside expert to develop a new, comprehensive child abuse prevention program;
• A reporting protocol that requires the diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within 12 hours after receipt;
• Taking immediate steps to prevent any contact with minors by the suspected perpetrators;
• Placing clergy on personnel or administrative leave within 24 hours of notice of a credible allegation of child sexual abuse;
• Counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals chosen by the victims.
They had a year to do something about these problems and the best they could come up with is “We’ll make sure the cops know if a priest is accused of raping a child”? Maybe in the next century, they’ll get rid of the anti-gay, mandatory celibacy rules that contribute to these problems.
A group dedicated to helping abuse victims isn’t impressed by the voluntary protocol:
The following is a statement from Judy Jones of St. Louis, Midwest Associate Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:
“We are grateful that Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese is making changes. We agree with him the one case of abuse is too many. This is a small step forward but the grand jury report came out over a year ago and we are still only seeing words and promises we are not seeing any actions that make children safer today than they were a year ago.
“The group also pointed out that the grand jury report identified more than 50 priests and religious leaders who had sexually abused children in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Last year the bishop pledged to post the names on the diocesan website. However, while a list has been posted, SNAP noted that it contained only 28 names, and no other information helpful to victims and to the public, such as photos, work histories, and current locations.
“We ask that people judge the success of this plan by its actions and not by the words. Actions protect kids not words.”
It’s not enough. It’s never enough, because the Church refuses to take the steps necessary to punish everyone involved in letting these crimes continue. Church leaders want a slap on the wrist when they deserve jail time.
(Thanks to Shelley for the link)