An Arizona State professor just resigned after the Catholic Church revealed that he sexually abused children when he was a priest… 25 years ago.
The Diocese of Brooklyn, where Rev. James Lara worked from 1973 to 1992, could have disclosed the fact that he was dropped from the ministry due to credible allegations of child molestation years ago. Instead he became an award-winning author and professor (with the name Jamie Lara).
Lara had taught at Yale Divinity School for years before becoming a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, according to the Washington Post.
Lara was able to keep his past hidden for so long because the diocese refused to tell the public which priests were removed from ministry because of “credible” allegations of molesting children.
This is precisely the problem. He was able to keep his past a secret, which enabled him to remain close to children — not at the universities where he worked, perhaps, but in other situations. And he could do all that because the Church chose to protect its reputation instead of potential victims.
After he left the Catholic Church, Lara received more than a dozen prestigious awards and built an “illustrious career” in sacred art history:
The Brooklyn diocese hid Father Lara’s secret from the public, but quietly posted Mr. Lara’s name on its website on Thursday morning, confirming that he had been laicized, or defrocked, for the abuse…
The public posting was meant to partly answer victims and their advocates who have pleaded for decades for the publication of all of the names of priests credibly accused or defrocked for child sexual abuse, to prevent the abuse of additional children.
Openness about child abusers should not be something for which victims have to beg for 25 years. This should have come naturally from any organization ethical enough to want to help victims, a simple test the Church has failed repeatedly over the decades.
The Church also released the names of seven other priests who were similarly kicked out for abusing children without any public disclosures at all.
As is to be expected, the Diocese has cheered its own efforts at “transparency” while victims saw the effort as too little, too late.
“There is no excuse for a supposedly moral institution to wait 25 years to release a pedophile priest’s name,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” about clergy sexual abuse. He is representing three people who claims they were abused by Mr. Lara between the ages of 9 and 11. “Because of the church’s immoral behavior, dozens, if not hundreds, of children have probably been sexually abused by Father Lara, and their lives have been destroyed and their families’ lives have been destroyed.”
I agree with Garabedian, as this effort seems like the bare minimum the institution could possibly do. It’s all the more reason for this type of disclosure to be made mandatory, immediate, and overseen by an outside authority (even if it’s the government). The Church can’t be relief on to police itself.