Every single Catholic bishop in California was hit with a lawsuit yesterday alleging a massive conspiracy by Church officials who want to cover up sexual abuse by clergymen.
The plaintiff is Thomas Emens, and he says he was sexually abused as a child by a priest. He is asking the court to force the Church to release records on clergy abuse, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit isn’t seeking anything extreme — indeed, the Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed exactly the sort of details Emens hopes to see in California. He and his attorneys just want transparency. It’s about safety, not persecution.
The filing Tuesday in Los Angeles by Thomas Emens claims a civil conspiracy among church officials to cover up clergy sexual assault and move offending priests to other parishes.
Emens said at a news conference that he was abused for two years starting in 1978 when he was 10 years old by Monsignor Thomas Joseph Mohan. The priest, who is deceased, arrived at St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church in Anaheim in the early 1970s from Chicago, according to the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit is to find justice — to get the clerics at the top to come clean and tell the truth,” Emens said.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said the goal of the so-called nuisance lawsuit is to force the church to reveal the names of all priests accused of child molestation. He said church documents would reveal a playbook among bishops and other officials to protect offending clergy by keeping files under wraps and moving the priests across the country and, in some cases, out of the U.S.
Yet at a time when you’d think the Catholic Church would want to take victims seriously and provide important information, they are continuing to ignore the outcry.
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops, which oversees the state’s 12 dioceses, didn’t directly address the lawsuit in a statement Tuesday afternoon. Instead the group pointed out the “positive steps taken by California dioceses over the past 15 years to protect children and young people from abuse.”
Reforms implemented in 2003′s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People include “fingerprinting and background checks for priests, staff and any volunteers working around children and young people,” the statement said.
Every diocese has also instituted programs to train students and staff in identifying and preventing abuse, the group said.
This is deflection to the highest degree. Instead of addressing the lawsuit, or admitting the need for more transparency on these issues, the Church has continued to tout its “successes” from years ago that clearly haven’t been that great. Certainly not for all victims. There is still a huge amount of work to be done in this area, and when Church officials ignore that, they show just how out of touch they really are.