For more than a year now, ever since the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, several state attorneys general have been investigating their own Catholic dioceses, looking into allegations of sexual abuse covering a span of decades.
Missouri’s AG Eric Schmitt announced yesterday that he’s now referring 12 priests’ names for prosecution (since, by law, he can’t prosecute them himself) from the list of 163 priests accused of wrongdoing. About half of them have died since their alleged crimes. For many others, the statute of limitations has run out. Another 16 were already referred to local prosecutors. All told, Missouri may be going after more priests than any other state in the country… so far.
In one case being referred for prosecution, a priest is reported to have shared a bed on “numerous instances” with young children before the diocese placed him on leave in 2016, according to the report.
In another, a priest was allowed to return to ministry after a 2015 allegation of “detailed unwanted and inappropriate hugging and kissing of an elementary school aged child.” The priest apparently left the country this year, the report says.
Some victims’ advocates say Schmitt hasn’t gone far enough. He may be prosecuting predator priests, but he has not yet gone after the Church leaders who knew about their crimes but never did anything about it. It’s unclear if there’s a clear path for him (and enough evidence) to pursue those charges in court.
Still, defenders of the Church are doing everything they can to deflect attention from the religion. American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer, as usual, just blamed homosexuality.
Looks like all, or nearly all, the abusers were homosexual males. https://t.co/oGOwLGf1j0
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer) September 14, 2019
Kudos to attorney Andrew Seidel for this perfect response:
Dude can't even spell "priest" pic.twitter.com/J0ZN26VIPI
— Andrew L. Seidel (@AndrewLSeidel) September 14, 2019
Schmitt also offered recommendations to the Catholic Church to mitigate this problem moving forward. They’re common sense, but they require the Church to be more transparent and proactive about the problems within their own ranks. They also require the Church to take direction from a state attorney general. So don’t expect them to do anything anytime soon.