It’s hardly a secret that the Catholic Church has enabled pedophile priests to have continued access to children even after leaders are made aware of their crimes. Many of those criminals have died. A handful have been prosecuted. Some may still be working in churches. But many of the rest?
They’ve just left. They’re in new jobs. They’ve escaped any kind of serious punishment for their alleged crimes because statute of limitations laws prevent victims from going after them. You would think they would at least be listed on a sex offender registry, and yet they’ve escaped that too. Which means they’re living in communities where even their neighbors may not be aware of their past.
Lindsay Schnell and Sam Ruland of USA Today have now published an article in which their team spoke to hundreds of those priests — and people literally close to them.
During its nine-month investigation, the USA TODAY Network tracked down last known addresses for nearly 700 former priests who have been publicly accused of sexual abuse. Then, 38 reporters knocked on more than 100 doors across the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Long Island, New York, with stops in Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis, Miami and more. They talked with accused priests, as well as neighbors, school officials, employers, church leaders and victims. They reviewed court records, social media accounts and church documents in piecing together a nationwide accounting of what happened after priests were accused of abuse, left their positions in the church and were essentially allowed to go free.
The results aren’t shocking. The ex-priests don’t want their alleged crimes made public, or they would just like to move on with their lives. Different community members, from teachers to a real estate agent who checks the sex offender registry before showing homes to prospective buyers, believe that these past offenses should always be shared with the public.
But some accused priests, like Roger Temme, 71, say that God’s forgiveness is enough:
When approached outside his home, Temme initially declined to comment, walking away before turning around and questioning why a reporter would be asking questions about the allegations against him.
“What happened 40 years ago is in the past,” he said. “The church has forgiven me and God has forgiven me.” He added, “I hope you feel good about your job.”
Notice that he didn’t say the victim forgave him.
Repentance doesn’t work if you’re not genuinely sorry, and a real apology doesn’t involve just quietly re-entering society hoping no one ever finds out about your past. States may have statutes of limitations on sex crimes, but justice has no expiration date.
(Image via Shutterstock)