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Pray the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Releases Church Abuse Report

Pray the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Releases Church Abuse Report
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Friday, 29 June 2018 12:07 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Ahh! Summer. The time of year for ballgames, barbeques, and the cover-up of a cover-up.

That’s right. Just when it seemed like no one was paying attention, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sneakily issued an injunction prohibiting the release of a sweeping 800-page grand jury report detailing sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses.

In allowing the child sexual abuse scandal to once again avoid the light of day, thereby victimizing the victims anew, the Court surely had good reason. Right?

Uhhh, no.

Actually, there was no reason at all. In fact, not only didn’t they originally explain their bizarre ruling, but in an unusual move, none of the Justices signed their names. How’s that for guts?

In a two-paragraph, six-line ruling, the court simply stated that it found in favor of plaintiffs who were fighting to keep the report sealed.

And who are the people or institutions that don’t believe sunshine would be the best antiseptic to help heal wounds of the past?

Well, we don’t know that, either. The plaintiffs’ names are also secret.

Some say the “fix” is in. But that’s wrong. The system isn’t fixed. It’s broken.

Several points in this travesty of justice:

1)Sure, we don’t officially know who sued for the injunction. But we can narrow it down by asking the most basic question: who benefits from burying the report?

Maybe it’s Big Bird, the neighbor’s dog, or the tooth fairy. But probably not.

A few commonsense guesses: the Church itself; abuser priests past the statute of limitations not wanting to expose themselves; and those who enabled and covered up the crimes.

Perception is reality. And here’s the reality: given widespread public anticipation of the grand jury report, the vast majority (correctly or not) are blaming the Catholic Church.

Add in the Church’s long and well-documented history of cover-ups, and it’s easy to see why such a belief isn’t conspiratorial. Quite the opposite, to not think the Church was responsible, directly or indirectly, would raise eyebrows.

The smart move would have been to strongly endorse the report’s release while strenuously opposing the plaintiffs’ actions. If for no other reason, such a tactic would be rooted in self-preservation, since the report being blocked brings the Church even more scorn, while the plaintiffs get everything they want without a scratch.

2) Just this week, the Court finally expounded on its decision. It stated that it blocked the report because it infringed on their “right to reputation.”

Not so fast.

True, Pennsylvania is one of the few states that recognizes the right of reputation (though the U.S. Constitution does not). And to be fair, if the whole point of blocking the report is to keep one’s name out of the public eye, then keeping the plaintiff’s names confidential is understandable.

But this is a grand jury. Its job is not to adjudicate, but simply to investigate. And that it did, conducting a two-year investigation on an unprecedented scale.

It is not uncommon for grand jury reports to be publicly released, so there is no problem there. And the scope of abuse is on such an immense scale; lasted so long; was covered up so aggressively with charade after charade; and victimized so many (both the actual victim and his family), that there should have been zero reluctance to make the grand jury’s findings completely transparent. The failure to do so has compounded the public’s frustration exponentially, and the Church has been left reeling.

3) This author is a fierce defender of individual rights, but sees no correlation between releasing the report and reputations being damaged. It’s not like the average Joe off the street is being named. Those who are referenced, while innocent until proven guilty, have obviously been involved in some substantial way, or they wouldn’t be in the report.

Remember, the grand jury isn’t pronouncing guilt; it is merely releasing the results of its investigation. Just as someone whose name becomes public when indicted, those mentioned are innocent until proven otherwise. The grand jury is simply documenting that person’s relationship with the issue.

4) While we’re on the subject of “right to reputation,” it seems that the Court forgot about the damaged reputations of some other folks — namely, the victims. In many cases, especially from decades ago when Church leaders commanded more respect, many victims were summarily dismissed by pastors and bishops, being told that they were imagining things.

Not only was appropriate action rarely taken, but in many cases, victims and their families were discouraged from taking any additional steps and going public.

Due process shouldn’t be reserved for a select few. So why is it being so callously denied to those who most deserve it?

5) There have been many successful prosecutions of offenders, but many others have gotten away scot-free because of the statute of limitations. That, combined with cover-ups reaching the high levels (such as with Cardinal Bernard Law) makes releasing such a report so incredibly necessary.

Indictments may follow. But much more important, publicizing the grand jury’s findings would allow victims the long-awaited chance to tell their stories. From ridicule to vindication in front of the world’s spotlight, the ability to explain what really occurred would prove to be the single-best tonic for alleviating the pain — and getting on with one’s life. Let’s pray that it happens.

*****

The Church is at a crossroads. It can continue to defend the indefensible, drag its feet, and watch its flock dwindle.

Or it can tackle the obstacles head-on, admitting mistakes and renewing its commitment to purge its ranks of criminals and predators, starting with the push to release the findings. The more public pressure that is generated means the more likely it is the Church will respond.

As a human, a parent, and yes, a faithful Catholic, I implore the Church, for God's sake, to end the preying, and start the praying. After all, it's the most Catholic thing to do.

Otherwise, one’s parish might as well be called Our Lady Of Perpetual Obfuscation.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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Freind
The Church is at a crossroads. It can continue to defend the indefensible, drag its feet, and watch its flock dwindle.
pennsylvania, supreme court, catholic chruch
1033
2018-07-29
Friday, 29 June 2018 12:07 PM
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