US justice officials are well behind Australia and other countries.

October 18, 2018. Today it was learned that the US Justice Department has finally launched an investigation into the sex abuse of children and the cover up of those crimes in the dioceses of Pennsylvania. This is a long overdue and significant development.  It should lead to a nationwide probe of every diocese and religious order in the US, especially where the documentation and evidence is similar, if not more damning, than Pennsylvania. This includes several states where nearly full sets of church documents have been court ordered released through civil courts and church bankruptcies. There are now over a million pages of abuse files that have been made public across the United States. The pattern and practice by several generations of US bishops of transferring or, more recently, concealing sex offenders has been overwhelmingly established. It is a nationwide fact and it needs to be investigated as a nationwide problem. Countries like Australia, in a five year Royal Commission, have done so, and it has led to the fullest forensic investigation of the church and accountability of those responsible for the cover up of sex crimes to date.

Of particular concern for the DOJ should be the documented practice of transferring sex offenders by bishops and religious order provincials across state and international boundaries, as well as the transport of children across state lines for the purposes of committing sex crimes. Some of these cases could potentially still be prosecuted, depending on federal and state statutes.

Perhaps most importantly, however, has been a largely hidden dimension of the cover up that has never been investigated: so called church run “treatment” facilities within and outside the US where offenders have been sent and then reassigned. Instead of reporting clergy to authorities, bishops have, essentially, laundered them through these facilities, doing so to deliberately evade investigation, prosecution and public notification.  There has been no investigation of these facilities and their coordinated deployment and use by the US bishops. Centers exist in several states, including Missouri, Maryland and New Mexico. Canada also has church operated centers where US offenders have been secretly moved. The Catholic church has dozens of them operating around the globe.

As far back as 2004, SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, warned the DOJ about these facilities, provided the DOJ with documentation and survivors called for an investigation. That was 14 years ago. Hundreds of offenders might have been prosecuted had the DOJ investigated.  As news surfaced in 2007 of SNAP’s earlier request for an investigation, at least one major church treatment center shredded their files and all the criminal evidence with it.

That is why the DOJ investigation in one state, although welcome, has to be rapidly followed by a coordinated national effort to investigate across the US and around the globe by international authorities.

Peter Isely
Survivor and ECA Member and Spokesperson,
414-429-7259 (mobile)

Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) is a worldwide organization of survivors and human rights activists who compel the Roman Catholic Church to end clergy abuse, especially child sexual abuse, in order to protect children and to seek justice for victims. ECA assembly members represent over 18 countries and 4 continents.