Why aren't the priests in jail?

I found an interesting quote in SI about the steroid scandal in baseball:

“Since it is illegal for baseball players to buy and use steroids in the US, forget about the players’ union and the owners. Let the police take the action needed to clean up the game.”

While I’m not sure if steroid use is illegal, rape, molestation, and sex with minors certainly is. Why aren’t the police handling the Catholic priests who abuse children? Why aren’t they arrested and awaiting trial?

Sexual abuse against kids seems to be pretty hard to prosecute. Young children don’t generally make good witnesses on the stand.

There have also been quite a few stories recently of people who are now well into adulthood suddenly coming out with their stories of abuse. There might be issues with statutes of limitation in those cases.

I agree that people who break these laws should meet the criminal justice system, not just be ‘handled’ by their organizations.

I think a significant proportion of the cases which have come to light involve sexual contact with minors (i.e. persons under 18) who may or may not be below the age of consent in the relevant state. Thus they are not all criminal matters.

There will also be many cases in which victims or (if they are still young) their parents are not willing to co-operate with a prosecution.

There will be other cases where no report has been made to the prosecuting authorities (although there will now be fewer of those, as more dioceses not only adopt but implement a policy of reporting all credible allegations to the authorities).

In some cases, the abuse that’s come to light happened so long ago that the particular state’s statute of limitations prevents criminal prosecution.

  • Rick

And, many/most of the reports (to the church) were not passed on to the prosecutors. Since March or May (depending on the diocese), most of those reports have now been given to the prosecutors, but those prosecutors’ offices now have to set up a group or task force to discover which ones can be prosecuted. Since manpower is generally allocated on expected crimes, having a load of a dozen old cases dropped in their laps means that it will take time to track down the principals and gather information to make a presentation to a grand jury.

I suspect that this fall we will begin seeing more trials opening up.

Some are.

The case of defrocked priest John Geoghan in Boston is believed to be the start of the national scandal we’re having currently. He is serving 10 years for innappropriately touching a boy in a swimming pool in 1991. He had over 80 civil cases pending against him at the time, but the criminal cases are much harder to put together because of the statute of limitations like the others said. I do believe though that all the pedophiles - those actually preying on children - will go or have gone to jail. Nobody on the books now has been excused.

Child molestation is more often than not suffered in silence - the victims are warned not to tell, “or else…” Part of the crime is making the kids themselves co-conspirators in it, or feel somehow responsible for it. So the victims have to get past that first, as well as the shame and humiliation, in order to talk openly about what happened. It can carry over well into adulthood and that’s one reason for the delayed reporting of the crimes.

Sexual abuse cases are often hard to prove, especially if they happened 20 years ago. What if the only witnesses to the act are the accused and the alleged victim? And of course, even if it could be proven, there is still the statute of limitations.

It doesn’t hurt that the RCC has a lot of money which buys them lots of legal help.

How much discretion to prosecute or not exists in the US; many cases of sexual assault don’t even make it to court here because the likelihood of obtaining a conviction is perceived to be extremely low.

I’m open to correction here, but I don’t think the church pays for the defence to criminal prosecutions.

Probably the same as anywhere else, but I’m not a lawyer. (an interested observer I guess you’d call it.) There needs to be more than a child’s testimony to obtain a conviction, and with the testimony itself being so traumatic many people - parents - had opted out of putting the kids through that. But the complaints stay on record. Down the road if other charges surface against the same person, chances of conviction improve. I think this is true of any sexual assault case.

The scandal here was that the Archdiocese wasn’t cooperating with authorities or removing these people from the priesthood when they should have, so up until last year the Church was very much an adversary to the victims. But previous complaints remained. Nowadays here in Boston anyway the climate is way favorable to the victims and ripe for convictions, as far back as the statute of limitations allows.

It has provided defense in the past. I suppose they would pay for it, if the Church legal team isn’t handling it. They have to provide something in the case of a falsely accused priest of course, and I’m not sure how they will handle a case with overwhelming evidence against a predator…or even slight evidence…but they have the responsibility to cooperate with authorities, first. They also have responsibilites to people in the priesthood, their employees. Haven’t seen anything lately that talks about legal procedures, but if I find something I’ll post it.

Consult the Great Queen Spider!

[sub](Er, sorry. After tonight’s South Park, I couldn’t resist!)[/sub]

I think part of the problem is the secular authorities weren’t told about the abuse. I’m a devout Episcopalian. My church’s chain of command structure is similar to the Catholic church’s, which means (loosely) that priests answer to bishops who answer to archbishops. In other words, if a congregation has a problem with their priest, they can go to his bishop, the equivalent of his manager. As I understand things, when the abuse was reported to some bishops, instead of investigating, they chose to handle the abuse within the church’s structure rather than go to secular authority. This conflict over whether secular government has authority over the church goes back at least as far as Thomas a Beckett, and is one of the reasons the King or Queen of England is also head of the Church of England.

Also, please remember that at least some of us who were raised within a church do ascribe a certain moral authority to our priests, and yes, a moral superiority. In my case, it’s because my priest’s full time job is serving God; mine is designing databases. We don’t want to think they could do something as despicable as abusing children and breaking the very vows which define their lives. Consequently, I’m going to have a much harder time believing my priest abused a child than my neighbor (although that may not be as true as it once was:( ).

That, by the way, is what really infuriates me about this whole scandal. Not only were children abused, but people’s genuine and real faith was abused by Cardinal Law and others within the Catholic Church who chose to protect the shepherds and leave the sheep to the wolves. Abuse of children, compounded by abuse of authority, what a combination.


tee wrote:

“I do believe though that all the pedophiles - those actually preying on children”


“tee wrote: ‘I do believe though that all the pedophiles - those actually preying on children’ explain.”

I’m not tee, but I’m guessing (s)he is distinguishing between priests having sex with older teenagers, where reasonable people differ on the issue of what is consensual, and the clearer cases where a priest sexually abused a younger, especially a pre-pubescent, child.

then tee should have said so. saying a pedophile is a child molester is like saying gay male == likes anal sex. A large percentage, perhaps, but not all. And some people like anal sex who are not gay males. pedophile != molester.

as a straight male, currently on a long bout of forced celibacy, does that make me asexual? (well, some bozos would say it made me gay but i assume everyone here knows better.)

i have a vested interest in everybody keeping clear that action != attraction, you dont know how many people think i’m gay or asexual simply because i dont get any.

Ludovic: Huh? Even among the stupidest, most bombastic boys I was forced to grow up with, neither I nor anyone in my boat was ever called “gay” because of our lack of success with girls. The only times “gay” was used to mean anything other than homosexual was when it referred to effeminate behavior or a lack of physical strength. (In fact, once when I made a rather cheap and lecherous pass at a girl, she countered by calling me “fag” – she called me something similar to “gay” because I was behaving like a rutting heterosexual! I still haven’t figured that one out.)