Catholic church's 'hidden predators' shows that it can't reform itself

Catholic church's 'hidden predators' shows that it can't reform itself
© Thinkstock

A grand jury report released in Pennsylvania last week detailed years of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy in six dioceses in that state. The report said that 301 priests abused more than 1,000 children since 1947.

Even more disturbing, the investigation concluded that the bishops “followed a playbook for concealing the truth.” Grand jurors believed that, even today, the bishops were still working hard to protect themselves and that there were more victims who have yet to come forward.

Governmental investigations in Ireland and Australia also found the same consistent pattern of cover up by top Catholic officials.


The Catholic Church is the largest organization in the world, and young people have been hurt by its clergy everywhere it operates. Catholic officials around the globe have covered up these crimes and hindered their prosecution.  

In the United States the Catholic Church has spent millions lobbying against changes to laws that would allow survivors to seek justice through the courts.

Sadly, the failure to eliminate predator friendly laws affects not just Catholic victims but prevents all survivors of child sexual abuse from holding perpetrators and their protectors accountable. In addition, the Catholic Church’s “hidden predators,” both those still in ministry and those who have been laicized, pose a threat to all children, not just those in Catholic parishes and schools.

The only recourse most survivors have for justice is to call on the government to expose the true extent of the problem, so that officials and the public can understand the necessity for legal reform.

Last week, SNAP and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York wrote to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, stating, in part, "It is long past time for the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a full-scale, nationwide investigation into the systemic rape and sexual violence, and cover-ups in the Catholic Church, and, where appropriate, bring criminal and/or civil proceedings against the hierarchy that enabled the violations."

Catholics and people of goodwill across the country who care about the safety of today’s children and the wellbeing of the survivors of these heinous crimes need to come together to take action. Together we can help put an end, once and for all, to the cover up of these terrible attacks on the innocent.

What can the public do? 

Everyone can write to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, at the U.S. Department of Justice, and join SNAP and CCR’s demand that the DOJ open an investigation. 

People beyond the state of Pennsylvania can write to their states' attorneys general and demand similar grand jury investigations in those jurisdictions. Voters can urge their representatives to repeal predator-friendly laws that prevent survivors from seeking justice in the courts; they can use their ballots to elect candidates who support this important reform.

Individuals also can support survivors publicly, by writing comments under online articles about the scandal or short letters to editors, outlining what they think should be done to help protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth. They can support victims privately by letting them know that they are believed, and that what happened was not their faults.

The process of holding the Catholic Church accountable for covering up sex crimes against children began with brave survivors having the courage to stand up and tell their truths. They did this in the courts, when they could, and in the media. Victims have been crying out for more than 30 years.

The next step is up to others, both Catholics in the pews and people everywhere, by making sure that their state and federal governments take a serious look at these criminal activities, and that laws protecting abusers and their enablers are changed.

We have been shown, quite clearly, over the past week that we cannot count on the Catholic Church to reform itself.

Melanie Jula Sakoda is on the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) board of directors and also serves as a secretary of the organization.