Fifteen Eighty Four

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Marci Hamilton on the Philadelphia Archdiocese

Marci A. Hamilton

The Philaldelphia Daily News ran a must-read article today: “Disgraced, Defrocked… and Protected.” Reporter William Bender did a great job of investigating the sad legacy of covering up child sex abuse – predators live within our midst and we have no idea where they are.

While this particular story is about the Philadelphia Archdiocese, every entity that hides abuse — public or private, religious or corporate – causes the same harm.

The story focuses on the Philadelphia Archdiocese, where the Archdiocese accounts for 60 priests known to have abused children as follows: 15 dead, 20 in a retirement home in Delaware County, and 25 in unnamed locations. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Grand Jury Report of abuse within the Archdiocese established that the Archdiocese intentionally hid the identities of priests who sexually abused children.

So the reason we do not know where the 25 are? Because they were never reported to authorities and the statutes of limitations have run.

The Archdiocese, without saying it has a legal duty to hide their whereabouts, coyly opines that private companies do not normally release information about past employees, so why should they? Let me think about this for just a moment: TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM KNOWN PREDATORS! Child predators do not stop seeking out children as they get older.

As a matter of fact, there is no reason to believe that being in a nursing home prevents a predator (absent serious disability) from seeking out children. That means that the Philadelphia Archdiocese is responsible for 45 predators that pose serious risk to children. They defend themselves by saying they report abusers to local authorities when a defrocked predator moves into a jurisdiction and they also inform the local diocese. Since authorities can do little but wait for the next victim to come forward (usually decades later) and the dioceses have proven themselves utterly incapable of keeping predators from finding more victims, that offers very cold comfort.

As I argue in Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, as a society, our only choice here is to lift the statutes of limitation if we are ever to identify the perpetrators among us. As the law now stands in Pennsylvania and most states, they happily exploit the benefit of anonymity these arbitrary deadlines afford.

The most memorable line in the article is a fork-tongued quote from Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell: “It [statute of limitations legislative reform] does nothing to prevent sexual abuse of children. . ..” She knows better — such reform is our only legal weapon to “out” the predators living next door.
The Daily News finds addresses and keeps a list of the locations de-frocked priests here.

About The Author

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (2007) and Justice Denied: What America Must Do To Protect Its Children (2008). She is one...

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