Between 2011 and 2013, 936 allegations of
sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy were reported. According to the 2013 report from the US Conference
of Catholic Bishops, more than 40% of these victims were between the ages of ten and fourteen.
Then, hidden reports of pedophilia started to emerge from as far back as the 1940s.
In 2014, Pope Francis revealed that as many as 1 in 50 priests is a pedophile.
How was the illicit activity of a 2000-year-old organization, with 2.2 billion members, overlooked
for so long? And whose interest did it really have in mind – the safety of its victims,
or the image of the Church? In 1984 the Catholic clergy made headlines
with the case of Father Gilbert Gauthe in Louisiana.
During Father Gauthe’s 11 years in the church, he molested at least 37 boys in 4 parishes.
Some victims were silenced using threats to hurt their family. These types of threats
and manipulation became common practice in the church for decades to come.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the case of Father Gauthe may have gone unnoticed
were it not for reporter Jason Berry’s discovery of the cover-up.
Gauthe was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 34 criminal
counts. But since then, around 848 priests have been
defrocked – 384 of these occurring in just 2 years.
But letters addressed to Catholic bishops in the 1950s show that priest molestation
of children was recognized over 70 years ago. Former Catholic Priest John J. Geoghan [Gay-gun]
has become the inspiration for 2016 Oscar nominated movie ‘Spotlight’. His story
is a typical example of the Church’s cover-up operation. 1962 – While assigned to Blessed Sacrament,
Rev. Anthony Benzevich allegedly told church officials that junior priest Geoghan was bringing
boys into his bedroom. He denied this allegation at the time, but in 1995 admitted to having
molested 4 boys during his assignment years. 1966 – Geoghan was assigned to Bernard’s
Parish in Concord. He was mysteriously transferred after 7 months but church records offered
no explanation for his reassignment. 1968 – A man complained to church authorities
that he had caught Geoghan molesting his son. As a result, The Church sent him to Seton
Institute in Baltimore for treatment for his pedophilia.
Early 1970s – Parishioner Joanne Mueller accused Geoghan of molesting her four young
sons. Mueller informed Rev. Paul E. Miceli and he asked her to keep quiet. The church
later reached a settlement. 1974 – The church moved Geoghan to St Andrew’s
Parish in Jamaica Plain 1980 – Geoghan admitted to abusing seven
boys and was placed on sick leave three days later, before being ordered to undergo psychoanalysis
and psychotherapy. 1984 – The church removed him from the parish
after complaints that he was molesting children. He was then assigned to St Julia’s Parish
in Weston where he was put in charge of three youth groups, including alter boys. Geoghan’s story of abuse, reassignment,
and cover-ups continued right up to his retirement in 1993. It wasn’t until 1998 that he was
defrocked. What were the church’s incentives for protecting
such a horrific man and allowing so many young boys to be abused? Legislation dating as far back as 1517 states
that the Church’s highest priority is preserving its image, finances, and property.
In the early 2000s Texan Lawyer Daniel Shea uncovered a confidential record from the Vatican,
dated to 1962. The document states that all those involved in sex abuse – including
victims and witnesses – were committed to total and perpetual silence, with automatic
excommunication if they revealed the abuse to the authorities.
The power of the Catholic Church means that it can easily silence witnesses and victims
– often by compensating them for their troubles. Some young victims have even claimed they
thought being abused was part of being an altar boy.
In 1992 victim Phil Saviano tried to build up a case to take his molester and the church
to court. The church responded with an offer of a $15,500 payment if he agreed to stay
quiet. In 2014 the Associated Press announced that
between 2004 and 2013 the Church had spent just under $3 million in costs related to
abuse allegations. 32 years after the first story of abuse was
reported, has the church absolved itself? Critics like law professor Lauren Carasik
claim that the church must fully answer for its past failures, and that the Vatican must
fully cooperate with prosecutors to seek accountability for abusers. Despite this, Pope Francis has claimed that
‘no one else has done more’ to tackle sexual abuse than the Catholic Church.
He has a zero tolerance policy towards pedophiles in the Church. He has promised to expel all
pedophiles from the priesthood. And in 2015, he set up a tribunal to investigate bishops
who failed to prevent child abuse taking place in their dioceses.
But before they fully cooperate and handover all their secret past abusers, it will be
difficult to believe him – and even more difficult to rebuild the trust within the