The Cover-Up Continues

A priest credibly accused of ritual satanic sexual abuse is living and ministering at a well-known, well-respected institution that houses hundreds of vulnerable boys and girls, and officials do nothing.

Those who have become familiar with the fate of persons sexually abused by priests know that victims experience the indifference (or worse) of Church authorities to their abuse as a tremendous betrayal—something that does more harm than the abuse itself. They experience the Church more as Judas than the Bride of Christ. Indifference, dismissal, cover-up, and protection of the predator are common. Many books, such as Leon Podles’ Sacrilege, document that such has been the response to victims of priestly sexual abuse for nearly a century and perhaps longer.

Sadly, these deplorable responses are still with us, and even the involvement of lay people in the process has not led to the changes that are absolutely necessary for a Church that claims to be Christ’s Church.

For over a year, I have been working closely with a woman (I will call her Kate) who back in the early seventies, when she was 9 and 10 years of age, was subjected to ritual satanic sexual abuse by her parish priest. The abuse involved the priest inserting sacred objects into Kate’s vagina and making her do the same to another young girl. The abuse took place in the church basement, often several times a week, for two years. There is more, but that is all you need to know.

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Like many victims, Kate told no one at the time because of shame and fear. Again, like many victims, she only made a report to diocesan officials when her daughter reached the age she was when she was abused. Victims generally come forward not on their own behalf but in order to protect other innocent persons from being abused. 

As often happens, diocesan officials brushed off Kate’s charges because the priest was so well-liked and respected (shades of McCarrick)—he could not have done such evil deeds. Yes, the diocese claimed it did an “investigation,” but it was one in name only since they never interviewed Kate nor made any attempt to contact the other girl who was abused at the same time. That all happened in 2003. Greatly wounded by the disbelief and dismissal, Kate decided to move on with her life.

A few years ago, the state attorney general’s office of the state in which the abuse took place reopened their investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Kate called the AG’s office to ask if her case was being investigated. She was told no materials with her name on it had been turned over by the diocese, although she had submitted a very substantial stack of reports to the diocese in 2003. 

With the help of a wonderful bishop in a different diocese, the one where she now resides, she recomposed pages of “memories” of what happened and a long document about the impact the abuse had had on her life. She resubmitted them to the diocese where the abuse took place. The bishop in that diocese never contacted Kate and simply wrote her a cold and dismissive letter wherein he stated that he was satisfied that the “investigation” done in 2003 was accurate.  

The bishop also indicated in his letter that he had not turned Kate’s materials over to the AG’s office since they had only wanted materials since 1978. Kate immediately called the AG’s office. They said that claim was false; that they had made it abundantly clear that they wanted “everything.” Moreover, the bishop had published a public letter lauding himself for his cooperation with the AG’s office and claiming he had given them everything in the diocese’s files since the mid 1950s (he didn’t mention that several subpoenas were necessary to elicit that “cooperation”).

To our great distress, we learned that Kate’s predator was living at, saying Mass at, and hearing confessions at a well-known, well-respected institution that houses hundreds of vulnerable boys and girls. We immediately called the director of the institution (a childhood friend of Kate’s) who was shocked that the diocese had not shared Kate’s accusations with him; he promised to get back to her. He did not. Instead, we got a call from a lawyer representing the institution who told us that they had been assured by the bishop that not only had the diocese done a thorough investigation of the charges but so had the Attorney General’s office, and no evidence was found to support the accusations. 

Again, Kate immediately called the AG’s office to verify what she had been told earlier—that the archdiocese had never turned over any files that included her charges, and thus no investigation had been done. The investigator with whom she spoke said he would be happy to speak with the institution’s lawyer and clarify things for him. When Kate conveyed that offer to the institution’s lawyer, he said he saw no need to contact the investigator.

What to do now? A priest who Kate says has engaged in ritual satanic sexual abuse lives at and is employed by an institution that houses vulnerable young people.

We decided to contact the board of trustees of the institution. Phone messages left for the chairman of the board at her mobile number were responded to by the lawyer we had spoken with earlier. We expected no cooperation from him, so we sent registered letters to all 18 trustees of the institution to inform them of Kate’s charges (with full documentation) and of the conflicting statements given by the bishop about whether or not he had turned over Kate’s materials to the AG’s office. And, of course, we informed them that the AG’s office said they never received files, nor was an investigation done.

After three weeks passed, another phone message was left for the chairman of the board. A different lawyer responded to that message and reiterated that the board accepted the bishop’s assurances that thorough investigations were done by the diocese and the AG’s office. I asked the lawyer if he was not concerned about the conflicting statements made by the bishop and the denial of the AG’s office that any investigation was done. He told me he would pass on to the board any information I wanted them to have but said to this point he had heard nothing new.

I pointed out to him that essentially the board was accusing Kate of lying. Had they speculated about her motives? What could they be? Kate wants to have the veracity of her accusations acknowledged, the predator removed from the priesthood, and young people protected. She is not asking for any recompense.

Clearly, the behavior of the bishop is suspect. Why the conflicting statements? Why does he say one thing and the AG’s office another? It would be very simple to call the AG’s office and determine if they had in fact received Kate’s materials and if an investigation had been done. Why won’t the board do that one thing? Where is their sense of fiduciary responsibility? Would they want their sons and daughters to be “ministered to” by a priest accused of ritual satanic sexual abuse? How can they sleep at night?

It is hard not to think that something really big is being covered up—that the diocese hasn’t done a thorough investigation because it fears/knows what it will find: perhaps, that the priest has many such accusations against him but that the diocese has protected him? Sadly, that is a common story within the Church. 

Kate and I are both thoroughly demoralized. I was confident to the point of nearly 100 percent certainty that at least one member of the board who read about the horrendous ritual satanic sexual abuse Kate suffered would insist that a call be made to the AG’s office. Indeed, there is nothing stopping any single board member from making such a call.

Are lay people still so blindly accepting of anything told them by a bishop, even when it is manifestly extremely suspicious if not patently false? Are they not concerned that they are enabling and participating in a cover-up—at the expense of vulnerable children?

To this point Kate and I have not wanted to implicate the board in a cover-up. That reluctance is quickly fading. We are now searching for a private investigator who could help us locate and sensitively approach the other young woman involved; a corroborating witness would make all the difference. This should not be our job, but those whose job it is refuse to do it.

Certainly, our trust is in the Lord, our Savior who sees and knows all things. He has promised that unrepentant evildoers will not remain unpunished forever. We know He hears the cries of the poor. 

Holy Week was very hard on Kate. It is some consolation that she can truly enter into the sufferings of Christ at the hand of Satan and his minions, that is, of the “authorities” of the Church and the “crowd.” And unfortunately, both she and Christ have a Judas who has betrayed their trust. 

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

  • Janet E. Smith

    Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., is a retired professor of moral theology.

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