Despite two recent scandals involving child sex abuse by priests, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops voted to make only minor changes to the church’s abuse policies at a gathering in Bellevue, Washington on Thursday.
“The changes are paltry, belated and largely insignificant,” David Clohessy, Executive Director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told Reuters before the vote.
“Unfortunately, like almost everything the hierarchy does on abuse, there are no penalties whatsoever for ignoring or concealing child sex crimes. Bishops continue to try to depict this crisis as being isolated cases in isolated places, rather than what it is: a truly widespread, ongoing crisis.”
The church adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 after a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Globe uncovered a long history of abuse and cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy. More than 5,000 priests in the US have been accused of sex crimes involving children, according to BishopAccountability.org.
Earlier this month a bishop in Kansas City apologized to parishioners for failing to take action against a priest suspected of sexual improprieties. Rev. Shawn Ratigan was arrested on May 19 on child pornography charges. A Catholic school principal had sent a memo to diocesan officials detailing her concerns about Ratigan a year before. In Philadelphia, a grand jury accused Cardinal Justin Rigali of allowing at least 37 priests accused of improprieties to remain in the ministry. Both church leaders failed to report the allegations to sex abuse “review boards” set up under the 2002 rules.