After Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania released a grand jury report that identifies 301 predator priests, and shows that police allowed offending priests to walk away free for decades, and that the modest number of 1,000 victims the grand jury recounted suffer emotional, mental, and physical complications caused by the abuse throughout their lifetimes. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson investigated clergy sexual abuse in his state and documented 258 victims across the state’s three Roman Catholic dioceses. Both reports show that church leaders protected predators.
When abuse happens there is a ripple effect that not only influences that abused person’s life. The people that were abused live with those scars for the rest of their lives. The ripple effect of the abuse scars relationships for generations to come.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s Office recently documented 258 victims across the Nebraska’s three Roman Catholic dioceses. The pattern of behavior by church leaders and the police is similar. Predators were protected, not the children. The abuse continued for decades with no help from the church leaders or the police.
“The most troubling finding from this report is the fact that on numerous occasions, when there was an opportunity to bring justice to the victims, those in authority chose to place the reputation of the church above the protection of the children who placed their spiritual care in the hands of those in church authority. The depth of physical and psychological harm caused by the perpetrators, and the decades of failure by the church to safeguard so many child victims, is unfathomable.” Peterson reports.
Peterson said the statute of limitations has passed so the cases will not be prosecuted. He also says that some of the victims have died and because all but one of the predators is dead. “We have been unable to bring our own justice system to bear on these predators. That’s extremely frustrating.”
Peterson expressed hope saying that Senator Rich Pahls of Omaha is planning to present legislation in January 2022 to address problems identified through the investigation and said that he would support legislation to change Nebraska’s statute of limitation laws.
Peterson’s 182-page report shows that 57 church employees, 51 priests, 4 deacons, and 2 school teachers preyed on Nebraska’s children. Identified are 158 victims in the Archdiocese of Omaha, 97 in the Diocese of Lincoln, and 3 in the Diocese of Grand Island.
“In sum, we found the dioceses enabled clergy child sexual abuse by: transferring abusive priests to new parishes; taking no action to restrict their ministry or access to children; telling the families of victims not to report the abuse; and not reporting the abuse to law enforcement,” Peterson’s report says, much the same as Shapiro’s report said, showing a pattern of abuse that extended for decades.
“Thank God for the effort they put across. It’s going to open some eyes.” An abuse survivor, Stan Schulte of Lincoln, added that current church officials should step down. “If this were happening in the public school system, if principals knew about abuse by their teachers, that principal would be removed immediately”.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests coordinator, Melanie Sakoda said the report showed that the Catholic Church’s secrecy had “successfully helped to cover up crimes and keep victims silent for so long that they have no shot at seeing justice through the criminal courts”.
Peterson hopes that law enforcement will be vigilant to “engage as soon as possible going forward”. Community members say that nothing has been done though reports have been made both to the church and to the police.
For more about Shapiro’s Pennsylvania report see “Their word was golden”. How did church leaders go unnoticed for so long?
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