In July 2018, Pennsylvania’s attorney general released a stunning report about clergy sexual abuse in that state. It generated lots of attention and media coverage. The next morning, Florida’s then-attorney general said that she ordered a similar statewide inquiry here in the Sunshine State.
That was 18 months ago.
What progress has been made here? No one knows.
Last June, Florida’s current attorney general was asked that question. Her spokesperson said, “As this investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.”
We get that some secrecy is critical when law enforcement goes after potential criminals. But both of our AG’s (Pam Biondi, who started this probe, nor Ashley Moody, who heads it now) have been extraordinarily (and we believe irresponsibly) silent about the status of their investigation.
Neither have told Floridians anything that might help them protect themselves and their families from Catholic child molesters.
Fortunately, there’s more disclosure elsewhere.
In recent months, several state officials across the US have released reports about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
–In Colorado, they disclosed that 97 of the 166 victims in the state were sexually abused “after the Colorado dioceses were on notice that the priests were child sex abusers.” They also broke down the abusers by dioceses (22 in Denver, 19 in Pueblo and 2 in Colorado Springs).
–In Kansas, they revealed that 119 victims have contacted them “related to recent or past sexual abuse committed by clergy members” and state agents “have initiated 74 investigations in 33 different Kansas counties.”
–In Illinois, they revealed that bishops are STILL hiding the names of more than 500 clergy accused of abuse and “have deemed 26% (of all abuse reports) as ‘credible’, meaning 74% of the allegations were either not investigated, or were investigated but not (deemed) ‘substantiated.’”
Thank heavens at least SOME public officials are giving some crucial facts to those who elected them.
This information helps kids to be safer, parents to be vigilant, Catholics to be skeptical and employers to do more to avoid and oust predators. (For example, surely at least some headhunters, recruiters and human resources personnel in Illinois saw news coverage of these 500 accused but ‘under the radar’ clerics and are digging deeper into the past of former Catholic clerics who apply for jobs at their firms.)
Other attorneys general have gone further, not just giving information but taking action:
–Missouri’s AG referred 12 priests to local prosecutors that he believes could be pursued (despite the state’s dreadfully restrictive statute of limitations).
–Michigan’s AG has charged at least 7 priests (after having gotten 641 tips on her clergy abuse hotline, heard from 552 victims identified 270 alleged priest offenders, and seized 1.5 million paper documents and 3.5 million electronic documents – which were reviewed by 32 volunteers who put in over 1,400 hours at night and on weekends, according to the Detroit News).
So again, what’s up here in the Sunshine State?
Many are accustomed to officials in private institutions who refuse to be open about child sex abuse. But it’s harder to understand and accept PUBLICLY-elected officials in PUBLIC institutions, spending PUBLIC money who refuse to be open about child sex abuse.