The more we read the just-released report by Florida state authorities into Catholic child sex crimes and cover ups, the more disappointed we are at Horowitz Law. Here are some of the reasons why:
—-Unlike reports issued in other states, Florida officials refused to make even one recommendation to reduce the chances of abuse and cover up in the future (neither for external reforms through the legislature nor internal church reforms).
—-The report misleadingly implied that one recently-adopted legal change (extending the criminal statute of limitations) was sufficient to prevent scandals like this in the future.
—-While 97 accused Florida predator priests are mentioned by name in the report, almost no details about them are given – no photos, work histories, last known whereabouts,
—-While dozens of accused priests from other states, who came to or were sent to Florida, are listed by name, almost no details about them are given, not even the names of the dioceses in which they offended or were ordained.
—-Almost no ‘enablers are mentioned by name, the non-offending church staff and supervisors who ignored suspicions or reports of abuse and/or hid those suspicions or reports from police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the press.
—-Only two child molesting clerics – Fr. Rocco D’angelo and Ernesto Garcia-Rubio – are examined in any depth.
In fairness, there are some positive parts of the report:
–It did list more than 170 accused child molesting Catholic clerics in Florida by name.
–It concluded what many of us have known for years, that “Florida was one of the states to where (accused predator) priests were routinely relocated.”
–It noted that sometimes, though not always, noting that sometimes Florida bishops were warned (by bishops elsewhere) of the clerics’ criminal pasts.
–It include the names of those pedophile priests from up north who came down here. (Some are notorious serial predators, like Romano Ferraro, now serving a life sentence in Massachusetts, and Norman Rogge, who may be the only priest who was put back into ministry twice, after two child sex abuse convictions.)
–At least one ‘enabler’ — Bishop (later Archbishop) Coleman Carroll of Miami – is named.
Sadly, throughout the document, nearly all other enablers remain concealed. When discussing the cover ups, the authors use the passive voice: “Law enforcement was not notified of the crimes.” Or the enablers are identified as institutions, not individuals: “.”
Maybe the most upsetting parts of the report, however, are one likely outcome and one glaring omission.
First, for wounded victims, there’s usually relief when long-hidden crimes and cover ups like this are revealed (especially if names and details of predators and enablers are disclosed).
For innocent children, however, there’s risk when revelations like this happen. The risk (as we explained in our earlier post) can be summed up in one word: complacency.
We tend to assume that once scandals have been publicized, those in charge are already taking steps to prevent future scandals. And of course, in the worlds of business, politics and non-profits, that often happens.
But the Catholic church is different. It’s an ancient, resilient, secretive kingdom headed exclusively by unelected, elderly, hand-picked “don’t rock the boat” men (the pope and his bishops) who hold their rarified positions in this rigid hierarchy until they die. People literally kneel before them, kiss their rings, and call them ‘your excellency,’ ‘your grace’ and similar titles. And neither their paychecks, their power, their prestige nor their perks are hurt when they perform poorly.
That’s NOT a recipe for reform. That’s a recipe for continued irresponsible behavior. And that’s still the practice, culture and climate in Catholicism.
(For more reasons to stay vigilant, avoid complacency and basically ignore the church hierarchy’s claim that ‘all’s now well,’ check out this report done by an independent non-profit).
The report should have been replete with sentences like these:
“We beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to keep calling us.”
“Disclosing such horror is tough, so we commend the brave survivors who have spoken up.”
“Our hearts ache that none of these selfish and callous clerics can be criminally charged.”
“Police and prosecutors are getting more aggressive and skilled at pursuing crimes, even ones that happened long ago. So please pick up the phone.”
“We know only a small minority of victims ever come forward, so no one should consider this a thorough document.”
These omissions, tragically, send precisely the wrong message to still-suffering victims who feel trapped in silence and hopelessness. That message is “All’s OK now. We don’t particularly care about your pain. And we’re not especially anxious to hear from you.”
Please know, however, that we at Horowitz Law feel differently. We are ALWAYS anxious to hear from those who hurt and who seek justice, healing and prevention.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in Florida. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest, clergyman or other lay employee of a Diocese or Archdiocese in Florida, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in Florida have legal options, but statutes of limitations will apply so do not delay in contacting us now. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide.