How the Catholic Church’s hierarchy makes it difficult to punish sexual abusers

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2022 | Catholic Church

There’s an old adage, “A fish rots from the head down.” Google tells us the phrase means, “When an organization or state fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.” This is significant when we consider what this means within the archdiocese and how the Catholic Church’s hierarchy makes it difficult to punish sexual abusers. So, let’s consider the so-called leadership of the US Catholic church.

Archdioceses are the most prominent Catholic jurisdictions, with headquarters predominantly in large metropolitan areas. In the US, there are six archdioceses currently led by ‘cardinals,’ the highest office in the church, just below the pope in the church hierarchy. One would think of all the Catholic officials in the US; these six individuals would have been vetted most carefully and proven to be most proactive regarding children’s safety and the most “open and transparent.”

Think again. Consider these easily-verified facts about each of the heads of a US archdiocese:

  • Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory of Washington DC was held in contempt of court by a judge and forced to pay a $2,000 fine for refusing to turn over records about Fr. Raymond Kownacki, a priest accused of abusing and impregnating a teenager and performing the abortion himself.
  • Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago may be the only prelate, as best SNAP can tell, who collects information about religious order child molesters but hides it. Last year, the Sun-Times reported that Cupich is getting information about all abusive religious order clerics who are or were in the Chicago area but refuses to share those names publicly or add them to his ‘accused’ abusers list on the archdiocesan website.
  • Just four years ago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, secretly kept two priests with credible sexual abuse allegations in active ministry.
  • Timothy M. Dolan of New York kept two credibly accused child molesting clerics on the job within the last two years. One faced seven accusers. The other faced two accusers, one of whom was paid a six-figure settlement.
  • Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston has “left off” more than 160 names of proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesting clerics from his ‘credibly accused’ list.
  • Joseph W. Tobin of Newark refuses to let parents, parishioners, and the public know where he is keeping at least four proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesting clerics.
  • Other US cardinals are retired, including Roger Mahony of Los Angeles (See our recent blog about him) and Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC. According to the Washington Post, “Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick and reported them to the Vatican in 2004, church officials confirmed, despite portraying himself since last summer as unaware of any complaints surrounding McCarrick.”

So, when you hear about abuse cover-ups by the bishop of Sacramento, the archbishop of New Orleans, or others scattered across the Catholic hierarchy, remember that these men are just following the lead of the men above them.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a member of a religious organization, contact us today at 844-291-9022  or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.