When Patrick McSorley was 12 years old, his father committed suicide. Father John J. Geoghan, who has been accused of molesting more that 130 young boys, knew the McSorley family from a parish he was transferred out of six years before.
Upon learning of the family’s tragedy, he traveled to their home to console McSorley’s schizophrenic mother and take her young son out for ice cream.
Geoghan’s consoling allegedly turned to leg patting and genital fondling. When he dropped off the shaken boy at home, he instructed McSorley to keep what had taken place a secret.
According to an article in the Boston Globe, dated Jan. 6, Geoghan said, “We’re very good at keeping secrets.’
Geoghan is right. The Roman Catholic Church is very good at keeping secrets. It is understood by any practicing Catholic that embarrassing the church is a cardinal sin. Secrecy breeds doubt, which can only be cured by truth.
The Roman Catholic Church went to great lengths to prevent public knowledge of its problems. The Archdiocese of Boston spent more than $10 million to settle about 50 lawsuits against Geoghan. Cardinal Bernard F. Law merely moved him from parish-to-parish each time evidence of his alleged sexual tendencies surfaced.
Under laws in many states, clergymen, unlike other caregivers, are not required to report incidents of molestation within the church to police. Thus, multitudes of sexual abuse cases are not reported or prosecuted.
Law knew of Goeghan’s predatory sexual habits as early as 1984, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the church finally “defrocked’ Geoghan. Perhaps if the church were more concerned with the well-being of some of its most innocent and unsuspecting parishioners rather than public image, they would have removed him and others from the priesthood long ago.
The Vatican has only encouraged secrecy. Rules declaring the handling of pedophilia accusations against priests subject to secrecy were quietly published in the Holy See’s official gazette, only to become public in the recently printed 2001 yearbook of Vatican documents. Under these new rules church officials worldwide are ordered to inform the Vatican of such cases and that only priests should handle said cases in church tribunals.
This demand for secrecy to keep the church from embarrassment is why some Cardinals have suppressed allegations of molestation by priests such as Geoghan.
Sexual abuse is a crime and should be treated as such. Thus, all cases of suspected abuse should be turned over to the civil authorities.
There must be an end to the secrecy. It is time for truth to come out and doubt to be erased.
The Vatican should retract the rules concerning accusations of pedophilia against priests to secrecy and should support a change in state laws, requiring clergymen to report incidents of molestation to police. It is the responsibility of state legislatures to amend these laws.