In the wake of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin’s conviction for failing to report a known pedophile priest to police, the princes of the Catholic Church are under increasing scrutiny. Cardinal George Pell of Australia and the Vatican’s chief financial officer has been found guilty on charges that he molested children decades ago. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been kicked out of the priesthood.
After centuries of impunity, cardinals from Chile to Australia and points in between are facing justice in both the Vatican and government courts for their own sexual misdeeds or for having shielded abusers under their watch.
This isn’t the first time we’ve read stories about the misbehaviors of cardinals, especially concerning the child sex abuse scandal. We know Philadelphia Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua were unscathed by the Philadelphia Grand Jury Reports. Krol had been dead for decades when the Philly Grand Jury Reports were published and Bevilacqua was too ill to testify.
Cardinals are under increasing scrutiny concerning how they administered their archdioceses and how they handled allegations of priest abuse in their parishes. Some cardinals are under criminal investigation. The current and former archbishops of Santiago are under investigation by Chilean prosecutors for allegedly covering up for abusive priests.
Errazuriz, who retired as Santiago archbishop in 2010, was recently forced to resign from Francis’ kitchen cabinet after the depth of his cover-up was exposed last year.
His successor, Ezzati, was sued this week by a man who accused him of protecting a priest who allegedly drugged and raped him in the Santiago cathedral. The victim first filed a complaint with Ezzati in 2015. Ezzati issued a church sentence against the priest last year.
Prosecutors have overseen raids of church offices around the country. Ezzati and Errazuriz have so far refused to answer questions in the investigation.
Francis secured offers of resignation from every active Chilean bishop last year as part of Vatican efforts to clean up the Chilean church.
In Houston Texas federal agents raided the administrative offices of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, looking specifically for the Archdiocese’s secret archives. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon arrived unannounced with 60 armed agents who left with boxes full of private documents from the archdiocese’s secret archives.
“We are treating the Catholic Church in the same way we’d treat a bank that has records, in the way that we’d treat a criminal enterprise,” Ligon said.
Federal and state prosecutors are no longer willing to pay deference to the Catholic Church and their bishops and cardinals. It is obvious and has been for quite some time now that the Catholic Church is incapable of policing themselves so the government has stepped in to do their job and protect the public.
This is a sea change in public policy. One couldn’t imagine a law enforcement agency would raid the offices of the Archdiocese of New York or Philadelphia 50 years ago. It just wouldn’t have happened. The Catholic Church was too powerful and its reputation in the community too stellar for any law enforcement agency to make such a bold step. Times have changed and the change has been dictated by the Catholic Church operating as if it were a criminal enterprise.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.