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Suspended belief.

Today the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that it has suspended a high-school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her students this year. Which is what a diocese does when it learns that one of its employees may have abused a minor. But what does a diocese do when it also learns that the staff member who first received the allegation waited weeks to report it? Turns out this one suspends that employee too--and names her (and the accused) in a public statement and a letter to parents.

A number of weeks ago, Annette Goodman, the school’s librarian, learned about the allegation. Maryland law and the policies of the Archdiocese and Archbishop Curley High School require that allegations of child abuse be reported to civil authorities and to the head of the school as soon as possible. Ms. Goodman reported the information to the school’s administration on April 1.

There's transparency and then there's transparency.

Maryland law requires mandatory reporters--which includes educators--to orally notify civil authorities of suspected abuse "immediately" (they have forty-eight hours to file a written report).

You may recall a somewhat similar case involving a diocesan staff member who came to suspect one of his priests was in possession of child pornography. He was eventually found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. But he wasn't suspended, and he remains in the position he held when he broke the law: bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

We'll know whether this amounts to a real shift in church policy when the people who get suspended for failing to report include the men responsible for creating this scandal.

(H/T Michael Paulson.)

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But meanwhile in Rome, the church refuses to notify the police at all ....

"Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, this weekend defended conference guidelines on child protection which state an Italian bishop has “no juridical obligation” to report “illegal doings” to the state judiciary."

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/italian-bishops-defends-sex-...

God forbid that integrity and morality should be precipitating factors in the Italian church's decisions to to report illegal doings by clergy.

Catholic Schools

 

 

410-547-5515     Office of the Archbishop

 

410-547-5437

Above are the numbers of the pertinent authority in Baltimore. 

 

Crystal --

I read somewhere that the Pope called out the Italian bishops for that when he spoke to them, but I can't find the article.  If I'm not mistaken, canon law now says that when a country's laws require such reporting then the bishops must follow the law.  We'll see if he changes the rules of the Church requiring such reporting universally.

This incident reminds one of the firing of two teachers at the Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago.  These teachers were fired as a result of reporting allegations of sexual abuse of a student by another student.  Apparently, the school administration handled it internally and when the first teacher was notified by the victim, she reported it to the authorities.  The first reporting of this nightmare was in Nov 2013.  School administration was interviewed and stated that they reviewed the matter and it involved juveniles and according to their review, did not constitute criminal conduct or behavior.

Who are we to trust to protect our children in Catholic educational environments when the administration does not follow the law of mandatory reporting that was required in this instance?

Michael Skiendzielewski

Philadelphia, PA

From another article ... http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italys-bishops-pass-vatic...

"Only in 2010 did the Vatican instruct bishops to report abuse to police — but only where required by law.  Italian guidelines cite a 1985 treaty between the Vatican and Italy stipulating that clergy aren't obliged to tell magistrates about information obtained through their religious ministry. The guidelines remind bishops, however, they have a ''moral duty“ to contribute to the common good."

So the Vatican *could* require bishops in all countries to report to autheoities but instead has told them to do so where the law requires it but not where the law is silent on the subject.

"all countries" is too broad. That would include countries where Christians are at risk of persecution. That would include China, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.

Crystal Watson, that's in the 1928 Concordat between the Holy See and Italy. 

I thought I recalled that the 2011 CDF instructions to bishops' conferences on drawing up procedures said that they should tell anyone submitting a complaint that they were free to notify the police at the same time  (no secrecy required). That would make it less likely that the chancery would just sit on the complaint without acting.

however, i haven't found that in the instructions

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_...

Okay, given that "all countries" may be too broad, then why is not a single country, not even the vatican included in mandatory reporting to the authorities?  This arguement that they may be persecuted in a few countries holds no water whatsoever.  Because they refuse to report unless the law requires it.

So law makers, get to it...they have told you...they are not complying unless you make them.  So much for truth, openess and transparancy, mere buzz words.  Even a moral "clause" does not encourage them to report because these men think it is moral to put the institutional church's interests before the right of YOUR child to be safe from a known predator clergy member.

Simply repugnant, outrageous and the hieght of hypocryisy, and no committee is going to change the course of these bishops and cardinals who insist on being above the law!

Now to the point of the article above...the archdiocese so quickly and willingly put her name out there because 1.  she is a woman and 2.  she is a teacher.  Has this Archdiocese posted (with such expediancy) the name of every credibly accused priest that they are aware of, living or dead?  I will bet not.

This is done to APPEAR to cooperate with authorities, while making thier point, "others" abuse children too".  Which we are well aware of.

The next point that should not be missed, the archdiocese also disclosed the name of the librarian who failed to disclose her knowledge weeks earlier and did not report the abuse allegation.  I ask again, has Diocesan officials immediately reported all allegations that have come to them and named those clergy who knew and didn't report to authorities or the diocese in past cases?  I believe there is a real possability they did not.

"Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, a member of the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established, said one task facing the commission is to make recommendations regarding church officials' cooperation with the civil authorities."

http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/no-mandatory-reporting-italian-...

Hopefully, the recommendations will include both notifying the civil authorities when a complaint is received and providing information that church officials have that is needed for the investigation. 

Perhaps this should be a worldwide requirement with the possibility of countries with hostile governments requesting an indult to do less.

What's depressing is that even here in a country where manditory reporting is the law and where bishops have not rported, the bishop convicted of this crime is not even criticized by the Vatican.

I'm not following this thread of conversation on mandatory reporting ... in the US, both civil law and the Dallas Charter and Norms require prompt notification of civil authorities.  It appears that the Archdiocese is disciplining this librarian for failing to do so.  What am I missing?

 

"What am I missing?"

 

Th double tadard. Lay people get pink slips. Bishops go free.

Perhaps this should be a worldwide requirement with the possibility of countries with hostile governments requesting an indult to do less.

Wouldn't this be a tad undiplomatic if the national conference of catholic bishops in, say, China, asked to get an official indult? It would be a lot like an official vote of no-confidence in the government, which might be an unnecessary slap.

What's depressing is that even here in a country where manditory reporting is the law and where bishops have not rported, the bishop convicted of this crime is not even criticized by the Vatican.

Maybe it's a good sign that it depresses you: it means that you had hoped for better, so it's a sign that you still have hopes and expectations, you are not entirely cynical. As to myself, I can't get worked up about those stories any more. It's a scandal that Bp Finn is still an active bishop and in good standing, but it's what I expect from the Catholic church hierarchy.

I don't really hope anymore that the church will do the right thing, but I still get angry when it doesn't.  When I stop being angry then I'll know I'm dead  ;)  I read this once about anger ... "Constructive anger .... Also known as passion .... Passion has overthrown tyrants and freed prisoners and slaves. Passion has brought justice where there was savagery. Passion has created freedom where there was nothing but fear. Passion has helped souls rise from the ashes of their horrible lives and build something better, stronger, more beautiful .... that kind of thing really doesn't get done *without* passion [and] anger is one of the things that can help build it.”

http://www.amazon.com/White-Night-Dresden-Files-Butcher-ebook/dp/B000R4L...

I'm confused.  People are upset because the librarian who waited weeks to report the alleged abuse was suspended? 

Th double tadard. Lay people get pink slips. Bishops go free.

Right - I took that away from Grant's initial post.  What I'm not following is all this talk about other countries.  But that's ok - it's not a requirement, even for me,  that I follow every thread of every conversation :-)

People are upset because the librarian who waited weeks to report the alleged abuse was suspended? 

No.  But it would be good to know if there were others who knew about this and didn't report it. If others did know, then acting against only the whistleblower wouldn't be a good message. 

The article doesn't say whether the student confided in her (which she sould have reported right away) - or whether she reported that there is gossip going around the school that an affair is going on with this child.

What I'm not following is all this discussion about other countries

The first reply to Grant's post brought in the Italian Bishops' newly approved guidelines stating that they have no legal obligation to report anything to the police or provide any information Just a coincidence of timing, I suppose, but it has some connection to Grant's reference to Kansas City, not Baltimore.

The US bishops' desire to deal with sexual abuse issues internally, without involving the police or child welfare agencies, caused disaster here. It would be terrible mistake to do that in other countries, except in very rare places where there is no trustworthy rule of law - that is certainly not the case in Italy, which is why that is such a troubling situation. 

The problem here might be what is meant by informing the police "immediately".  How fast is immediately?  Should the teacher have reached for the phone as soon as the accusation was uttered?  Maybe the teacher knew that the accuser was a liar or had a gripe against the teacher and wanted to get even and thought she needed more evidence?  

The basic question here then becomes:  does one have to report to the police *every* accusation no matter how wildly incredible the source without doing any prior checking?  If that is what the law means then it has become a weapon to wield against enemies.  Or can even the wildest reports be made with assurance that it won't be made public when it doesn't pan out?  

It does sound on the surface like 3 weeks is much too long to wait to report, but what does the whistleblower have to say about it?  

Yes, yes, there's a question here of what does "wildly" incredible mean?  Sadly, many accusations against otherwise impeccable priests have been shown to be true, and that's the hell of a lot of the cases.  So maybe only the accusations from known crazies should be checked out before reporting them.  And even some of them might be true.  What to do?

Grant, more than half the countries in the world do not have laws requiring mandatory reporting to civil authorities and Italy is one of them. Rather than take the position that there can only be one valid position regarding mandatory reporting, do you think you could do a little research to explore alternative points of view. I can see a downside to the practice. The victim may not be at all ready to deal with the publicity generated by a report, and the subsequent arrest and investigation. I don't know a lot of victims personally so I don't know what their feelings might be on this. I hope you will do me the favor of not regarding my comments as a defense of covering up dirty laundry. We know there have been some false allegations which have caused unwarranted suffering on the part of the accused. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen an in depth article on the falsely accused and those who victimized them.

Ann, the Maryland reporting form linked to Grant's post says to make an oral report "immediately" after the contact and follow up with a written report within 48 hours. It says safety of the child is paramount - report if abuse is suspected - don't wait to get proof. 

http://www.dhr.state.md.us/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/form180-new.pdf

Here is a case where a priest was arrested on Thursday after a woman went directly to the police to complain that he had abused her in 1998, when she was 13 years old. 

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-priest-arrested-for-assaulting...

I suppose that the downside of bishops not dealing convincingly with abuse claims is that people may skip reporting to the Church and deal directly with the police. 

In this case, the bishop suspended the priest immediately after his arrest and made a public announcement. 

Cases of this kind, which involve abuse committed years ago are different from the Baltimore case in which the abuse is ongoing. 

Has this Archdiocese posted (with such expediancy) the name of every credibly accused priest that they are aware of, living or dead?  I will bet not.

Actually, it has. There was a "big reveal" back around 2004 and since then the names of credibly accused clergy have be made public as a matter of course. 

I suppose that the downside of bishops not dealing convincingly with abuse claims is that people may skip reporting to the Church and deal directly with the police. 

Excusez... but how is this a downside? Isn't dealing directly with the police precisely what we should want people to do?

John F. and John H. --

Yes, there can be complications when a victim isn't ready to press charges.  But the single victim isn't the only one to be concerned about.  It is quite possible, even likely, that if the perp is not challenged that he will abuse *other children*.  For the sake of potential other victims, a victim's decision not to go to the police should be over-ridden? I think that's probably what should be done.

This case presents a mare's nest of prudential problems.  Maybe more attention should be given now to the prudential problem, e.g.,  how fast to report a *given* perp.  In some cases, 48 hours might even be too long to wait. 

 

Here is part of the USCCB 2010 revised Charter 

ARTICLE 4. Dioceses/eparchies are to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities. Dioceses/eparchies are to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question.

Dioceses/eparchies are to cooperate with public authorities about reporting cases even when the person is no longer a minor.

In every instance, dioceses/eparchies are to advise victims of their right to make a report to public authorities and support this right. 

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload...

John H. --

What about a victim's right *not* to press charges or not to press charges quickly?  These things can just be so terribly complicated in actual cases that I wonder about such hard and fast rules.  No system of justice will be perfect, true.  But we can try.

Maybe the law should be that the perps can be reported to the police without filing a charge so that the police can investigate the perps current and past behavior.  Could it not be done anonymously so that there would be some protection for priests accused unfairly? (If I'm not mistaken, here  if someone makes a charge against you it automatically becomes public knowledge.)

John H. --

What about a victim's right *not* to press charges or not to press charges quickly?  These things can just be so terribly complicated in actual cases that I wonder about such hard and fast rules.  No system of justice will be perfect, true.  But we can try.

Maybe the law should be that the perps can be reported to the police without filing a charge so that the police can investigate the perps current and past behavior.  Could it not be done anonymously so that there would be some protection for priests accused unfairly? (If I'm not mistaken, here  if someone makes a charge against you it automatically becomes public knowledge.)

John H. --

What about a victim's right *not* to press charges or not to press charges quickly?  These things can just be so terribly complicated in actual cases that I wonder about such hard and fast rules.  No system of justice will be perfect, true.  But we can try.

Maybe the law should be that the perps can be reported to the police without filing a charge so that the police can investigate the perps current and past behavior.  Could it not be done anonymously so that there would be some protection for priests accused unfairly? (If I'm not mistaken, here  if someone makes a charge against you it automatically becomes public knowledge.)

Sorry about the duplicate posts.  The instructions told me to post again, so I do  Sigh.

Ann, I don't believe the victim is ever required to report the abuse. 

In the US, most states have laws defining "mandated reporters" of child abuse. Originally these included people like teachers, doctors, nurses, etc, but have been expanded to include priests who learn of abuse (except in sacramental confession).

John H - note that the article from which you quoted stresses the importance of dioceses/eparchies reporting to civil authorities.   This should be considered to be in addition to the church employee's individual responsibility, as a mandated reporter, to report to the civil authorities.

It's possible that a diocese may receive a support from someone who does not have a civil-law mandate-reporter responsibility: say, a parent who observes something at his child's school.  I presume that one of the purposes of the article from which you quoted is to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Abe - if any of us observe or learn of abuse at church and/or on the part of a church employee, we should report it to both civil authorities and church authorities.  The civil authorities will (or should) handle the criminal investigation.  The church authorities are responsible for pulling the person out of ministry/out of harm's way, and, if the accusation proves to be credible, removing the person permanently from ministry.

 

The church authorities are responsible for pulling the person out of ministry/out of harm's way,

The procedure here seems to be to remove the priest very quickly after an accusation is made. a few times a year you'll read in the newspaper that someone from the chancery spoke at Sunday Masses to inform people that father has moved out of the rectory and will be away until the investigation is completed. 

II am a litttle late to this ssue, however could someone please explain the meaning of "suspended" in this context?

 

Does it mean that the two teachers would be placed in a desk job and continue to receive their pay until the cases had been heard in a court of law? Or does it mean that the teachers are relieved of all duties and receive no pay even without a finding of guilty?

 

I find it peculiar that the teacher accused of having sex with a minor is charged with a criminal offence and is suspended while their is no mention that the librarian has had charges brought against her by the police. 

 

Even if the police had charged the librarian with failing to report the incident promptly enough the school authorities have not separated the seriousness of the two offences in the matter of discipline. 

 

Removing the teacher who has sex with a student is appropriate. There are other disciplinary tools avaialble with respect to the librarian, especially in light of lack of a charge by the police.