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Catholic Leaders Promised Transparency About Child Abuse. They Haven’t Delivered.

Jan 29, 2020

By Lexi Churchill, Ellis Simani, and Topher Sanders

It took 40 years and three bouts of cancer for Larry Giacalone to report his claim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Boston priest named Richard Donahue.

Giacalone sued Donahue in 2017, alleging the priest molested him in 1976, when Giacalone was 12 and Donahue was serving at Sacred Heart Parish. The lawsuit never went to trial, but a compensation program set up by the archdiocese concluded that Giacalone “suffered physical injuries and emotional injuries as a result of physical abuse” and directed the archdiocese to pay him $73,000.

Even after the claim was settled and the compensation paid in February 2019, however, the archdiocese didn’t publish Donahue’s name on its list of accused priests. Nor did it three months later when Giacalone’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, criticized the church publicly for not adding Donahue’s name to the list.

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One comment on “Catholic Leaders Promised Transparency About Child Abuse. They Haven’t Delivered.”

  • 1
    Cairsley says:

    From the Propublica article:

    “… Despite the determination that Giacalone was entitled to compensation, Donahue’s name was added to a portion of the list for priests accused in cases deemed “unsubstantiated” — where the archdiocese says it does not have sufficient evidence to determine whether the clergy member committed the alleged abuse. …”

    Bishops and their staff do not have competence to decide “whether the clergy member committed the alleged abuse.” That is a matter for the police and the lawcourts to decide. The fuss and confusion over inconsistent lists of accused clerics and religious is a red herring. The real question is why the bishops did not respond to accusations of such criminal activity by any of their subordinates by calling the police. Are bishops above the law? Nowadays Catholic laypeople are much more likely — at least in some countries — to go straight to the police themselves about any such illegal action by a cleric or religious, and bishops should not discourage that, if they want their communities to be safe. But this notion that bishops seem to have harbored, that they have the competence and the right to determine first whether an accused cleric committed the alleged crime before notifying the police about it is an evasion of legal duty. Bishops and the clergy they lead are subject to the law of the land and are as much required as any other citizen or resident to report a possible crime to the police for investigation and prosecution if need be. If the Catholic hierarchy had been doing so for the last century, there would now be plenty of names of convicted (never mind accused) paedophiles on public lists to gladden the hearts of list-lovers.


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