The Roman Catholic Bishops' Shell Game with Child Sex Abuse

Their demands did not fall on deaf ears. The resulting bill watered down the reporting requirement for all professionals, not just clergy. Instead of making such a report mandatory, it made it discretionary. Now, in Maryland, a professional "may" report to DSS that a child is at risk through proximity to a sex offender. So much for protecting the children.

When the bishops are not lobbying against reporting child abuse, they lobby against extending or eliminating the statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, as I document in my book, Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (2008).

The Catholic bishops often state publicly that they now have the best child protective programs in the country, but they do not widely publicize their legislative antics that stop legal reform to protect children. That is for the dark hallways and backrooms of the state legislatures. Sadly, elected representatives too often are persuaded by religious leaders to treat religious doctrine or image as more important than child safety. 

That is particularly true now in Maryland, where the Governor appointed Alison D'Alessandro, the Director of Child & Youth Protection for the Archdiocese of Baltimore to the Maryland State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. She was appointed shortly after testifying against child sex abuse statute of limitations reform in the Maryland legislature. In other words, she is on a committee charged with protecting children, but has taken a very public stance against permitting victims to get to court to sue their perpetrators and the institutions that made their abuse possible.

Apparently, Allison West, from Catholic Charities, is now awaiting an appointment to the same Council. Never underestimate the Catholic bishops' understanding of or involvement in the American political landscape.

The survivors in Rome imploring the United Nations to have the crimes they suffered designated crimes against humanity made a very good point in an appropriate setting. It will take international and national visionaries to change the fate of our children. Right now, some of the most ardent foes of improving child safety are, sadly, the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

11/9/2010 5:00:00 AM
  • God vs Gavel
  • Children
  • Law
  • politics
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Marci Hamilton
    About Marci Hamilton
    Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge, 2008) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge, 2005, 2007).