Date: December 01, 2019 03:42PM
"The AP also found dozens of cases in which review boards rejected complaints from survivors, only to have them later validated by secular authorities. In a few instances, board members were themselves clergy accused of sexual misconduct. And many abuse survivors told the AP they faced hostility and humiliation from boards.
When a victim in Florida went before a board, a church defense attorney there grilled him about his abuse until he wept. When another man in Ohio braced to tell a panel of strangers how a priest had raped him, one of them, to his disbelief, was knitting a pink sweater. And when a terrified woman in Iowa told her story of abuse, one member was asleep; the board’s finding against her was later thrown into doubt by a court ruling in her favor.
The AP checked all the roughly 180 dioceses in the U.S. for information, reviewed thousands of pages of church and court records and interviewed more than 75 abuse survivors, board members and others to uncover a tainted process where the church hierarchy holds the reins of power at every stage.
Bishops have appointed church defense attorneys and top aides to boards. Bishops choose which cases go to the board, what evidence members see and what criteria is used to decide if an allegation is “substantiated” or “credible.” And sometimes, the AP found, even where boards did find cases credible, bishops still sided with the priest and ignored the findings.
In Illinois, for example, where the attorney general’s probe remains under way, investigators have turned up evidence that dioceses scoured victims’ personal lives to discredit them. In Colorado, an investigator jointly appointed by the state and church said Denver’s board showed too much bias in support of the archdiocese and little understanding of sexual assault and trauma. And in Pennsylvania, a 2016 grand jury investigating the Altoona-Johnstown diocese called the board’s work a cover-up cloaked “in the guise of advocacy,” with members focused on “fact-finding for litigation” in case the victim sued.
The review board was an attempt to convince the public “that the days of a mysterious bishop deciding how to handle a scandalous and heinous report of child molestation and sodomy were over,” the jury wrote. “In reality,” it added, a board is “only as real as any bishop may want it to be.”
Even reports by the bishops’ conference have dinged dioceses for ignoring boards — sometimes leaving them dormant for more than a year — and have repeatedly warned of “complacency.” Review board members past and present told AP about dioceses gaming the process, from failing to keep them informed to using aides to steer deliberations."