Voice of the Faithful joins Ohio survivor support groups in calling for AG investigation into Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors

BOSTON, Mass., Aug. 16, 2023―Voice of the Faithful joins its affiliate in Cincinnati and other Ohio groups supporting clergy abuse survivors in calling for the state attorney general to investigate Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors and its cover up throughout the state. Overwhelming evidence of Church malfeasance in the protection of children shown in a score of states attorneys general and grand jury investigations compels VOTF and like-minded Catholics to request such an investigation.

To-date, as many as 20 states across the country have concluded or have ongoing investigations into Catholic clergy abuse. These investigations have shown the necessity of using civil authorities to investigate clergy abuse in the Church. In 2019, this fact already was evident, as several investigations had been completed and others instituted.

“It’s now clear to me that the church hierarchy is not capable of policing itself from within,” said former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in addressing VOTF’s national conference that year. Burke served as interim chair of the U.S. Bishops National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People from 2002 to 2004. “[I] no longer have faith in the hierarchy,” she said, “or trust in their ability to place the safety and well-being of the laity and our children over its own self-centered needs … We must turn the investigation over to the professionals.”

The results of AG and grand jury investigations have been harrowing. Philadelphia grand juries in 2005 and 2011 cited three cardinals as involved in the cover up: the late cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua and retired Cardinal Justin Rigali. A 2016 grand jury report concerning the Pennsylvania Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown called its results “staggering and sobering.” In 2018, the Pennsylvania AG reported 301 priests had abused 1,000 children statewide.

Two of the most recently concluded investigations were in Maryland in April and Illinois in May. The Maryland attorney general investigation of the Baltimore Archdiocese found that 156 Catholic clergy had abused 600 children, and the Illinois AG investigation discovered that 450 Catholic clergy abused 2,000 children statewide.

Other investigations have produced similar findings, all the way back to the 2002 Massachusetts AG inquiry begun after The Boston Globe reported widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. That report stated, “According to the Archdiocese’s own files, 789 victims have complained of sexual abuse by members of the clergy; the actual number of victims is no doubt higher. The evidence to date also reveals that 250 priest and church workers stand accused of acts of rape or sexual assault of children.”

The scope of the abuse uncovered in more recent reports is equally shocking. A June 2023 New York Times article listed three: 163 perpetrators in Missouri, 97 in Florida, 188 in Kansas.

Survivors describe the same appalling abuse in all these reports, leading the reports to conclude, for example, that Baltimore Archdiocese “personnel engaged in horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children in their communities while archdiocese leadership looked the other way … Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse for as long as possible.”

The Illinois AG’s report additionally shows the trauma that has followed survivors throughout their lives: “Some survivors spoke to Attorney General investigators of failed careers, broken marriages, and strained relationships. Many shared that they suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, had attempted suicides, and served time in prison. Others said the abuse they suffered as children prevented them from ‘loving up to their potential.’ Many detailed how they followed the movements of their abuser, as the cleric was transferred from parish to parish.”

The only way to get at the depth and breadth of the Catholic clergy abuse scandal is for states to continue to investigate, Ohio included. The situation there has become more troubling and urgent since the conviction of five Ohio clerics: Fr. Geoff Drew, Fr. Robert McWilliams, Fr. Michael Zacharias, Fr. Henry Foxhoven and Fr. David Morrier. Underscoring the immediacy of the public safety issue, Zacharias was convicted of five counts of federal sex trafficking in northern Ohio.

VOTF in Cincinnati and other groups supporting survivors in Ohio have drafted a letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost requesting him “to launch a statewide investigation into the six Catholic dioceses in Ohio.” They point out that, “Failing to investigate systemic failures within Ohio dioceses and parochial schools allows enablers and sexual perpetrators to remain in positions of authority over thousands of vulnerable Ohio children (150,000 children attend Ohio parochial schools). Without a robust secular investigation, we fear that the continued cycle of abuse and cover up will continue unabated.”

Voice of the Faithful ardently agrees with their assessment.

Voice of the Faithful Statement, Aug. 16, 2023, contact Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, (781) 559-3360

Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.