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Editorial: Church could take loophole on names

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, 4:33 p.m.
Bishop Edward C. Malesic talks to the press before the start of the Diocese of Greensburg listening session on priest abuse at Blessed Sacrament in Greensburg, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Bishop Edward C. Malesic talks to the press before the start of the Diocese of Greensburg listening session on priest abuse at Blessed Sacrament in Greensburg, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

What makes 11 clergymen different from the 301 who have already been named in the grand jury report on Catholic church child sex abuse?

Secrecy.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided these 11 who went to court to stay hidden will remain in the shadows.

The court agreed with the priests that releasing their names would cause damage to their reputations. The court said they had been denied due process.

And that is true. There is no doubt nothing will destroy your reputation like the world knowing you have been implicated in sexually abusing a child unless that is sexually abusing a lot of kids.

And yes, those accused have never had a day in court. They have never had an opportunity to sit in front of a jury and explain their side of the case and have evidence presented and let a decision be made as to guilt or innocence.

That isn’t the attorney general’s fault. It isn’t the previous attorney general’s fault, or the one before him or the one before her.

The important thing to remember about this denial of due process was that the process was denied by the church, not the court. When decades of abuse are recorded and documented and filed away in “secret archives,” the wrench in the gears of justice wasn’t thrown by the police or the prosecution. It was tossed there by a succession of church leaders.

While the judges who rendered this decision are not allowed to consider more than the law — both its letters and its legacy — that doesn’t mean that the people — both Pennsylvanians and Catholics — cannot take more into account in personally judging the issue.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik is in the midst of a series of listening sessions. Greensburg Bishop Edward Malesic just completed his own. They are opportunities for the public to bring questions to church leaders. That is something people must continue to do, because letting this issue pass while the business of the church resumes lets abusing our children and covering it up become just that. Business as usual.

The issue of transparency has come up in both dioceses. Catholics want to know what is happening and that nothing is being shoveled into “secret archives” again. One way to do that would be for the bishops to release those last names, joining the more than 300 that have already been published.

“While this order bars me from releasing the names of these 11 petitioners, nothing in this order prevents the dioceses from sharing the shielded names with their parishioners and the public. I call on the bishops to do so immediately, consistent with their recent calls for transparency,” Shapiro said in a statement Monday.

They could do that. It would still deny due process to the accused. It would still damage their reputations. The alleged crimes will still be outside the statute of limitations for prosecution. It would change nothing for the alleged victims.

The only thing it might do is show that nothing is secret anymore.

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