“You Can't Protect Kids in Secrecy”: Local Reaction to the Pennsylvania Clergy Sex Abuse Grand Jury Report

Toledo, OH - Reforms to better protect children and vulnerable adults from predator priests has come in the form of grand jury reports like this month's report from Pennsylvania and journalism, with the Boston Globe’s reports in 2002 which exposed decades of clergy sex abuse.

Spiritual and legal reckonings around the country and world followed. In addition to some changes to beef up laws like extending statutes of limitations, as well as legal prosecution of predator priests and their superiors who don't stop their abuse.

"The Church I don't think failed. The hierarchy failed. And clericalism is at the heart of the problem," said Lourdes University Emeritus professor Geoffrey Grubb, Ph.D.

Specifically, bishops who have been chosen not for their independence, but their submission to the authority of the Vatican, explained University of Toledo Catholic Studies professor Peter Feldmeier.

"What gets rewarded in the Catholic Church in the case of the hierarchy is less robust shepherds than lambs," observed Dr. Feldmeier.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responded robustly to the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal with the so-called Dallas charter from 2002.

Since then, it has been updated three times and outlines a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abuse. This includes reporting requirements to law enforcement.

Still, critics like Claudia Vercelotti from the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) described the Church's track record as failed and proof it is better at lip service than real reforms.

"Ohio should be doing exactly what Pennsylvania is doing by launching investigations from the Attorneys General office. You can't protect kids in secrecy," insisted Claudia Vercellotti.

In an exclusive interview, WTOL 11 asked Bishop Thomas if he would open Diocese files to the Attorney General. He said he would.

Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) is running for governor. His office notes Ohio is a home rule state which privileges the power of local self-government. Local prosecutors would have to get this legal ball rolling.