What state and federal investigations are uncovering in the Catholic Church
Part Two of a Five Part Series
Part One here.
By Beverly Stevens, REGINA Editor
Image by John La Maestra
She’s spent a career getting up close and personal with predators and their victims.
‘Cathy’* was a Special Deputy to an agency investigating narcotic trafficking for ten years. An RN with a master’s in psychology, she now works as a consultant to US law enforcement agencies, interviewing subjects as well as victims. She also coaches law enforcement working on undercover assignments, especially those that involve human trafficking.
For Catholics wondering what is going on behind the scenes with dioceses responding to law enforcement investigating the Catholic Church in 15 US states and at the Federal level, Cathy’s insights are quite timely.
*Not her real name. REGINA’s interviewee asked to remain anonymous in order to protect law enforcement agents working in the field.
In this second in our three-part series, Cathy discusses bishops’ legal culpability, a scary level of distrust amongst the clergy, how predators network and what law enforcement is doing behind the scenes.
REGINA: Bishops are releasing the diocesan numbers trained to address sex abuse, the vast majority of which are lay people. Bishops are not required to be trained. What do you make of this?
CATHY: There’s a very simple and legal reason for this. Bishops are not required to be trained because it then puts them in a position, legally, to not be culpable for what is covered in the training.
CATHY: A prime example of this was when one bishop in a Missouri case said in a deposition that he “didn’t know if it is illegal for a priest to have sex with a minor.”
While it’s pretty much common sense that in most cases it’s illegal for any adult to have sex with a minor, since he wasn’t trained, most likely never went to law school, didn’t train as a law enforcement agent, even if he has that common sense, he gave the legally correct answer.
CATHY: This is something that needs to change. It’s good that laity is trained, it’s important for everyone who in anyway functions as a representative of the Catholic Church to be trained to know what is abuse and what is not including bishops. For example. while most people believe it’s illegal for anyone 18 or older to have sexual contact with anyone under eighteen, almost every state has set their laws on this up with an approximation clause. These allow sex between minors and adults in situations where there is a limited number of years in the age difference. The most that I am aware of is five. So, unfortunately there are situations in which a 20 year old can legally be sexually active with a 15 year old.
REGINA: Fifteen states and the federal government are investigating the Catholic Church now. What kinds of crimes is law enforcement looking at in the USA?
CATHY: Currently I am aware of various law enforcement agencies looking for cases of sexual abuse. This includes a variety of crimes against minors, but also cases involving rape and prostitution of adults.
It’s much harder for men to admit to being victims of these crimes; it is extremely important that everyone understand that men can be and are raped and prostituted.
Other crimes that are being looked into included drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, human trafficking and crimes committed by American citizens outside the US.
REGINA: What kinds of crimes committed outside the USA?
CATHY: Many people are unaware that it is illegal for any American to travel to any other country and abuse its citizens. While an American can travel outside the US and hire a prostitute where it is legal, it’s against US law for them to travel to another country and sexually assault any of its citizens, take part in any kind of trafficking or break many other American laws.
REGINA: We have heard of groups of priests vacationing in Mexican resorts which cater to sex tourism. Is LE tracking this behavior?
CATHY: At this point the travel activities of anyone who is suspect are being tracked, not only their current travel activities, but those in the past and their future travel plans. This information can lead to vital information as to other locations that an offender is committing crimes. It can also give information on other kinds of crime that individual might be involved in.
REGINA: Some foreign priests have expressed fears that they will be targeted by unscrupulous bishops. Are they a flight risk? What about priests who are US citizens? Will their passports be revoked?
CATHY: Anyone with a passport and means is a flight risk. Foreign priest could definitely be at a risk of being targeted by not only unscrupulous bishops, but by any brother priest who is involved in criminal activity.
Generally there are few people who want to go to prison and they generally will do anything they can to avoid it. There are in fact passports that have already been revoked and in some situations interstate travel has been restricted. In some cases clergy are currently not permitted to be transferred to locations outside of their existing diocese.
REGINA: What should priests do if they fear being targeted by prelates who are themselves involved in unscrupulous behavior?
CATHY: With priest who are aware of unscrupulous and/or illegal activity I would advise them to also contact law enforcement. There is however one issue in the event of a priest who is aware of these activities and the criminal is aware that a particular priest is aware of their activities. Not all, but many will make a confession to that priest, thereby putting him in the situation of breaking the confessional seal if he were to go to law enforcement.
REGINA: Is it true that predators form networks? What do they use them for?
CATHY: It is very true that predators form networks; this allows them to exchange information on places they can safely find victims. It also allows them to trade victims; to know where they find prostitutes, what victim(s) might be okay with this, but not with that sort of sexual activity.
REGINA: They get very detailed, then.
CATHY: Oh yes. Networking gives predators a way to safely communicate with others about their crimes without being concerned about getting reported to law enforcement. It gives them a place to feel that they are not alone and while I hate saying this, to feel ‘normal’. A night out in a nearby city’s bar that attracts young males or females with three other predators can be very empowering.
REGINA: What else?
CATHY: These networks can also lead to information regarding resources for other criminal activity, such as making a predator aware of how they might be able to become a part of drug trafficking, and there by earn extra money for their own activities.
REGINA: So they can make money.
CATHY: Networks also can unfortunately — and this is a big one — help them to be aware of law enforcement activities. While a local parish priest might not be aware that the young man or woman he is looking at with interest is the child of a law enforcement agent, the one from the next town over might be fully aware of that and happy to share the information and save a friend.
NEXT: Typical victim profiles, why sex crimes go unreported for decades and what life issue the victims of predator priests are likely to face.
Part One here.
Part Three here.
Part Four here.
Part Five here.
Full interview here.