California Catholic dioceses are being sued on claims they covered up sex abuse allegations by clergy. Thomas Emens told reporters yesterday he was abused by a priest in the 1970s but the Catholic Church decided to sweep it under the rug.
Emens says he's involved in the suit because it's the only way he can get justice and encourage other victims to come forward. Attorneys claim to have a list of hundreds of clerics accused of sex abuse who were sent to other parishes instead of being defrocked.
The suit hopes all California dioceses will release the names of priests accused of sex misconduct. Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego have already made the names public.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento issued the following statement:
“In 2003, all dioceses in California began implementing the reforms called out in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops the year before. Most of the information provided in the news conference this morning came from public sources and has been available for years. This is because of the increased steps of transparency and accountability by California dioceses over the past 15 years to protect children and young people from abuse.
“In 2003, all dioceses in California began implementing the reforms called out in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops the year before.
“In Sacramento, we instituted fingerprinting and background checks for priests, staff and any volunteers working around children and young people. All of them offer Safe Environment programs to train students and staff in identifying and preventing abuse. We adopted a “zero tolerance” standard to make sure no one with a credible accusation of abusing children is allowed to function as a priest in our diocese. Period.
“With respect to victims, we have offered, and will continue to offer, pastoral assistance and counseling to anyone who has been abused by a church worker or clergy.
“When we receive an allegation of abuse we report it immediately to child protective services and law enforcement. We suspend the priest involved, take away his ability to wear a collar and function as a priest. We make an announcement at the parishes where he served, asking for anyone to step forward and provide information to the police.
“An Independent Review Board assists the bishop in reviewing all accusations.
“We have an obligation to transparency and accountability to parishioners and the public. We take that obligation seriously.
“Over the course of the last 15 years, millions of students in Catholic Schools and religious education have gone through training, along with hundreds of thousands of staff and volunteers. Tens of thousands more have been fingerprinted and background checked.
“These measures have been effective but we know we can never be complacent. The twelve dioceses of California are firm in their commitment to protect children and young people.”