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While the full scope of the sexual abuse problem inside the Catholic church continues to come into focus, most people are also asking questions about how exactly priests are being disciplined or held responsible for their crimes. Sadly, the answer isn’t very clear. To date, the reaction from the both the church and civil authorities has been mixed.
As many experts have pointed out, the Church’s canon law allows priests to be punished. But how often is this happening? Many offenders have been in the position to effectively avoid jail time since the Church hasn’t shown an interest in reporting to the authorities or cooperating with investigations. This considerable cover up meant that numerous priests weren’t publicly identified until decades later when statutes of limitations had already passed.
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Since the Church has dropped the ball so many times, the majority of cases have been addressed through legal actions. By 2002, experts have said that the church had paid one billion dollars in settlements and legal fees to hundred or litigants. Special Grand Juries have also been empaneled across the country. Reports in numerous cases found entire dioceses incapable of handling circumstances of sexual abuse, but these findings didn’t come with any real repercussions.
It wasn’t until the 2000s that the church actually began to defrock priests and remove them from the parishes. Ever since then, the demands for prosecution have gained traction and plaintiffs lawyers have been spending time to find ways to get over statute of limitations that obstruct priests from being held accountable.
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In one positive development, the Archbishop Adelaide Philip Wilson was found guilty of hiding sexual abuse in Newcastle Australia. He is the highest ranking official to be convicted to date. Before you start celebrating, it is important to note that due to his health, he will serve just six months in jail. Possibly even more astonishing is the fact that he has yet to resign from the Holy See and is still considered a member of the church. You can’t make this stuff up. Going to jail. Not resigning from the Church.
As 2018 came to a close, the Vatican found itself still plagued with questions regarding who knew what and when. At the moment, it appears that Pope Francis is more prepared than any leader before him to hand down strict punishments and restore faith in the Catholic Church. However, it remains to be seen whether the church is now competent to dealing with these problems as priests continue to avoid civil penalties and jail time.
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