RELIGION

Cardinal Tobin responds to sexual abuse allegations against church leaders

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Cardinal Joseph Tobin is among those accused in published reports of ignoring priests sexually abusing minors, among them former Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“These revelations have shamed and devastated me personally as your archbishop,” Tobin said.

The Newark Archdiocese says Tobin had not heard anything about McCarrick.

Tobin recorded a statement last week that said, “The revelations over the course of the summer have turned the Archdiocese of Newark upside down. Searing allegations of sexual misconduct against a past archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, followed soon by the horrific story of seven decades of clerical sexual abuse of minors in a neighboring state.”

Tobin apparently recorded that statement in Newark near where Catholics began protesting recently.

A cold rain couldn’t stop protesters on Sunday outside Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. They demanded attention from passers-by and demanded the state attorney general task force expose the full scope of priests sexually abusing children and the many Catholic church leaders who have tolerated and concealed it for decades. Protesters want prosecutions.

“It must. It must. And if there’s anyone out there still abusing, concealing, hiding, it absolutely must lead to prosecutions,” said Mark Crawford, NJ director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“I’m almost afraid to see what’s going to be found, but I’m glad that we’re looking in to it because I think that we just need to know at this point because I’m not really sure that anyone trusts the way things are currently,” said Kerry Ann Gilmour, a Woodbridge resident.

In 1994, New Jersey lifted the statute of limitations on such crimes. Sex assault crimes before that but discovered and documented now can go unprosecuted and unpunished. State Sen. Joe Vitale, who joined the Sunday protest, says civil recourse has its limits, as well.

“Once you realize that all of your psychological and emotional injuries are connected to the abuse, you have just two years to reconcile all that and then bring a claim — and that’s incredibly inadequate and short of time. It really has left so many survivors with the inability to bring a claim against their abuser and their rapist,” Vitale said.

Vitale says he’s been sponsoring legislation for years to change the statute of limitations and what’s taking place now may be his opportunity.

“My colleagues have been terrific. I’ve gotten calls from them saying that I was on the fence on changing the law the way you wanted to change it, but now I’m with you all the way. And I think this is the time now. It sadly had to take this grand jury in Pennsylvania,” Vitale said.

That two-year investigation resulted in a nearly 900-page report detailing crimes over seven decades – some in New Jersey – and a legal fight to keep the lid on them.

“They wanted to cover up the cover up,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The report led to the New Jersey attorney general investigation launched last week. The cardinal commented on that and what some Catholics demand of their church leaders: to investigate and weed out those who – as one watchdog put it – have placed the fear of scandal above protecting the welfare of children.

“We must admit our guilt and recognize the injustice. Admitting responsibility and begging for forgiveness are essential, but alone, insufficient,” said Tobin.

The cardinal says since 2002, New Jersey dioceses have been taking steps to address the culture of sexual abuse of minors in the church. He says it’s callous to dismiss decades-old claims as something that happened years ago. Prosecutors might agree.