Here’s the thing that got me about the newly released list of priests who’ve been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
It’s not the length of the roster, although of course the thought of 57 abusive priests, still alive and now dead, is truly horrifying. After “Spotlight” and this year’s grand jury report out of Pennsylvania identifying more than 300 priests who victimized children over seven decades — not to mention countless individual accounts from Louisiana and everyplace else — the breadth of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is well understood.
What really hit me is the list of churches and schools where they each served, the many communities these men were allowed to — invited to, really — infiltrate. It’s the thought of so many kids in so many places being put in harm’s way by the very institution they were supposed to trust, and of how little was done by adults to protect them.
George Brignac, who was removed from the ministry in 1988 yet allowed to serve as a lector at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church until this year, had “pastoral assignments” at five schools in New Orleans and its suburbs, according to the list. Paul Calamari had eight, in Louisiana, Mississippi and Delaware before he was removed in 2003. Lawrence Hecker had 13 all around the New Orleans area; he was removed in 2002, six years after an allegation was lodged. Gerard Kinane also had 13, in south Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania, and 11 years elapsed between the first allegation and his removal.
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While it’s also well understood by now that the church would move problematic pastors from one place to another when trouble arose, seeing the list of places where children were exposed to danger, often with the secret knowledge of church officials, really drills home how much the cover-ups exacerbated the crimes.
This was one of the shocking discoveries of the team of reporters from “The Boston Globe,” whose investigation of the church’s behavior in Massachusetts was the basis for the 2016 Oscar-winning movie.
I don’t think this breach of faith will ever lose its power to shock. At least I hope not.