Sex Abuse Cases To Loom Over AG Race

In addition to the governor’s race, New Yorkers will vote for a new attorney general in November. Democrats will choose their general election candidates in the September primary. Chief among our concerns should be the degree to which the candidates intend to pursue sexual abuse crimes and cover-ups by the Catholic Church.

If we have learned anything from the recent revelations in Pennsylvania, where the AG Josh Shapiro identified roughly 1,000 victims of child abuse, it’s that we cannot expect these sickening abuses of power and corruption to appear without aggressive investigation. Clearly we cannot rely on the crooked power-brokers in the Catholic Church to speak up. Our local authorities’ response was severely disheartening. District Attorney Swanson’s concern for the matter was uninspiring, claiming that a joint investigation with the Erie County office would be “of interest.” Perhaps systematic church sanctioned pedophilia deserves a higher classification in DA’s offices than “of interest.”

Furthermore, he and Andy Goodell both seem to be content brushing the matter aside until claims from victims are brought directly to them. Or they lean on the most popular crutch, the statute of limitations. We cannot and should not expect victims of this horrifying abuse to come forward with such intensely personal and often traumatizing stories. We know from experience that victims may feel ashamed or intimidated by the sheer power of the Catholic Church in their communities that fancies itself a divine institution guided by God.

We also know that dozens of priests from the Buffalo diocese were removed, retired or the most disgusting of all — relocated, to other parishes around the state. Of those, at least 10 came to Chautauqua County. Money and resources are undoubtedly tight in our District Attorney’s office. But when people are being locked up by the score for drug-related offenses, being financially “hamstrung” is insufficient justification for allowing potential pedophiles to roam among us unscathed by the law. Or worse, allowing them to continue parading as leaders of their communities and mentors of our children. The victims deserve to have their stories heard and justice must be served to potentially pedophilic priests.

It is an indictment not only on the church, who lost their credibility long ago, but on our authorities that this continues without the sort of exposure we saw recently in Pennsylvania. The police, and the news, prosecutors and the public seem far more concerned with nabbing dope-users than serial child molesters for reasons I cannot understand. The Catholic Church is one of the most powerful institutions in world history and maybe localities feel that pressure. We cannot be intimidated, however, if we value justice for the victims.

In the early 2000s The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering rampant sexual abuse and cover-ups by churches in New England. It can happen. AG Josh Shapiro is a hero in Pennsylvania for identifying 300 potential victims and thousands of Catholic officials complicit in the abuse.

Shame on the Catholic Church who is now ending adoption and foster care services because of their pious opposition to same-sex marriage. And shame on us for not demanding that we expose these perverted crooks and vindicate the potential victims. If Patrick Swanson insists on referring to the Attorney General to conduct a statewide investigation, so be it. That means we the voters have a duty to ensure the next one tenaciously pursues them.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg resident.

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