A federal racketeering lawsuit has been filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Tucson relating to the decades-long sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The Diocese of Tucson, which declared bankruptcy in 2004, is alleged to have been a “dumping ground” for sexually predatory priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
According to the Tucson Sentinel, “This is the second major case of its kind after a recent change to state law gave sexual abuse victims more time to take their abusers and the organizations that protected them to court. A pair of lawsuits have been making their way through Arizona court aimed at the Corpus Christi Diocese alleging abuse by a priest who was moved to Arizona by the Diocese there.
The suit aimed at the Tucson and Los Angeles Dioceses was filed at the end of the window of opportunity on Dec. 31, 2020.
In 2019, Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2466 into law, giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue in civil court, ending Arizona’s status as one of the worst states in the nation for survivors to seek redress.”
RICO lawsuits have been filed before against the Catholic Church, particularly the Vatican, a sovereign state, but to no avail. The suits have been dismissed.
However, the behavior which has led to the RICO lawsuits is familiar to those of us who’ve been advocating for abuse survivors. For instance, Ireland would transfer “problem” priests to other countries. When the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Teaminvestigated the Archdiocese of Boston, they found numerous instances of such priests being transferred to other parishes or to other parts of the country without notifying the parishes or the dioceses of the priests’ history. Fr. Paul Shanley, an active member of the North American Man Boy Love Association, was quietly transferred to California after his sexual abuse became a public relations problem for the Archdiocese. Perhaps the most notorious case involved serial pedophile priest Oliver O’Grady who was transferred numerous times within the Diocese of Stockton by three different bishops, one of whom later became the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony. All the bishops knew about O’Grady’s criminal behavior and transferred him t another parish anyway. In all, O’Grady is thought to have molested at least 25 children.
While some have criticized the filing of RICO lawsuits against the Catholic Church, such behavior of transferring known pedophiles to other parishes where they prey on more innocent children is criminal. When top officials know about an abusive priest’s history, ignore it and transfer him to another parish anyway, that becomes conspiratorial. When bishops plan a strategy to avoid publicity, protect the Church’s reputation against legitimate allegations of child sexual abuse, and conceal crimes, that warrants a racketeering lawsuit. Until such time the Catholic Church recognizes that the benefit of cover-up doesn’t outweigh the cost, lawsuits are the only avenue to protect innocent children.