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Suffer The Little Children

Suffer The Little Children

If true, it’s unspeakable. Evil. Monstrous. 

On Tuesday afternoon we learned that the Catholic church in Pennsylvania operated more like an organized crime syndicate than a religious institution. For decades.

Unlike the mafia, which preys on gamblers and drug users, the victims of the church were children, according to a shocking grand jury report.

The perps? Priests. 

A massive cover-up, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, was orchestrated by church officials in Pennsylvania and the Vatican.

The grand jury spent nearly two years investigating cases of reported sexual abuse of children by clergymen in six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses. What they dug up was an absolute horror. 

More than 1,000 victims. About 300 priest perpetrators. And reams of church files that document how priests who preyed upon kids were shuffled from parish to parish around the state. 

A gigantic game of Hide-A-Pervert.

This is bigger even than the Catholic molestation cases famously uncovered in 2002 by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team.

“The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, forging a signature on a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl,” according to the New York Times.

 “The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal,” according to the report. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all."

Few of these collar-wearing freaks will ever see the inside of a prison cell thanks to Pennsylvania's statute of limitations - heartily supported by the Catholic church, of course - that doesn’t allow for criminal prosecutions once a victim reaches the age of 30.

Lest anyone think this is just a bunch of marinated memories by vindictive adults, The Morning Call, Allentown, PA reports that, “The 23 members of the grand jury took testimony from dozens of witnesses. But it was in the church’s own files — more than half a million pages of internal diocesan documents in ‘secret archives’ — that the grand jury found the names of more than a thousand children who were victimized, most of them boys.”

“We believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands."

The anecdotes in the report are stomach churning. These were trusted clergymen, accused of doing grotesque things to children.

It’s too graphic. There’s simply too much.

But at a press conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday Shapiro talked about one particular monsignor. (In case you don’t know the difference between your garden variety priest and a monsignor, the Catholic News Service explains that monsignor “is a title bestowed on a priest who has distinguished himself by exceptional service to the church. It is a title granted by the pope — typically, upon the recommendation of the priest’s diocesan bishop.”) 

Bear that in mind as you read this from The Morning Call: 

"Shapiro summarized an allegation against Monsignor Thomas Benestad, former pastor of Notre Dame of Bethlehem and St. Francis of Assisi in Allentown, who is accused of sexually abusing a boy for two years beginning when the child was 9 and taking catechism classes at St. Bernard's.

"A nun brought the boy to Benestad because he had worn shorts to class, which was against the rules. Benestad, the report says, told the boy to get on his knees and pray. The priest then forced the boy to perform oral sex on him. And afterward, washed the child’s mouth out with holy water, the report says."

Jesus Christ.

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