Vatican Likely Won’t Punish Those Who Covered Up Child Sexual Abuse

According to the just-released grand jury report, in 1990, Bishop James Timlin of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was first made aware that a priest who had recently been transferred to his Diocese, Father Arthur Long, had admitted to having sex with underage girls in his parish in Harrisburg. Timlin was the bishop in the Scranton Diocese, which encompasses the entire northeast section of Pennsylvania, from 1984 to 2003.

Prior to being the bishop, Monsignor Timlin had been told as early as 1968 that one of the priests in his parish, Robert Caparelli, had been “contributing to the delinquency” of at least two altar boys, ages 11 and 12. Another priest, Mark Mecca, described working with Caparelli as being “under an incubus” because of Caparelli’s sexual abuse of children. Caparelli was transferred to different parishes in Pennsylvania, and, even when required by the state in 1985 to report any incidents of such abuse, Timlin did not and allowed Caparelli to continue his ministry.

In 1991, Caparelli was charged with sexual abuse of a child. By this point, Timlin had personally heard complaints about Caparelli’s rape of young boys. A civil lawsuit by the victim said that the priest had sexually abused him from September 1985 to June 1986, including forcible sodomy at the church. Despite saying that the Diocese would cooperate with authorities, “Timlin specifically took actions to protect the secret archives of the Diocese from legal discovery during the course of the litigation.” The Diocese’s records had multiple letters alleging more incidents of rape and abuse by Caparelli, including at least one incident where the priest admitted he had done it.

The number of incidents involving Caparelli was staggering, going back to 1967, involving boys between 10 and 12. In prison, it was revealed that Caparelli knew he was HIV-positive for years, so while he was sodomizing children. He died there in 1994. Bishop Timlin still stood by Caparelli, refusing to take responsibility for covering up the crimes. Indeed, in 1993, “Timlin requested that Caparelli be released from prison to a Catholic treatment facility – like those that had so often authorized the return of Pennsylvania’s predatory priests to active ministry.”

Another priest in the Scranton Diocese, Father Thomas Skotek, carried on a sexual relationship with an underage girl from 1980 to 1985. When she got pregnant, Skotek helped her get an abortion. Bishop Timlin was aware of this, and he accepted Skotek’s resignation by responding, “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief. … With the help of God, who never abandons us and who is always near when we need him, this too will pass away, and all will be able to pick up and go on living.” After Skotek went to a Catholic treatment center, he was reassigned in 1987 to a Wilkes-Barre parish.

Another priest in the Scranton Diocese, Father Robert J. Brague, had ongoing sexual relationships with several teenage girls, and, in 1988, one of them became pregnant. While Timlin removed Brague from his office, Timlin did offer support for Brague receiving new appointments at churches in New York and Florida.

Another priest in the Scranton Diocese, Father Ralph Ferraldo, was accused by a mother of “immorally” touching her young son and other boys in 1974. Then-Chancellor Timlin asked Ferraldo, who “did admit that he had older boys visit his room in the rectory, but nothing wrong had occurred. He was asked not to do that anymore.” Timlin told the mother that her son was mistaken. In 1985 and 1986, Ferraldo was accused of “inappropriate behavior” with hospital patients he was ministering to. Then, in 2002, a male reported that Ferraldo had sexually abused him when he was 16 back in the early 1980s.

Another priest in the Scranton…but you get the idea. Timlin was also constantly commenting on how the stories needed to be kept quiet, lest it upset the parishioners (and cost the church even more).

This is a small part of a heartbreaking, sickening 1000-page grand jury report on sexual abuse in nearly every diocese in Pennsylvania. And the focus here is Bishop James Timlin, who is retired now but still has an active role in the church. Accordingto an expert on the way such cases are handled, Timlin “likely will not face any sanctions from the Vatican for concealing reports of sexual abuse committed by priests.”

Yeah, the Vatican is more likely to slap bishops on the wrist than kick them the hell out of the church. “The Vatican has removed some offenders from office, but it rarely takes action to permanently remove a priest from the priesthood — an action known as laicization, more commonly referred to as defrocking.” The first statement from the Vatican has emphasized that the crimes took place before 2002, when the U.S. Catholic Church finally took a stronger stand on how it handles such crimes.

In other words, the ones who shifted the rapist priests around, the ones who swept things under a very lumpy rug, like James Timlin, will have gotten away with it.

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on August 16, 2018, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

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