Bishop James F. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen recently voiced support of the “Motu Proprio” cannon law for the Catholic Church throughout the world issued by Pope Francis in May 2019. The edict calls for mandatory reporting and investigation into all allegations of sexual abuse by cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons. The recent General Assembly of the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB) that took place in Baltimore held three separate votes to expand the Pope’s mandate to investigate all claims of sexual abuse, regardless of the accused’s position or rank within the Catholic Church.
In August of 2018, Bishop Checchio formed a panel of lay men and women outside of the Diocese of Metuchen that allows priests, deacons, and bishops to report instances of sexual abuse without fear of retribution. According to a statement from the Bishop, the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church continued for so long because of the misuse of power of high ranking officials in the Church.
Throughout the Church’s history, priests, deacons, and bishops who reported child sexual abuse by other priests, deacons, and bishops were often met with skepticism. Those under suspicion or confirmed as sexual abusers were often transferred from parish to parish, or even to different dioceses, which allowed the sexual abuse to continue despite repeated claims against the accused. The lay panel formed by Checchio is designed to increase the involvement of the laity within the Church and increase transparency of investigations of sexual abuse.
Checchio emphasized that the reporting of sexual abuse not only applies to all bishops, priests, and deacons within the Church, but also applies to charges of sexual abuse that happened years ago. The time that has passed between the date of the abuse to the date of reporting has no bearing on the allegations. All reports of past or present sexual abuse are to be investigated with equal diligence and reported to the local county prosecutor’s office.
Bishop Checchio’s public statement reminds us of the events in February of this year, when Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the founding Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen was removed from the priesthood after the Vatican found credible evidence to support allegations of child sexual abuse. The reported abuse had happened while McCarrick was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York 50 years prior, but the investigation led to more survivors coming forward to report sexual abuse.
The Vatican found credible evidence to support the victims’ allegations and McCarrick was defrocked, or removed from all duties and privileges of the priesthood.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, call the Metuchen clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Our Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey offices serve clients throughout Camden, Metuchen, and Trenton, New Jersey, as well Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Johnstown, Eerie, and Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, and nationwide.