Attorneys Not Surprised Review Boards Shield Priests

AP: Catholic Church Boards Reviewing Sex Abuse Fail Victims

Tom Puckett
November 22, 2019 - 4:00 am

Clergy sex abuse victims and advocates protest outside the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center during annual gathering of Catholic Charities USA. September 12, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Two attorneys representing victims of priest abuse say they're not surprised about the findings of an AP investigation that found  independent panels with lay people in each diocese charged with reviewing allegations fairly and kindly are not doing so. 

"You have to remember review boards are extensions of the Catholic Church," says Mitchell Garabedian. "They're totally subjective, their goal is to protect the Catholic Church, and maintain secrecy. They revictimize the victims in the process. "

Garabedian says the church puts profits before the protection of children. He says the panels to be totally independent need to have no connection to the church. "They cannot even be paid by the church because they'd be influenced by the church. It has to be made up of people like law enforcement who know the signs of abuse and know how to reach an objective result," says Garabedian.

He says the best thing for victims to do is instead of going to the panels, go to law enforcement instead.

Fellow attorney Steve Boyd agrees. "Call the cops," says Boyd. "It's the only solution that's acceptable in our society." He says another review board is not necessary. "They can call themselves an independent review board, but they're not independent if the diocese is picking the members."

Boyd says some victims don't have a clue about other accusers when they come forward to a review board. "They don't know about the background of the perpetrator and they don't know what to ask for. We have heard of situations where people have gone to the diocesan review board and they're asked what they want, and they say I just want my truck fixed. Now, the diocese can settle a case worth hundreds of thousands for peanuts," says Boyd.

Boyd says if review board members are not truly independent, the likelihood of a fair result is slim.

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