In the spring of 2002, I filed suit for the first of 243 victims of priest sexual abuse committed within the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky. That same spring, Mike McQueary, an assistant coach of football at Penn State witnessed a 10 year-old boy being raped in the Penn State locker room. Like the bishops in the Catholic Church, Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno sought to protect the institution they loved rather than the children they were obligated to protect.
I grew up in the South. My dad was a lawyer, his dad was a lawyer, and his dad's dad was a Methodist Bishop. I was all about righteousness. I just knew that I would make a difference and the law was going to be my path.
I have always sought out cases no one else would touch: a case against a convenience store for insisting that a 6 year-old boy be fingerprinted, photographed, and jailed for stealing a 42 cent pack of gum; a case against a county jailer for locking up a seven-year-old boy because he was with his mother and father when they were arrested for a petty crime; a case against a lawyer for duping dozens of his female clients -- for decades -- into believing that he must perform "physical" examinations. His conduct was reported to the state bar association and went unpunished for twenty years.
As a lawyer specializing in medical and legal malpractice, I have seen these professionals abuse their power and trust. I have watched the associations in charge of protecting society from such abuses: they are more concerned with preserving the reputation of the profession than protecting clients and patients from abuse.
When men in Louisville began seeking my counsel about the sexual abuse perpetrated on them by Catholic priests, I thought our lawsuits would change the culture of tolerance within religious and professional institutions. Through this series of priest sexual abuse cases, we discovered 38 abusive priests, including one sitting bishop. This culture of tolerance spanned five decades. Many of the offending priests were dead and many of the living were sent to prison. The case against the Archdiocese turned on overwhelming evidence of the successive failure of archbishops to report known or suspected child abuse.
In 1964 it became a crime in Kentucky for any citizen to fail to report known or suspected child sexual abuse. Despite this law, one priest abused 90 of our 243 victims. This priest testified under oath that he told his archbishop of his crimes. The archbishop told him to "go and sin no more." The priest did not follow his archbishop's advice.
I hoped that forcing the Archdiocese to acknowledge their role in the decades-long pandemic of priest sex abuse and making them pay my clients $25.7 million dollars would communicate to all institutions that tolerating sex abuse, keeping quiet and covering it up were unacceptable.
I then began trying to hold the Vatican accountable for the decades-long abuse. I sued the Vatican. Ultimately, the Vatican was held responsible for the failure of its bishops to report known or suspected child sexual abuse in every diocese in this country. I thought the message was received. I was wrong.
I am saddened to learn of another instance of institutionally-sanctioned sexual abuse. I don't understand why the Catholic scandal did not reverberate loud enough to move people to report child sexual abuse.
While I was making headlines exposing the carnage caused by a culture of silence within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, other institutions were not listening, not caring, not connecting the bloodstained dots.
In the "Catholic Spring" of 2002 as the scandal broke from coast to coast, there was another religion that placed its love for money and adoration above doing the right thing. Mike McQueary, an assistant football coach at Penn State, witnessed a child rape perpetrated by another coach. Yet McQueary did not stop this crime or follow the law of Pennsylvania and report the incident to the police. Instead, McQueary went to the home of football coaching legend Joe Paterno, head coach of Penn State to "report" witnessing a 10-year-old boy being raped by Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was dismissed, but Penn State allowed him to continue working with boys at out-of-town football camps.
"Go and sin no more."
College football has joined the ranks of other secret societies and religious institutions determined to protect their interests instead of preventing the destruction of the spirits and lives of little children.
I guess I have more work to do. I guess we all have more work to do.