Tag Archive for: sexual abuse

Over 100 ‘Secretly Shot’ Pornographic Videos Of U.S. Naval Service Members Uploaded Online: REPORT

Over 100 explicit videos of U.S. Navy personnel were uploaded to a pornography site in January 2020, according to court documents unsealed in April.

The videos featuring the personnel in bathroom stalls had been uploaded to Pornhub and appeared to be “secretly shot,” but were taken down within days of being reported to the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), according to court documents obtained by Military.com. A NCIS agent investigating how the videos were uploaded later obtained subscriber details from Pornhub after obtaining a subpoena and later a search warrant, according to Pacific Daily News.

“Many of the videos — which included audio — appeared to depict various U.S. military members masturbating in bathroom stalls to pornographic materials viewed on electronic devices,” a court document alleged, according to Military.com.

Some of the videos were labeled with the rank and last name of the victims, Military.com reported.

The case was unsealed April 17, according to the Pacific Daily News. No arrests have been made or charges filed in the case, Military.com reported.

Pornhub, one of the largest online porn sites, has come under fire for allowing underage individuals to view its material and had responded to legislation requiring age verification by blocking access to users from states that pass such measures.

The Navy and Pornhub did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

AUTHOR

HAROLD HUTCHISON

Contributor.

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2 Steps to Prevent the Sexual Abuse of Millions of Children

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — Benjamin Franklin


And with your help, we are moving far beyond a mere ounce of prevention.

Dalma* forced a watery smile as she bid her last patient of the day goodbye.

She closed the door, then slumped against it, letting her head fall backward until it thumped on the hard wood. Shutting her eyes, she blew out a slow, steadying breath.

When Dalma had decided to become a therapist for child sexual abuse survivors, she’d known it wouldn’t be a pleasure cruise. And it was worth it. It was rewarding, journeying with people through their long process of healing.

But sometimes … Sometimes, Dalma just wished she had a time machine, rather than a PhD in psychology. Because more than anything, Dalma wished her patients didn’t have to heal.

She wished they’d simply never been hurt.


Time machines, alas, do not exist.

But although we cannot employ time machines to undo the harm suffered by child sexual abuse survivors, we can prevent others from experiencing the same harm.

In our efforts to end sexual abuse and exploitation, NCOSE seeks out the highest impact tactics that will prevent harm for the greatest amount of people. This is what we call “mass-scale prevention.”

Together, we are preventing the sexual abuse of innumerable children—not just striving to put on band-aids and patch up wounds after they’ve already been abused (though survivor services are of course extremely important as well).

Two tactics which have an especially large impact in preventing child sexual abuse are:

  1. Preventing predator’s online access to children
  2. Preventing childhood pornography exposure, an established risk factor for child sexual abuse perpetration and victimization.

Preventing Predator’s Online Access to Children

Social media apps, gaming platforms, and other interactive technologies are major avenues by which predators gain access to children for purposes of sexual abuse and exploitation. For example, a 2020 quantitative research study found that 1 out of 4 kids aged 9–17 reported having a sexual interaction on social media with someone they believed to be an adult. Further, an analysis of U.S. sex trafficking cases active in 2020 found that the most common means by which sex traffickers accessed victims was the Internet.

This is why one of our core strategies is pressing on tech companies to better protect children by making it more difficult for predators to contact and groom them.

For example, let’s look at the cases of TikTok and Instagram, two of the most popular social media platforms with teens. When you joined us in putting public pressure on these companies, both agreed to stop allowing adults to send unsolicited direct messages to children they don’t already know. This eliminated the main way predators where reaching and grooming children on these platforms.

The scope of impact of these changes is absolutely enormous. Globally, almost 360 million teens use TikTok on a monthly basis (32.5% of 1.1 billion monthly users) and almost 190 million minors use Instagram (8% of 2.35 billion monthly users). That’s hundreds of millions of children who are now better protected on these platforms, thanks to your action!

This is only one example of countless major victories we’ve achieved together. Take action below to continue pressing on tech companies to prioritize child safety!

Preventing Childhood Pornography Exposure, an Established Risk Factor for Child Sexual Abuse Perpetration and Victimization

An often-overlooked element in efforts to prevent child sexual abuse is pornography. Research has established that childhood pornography exposure is a major risk factor for both perpetration and victimization, making it vital to address.

Pornography Exposure Increases a Child’s Odds of Sexually Aggressing Against Other Children

When we talk about child sexual abuse, it’s important to understand that children are not only victimized by adults; they are also victimized by other children. In fact, research shows that male adolescents aged 10-17 are responsible for 35% to 65% of child sexual abuse contacts. And pornography plays a huge role in fueling this.

A longitudinal study following 10-15 year-olds over a period of three years found that exposure to violent pornography predicted a nearly six-fold increase in self-reported sexually aggressive behavior later on. To be very clear: violent content is not a small subset of the pornography kids are seeing. A 2022 study found that 52% of teens exposed to pornography reported seeing violent forms of pornography such as choking (36%), someone in pain (37%), or depictions of what appears to be rape (19%).

Considering that children often learn by observing and imitating the behavior of others, is it any wonder that pornography is teaching them to sexually aggress against other children?

In fact, some children even outright acknowledge that pornography was their teacher. Nancy Green, the Director of child advocacy group Palmer Place, states:

“We have had [cases of where] the child has already said, you know, ‘I learned that from the Internet.’ And we’ve had children that basically are describing an addiction to pornography. And then they’re trying it out.”

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Heidi Olson attests to seeing the link between pornography and child-on-child harmful sexual behavior “on almost a daily basis.” Among the many stories she shares, she speaks of a 13-year-old boy who sexually molested his 2-year-old sister; they found pornography all over the boy’s phone. Olson also describes cases where the children appear to be imitating classic scenes from mainstream pornography.

Pornography Consumption Can Escalate to Consumption of Child Sexual Abuse Material

Research also shows that early age of exposure to pornography is a significant risk factor consuming child sexual abuse material (CSAM, the more apt term for “child pornography”) later on in life.

For children and adults alike, consumption of pornography often escalates towards more extreme content, as many users grow desensitized and need to seek out novel, stronger stimuli in order to achieve the same level of sexual arousal. One study examining the self-identified motivations of CSAM offenders found that some participants reported escalating towards CSAM after prolonged exposure and desensitization to legal pornography.

Further, consumption of child sexual abuse material and contact abuse of children are heavily linked. For example, one study found that, although 75% of imprisoned CSAM offenders were not known to have committed a contact offense at the time of their sentencing, following a 60-week treatment program, 85% of the CSAM offenders admitted to having in fact committed at least one contact offense.

Pornography Exposure Increases a Child’s Odds of Being Sexually Exploited

Pornography is not only a risk factor for perpetration; it is a risk factor for victimization as well. A meta-analysis of 37 studies found that exposure to violent or rape pornography increased a child’s odds of experiencing sexual exploitation by nearly three times.

Exposure to pornography can effectively groom children into accepting sexual abuse and exploitation, even seeing it as normal. For example, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Heidi Olson tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who was violently raped by a 16-year-old boy in a parking lot but said she “didn’t mind.” It turned out that the girl had been using pornography every day since she was 5 years old.

Pornography exposure is also associated with self-generating child sexual abuse material through “sexting.” Sexts are frequently redistributed without the sender’s consent; one Canadian study found that 42% of youth who had sent sexts had experienced at least one being shared or posted online without their consent. This non-consensual redistribution leads to devastating mental health impacts on the survivor, and also contributes significantly to the proliferation of CSAM across the internet. In fact, self-generated imagery now accounts for nearly a third of web pages featuring CSAM. (Learn more about the serious risks sexting poses to youth here)

Progress We’ve Made Together

All these facts underscore the importance of preventing childhood exposure to pornography, as a preventative measure for child sexual abuse and exploitation. Together, we’ve already made significant progress towards this end!

For example, with your help, we influenced Google to automatically blur pornographic images on Google Images, as well as block pornographic search results for children signed into under 18 accounts. That’s 8.5 billion Google searches per day (99,000 searches per second) that are significantly less likely to expose unsuspecting children to pornography!

We are pressing on other tech companies to proactively protect children from pornography, and are also supporting legislation that would require smartphones and tablets to automatically turn on existing filters for pornography when it is activated for use by a minor.

If you are interested in passing filtering legislation, or other online child protection bills in your state, you can sign up for state-specific announcements and opportunities for action below. Our Public Policy team will keep you updated!

AUTHOR

EDITORS NOTE: This National Center on Sexual Exploitation column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

‘It’s “Me Too” Unless You Are a Jew’: Why Won’t Women’s Groups Condemn Hamas’s Rapes?

Why won’t so-called “women’s groups” condemn Hamas terrorists for raping Israeli women on October 7? This is what a growing number of people are asking, including Former Miss World and Miss Israel 1998, Linor Abargil, who gave a very moving and emotional speech before the United Nations on December 4.

Abargil appeared on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday. She said, “It’s ‘Me Too’ unless you are a Jew.” She observed, “It’s not about political, it’s not about ‘Free Palestine, it’s not about which side you’re on on the map: to use rape as an act of war is unbearable. I mean, what happened to humanity?” She then became very emotional and had to take a moment to compose herself before she shared:

“One of my friends… told me a story about this young woman — that he saw a video of her — she was raped by three Hamas people, one after another raped her. . .Screaming they beat her, spit at her, they then butchered her, and one of them took her cell phone and just send everything to her mother. Her scream just haunts my friend every night he’s tried to sleep. And her screaming should be out there for all the world to shout out for this girl that is not here to shout herself. But instead, all of the organizations are just silent. …I mean, I’m telling you, I’m just speechless.”

In the second hour of Thursday’s program, Dana Perino interviewed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) who also called out the women’s groups that are usually her political allies. They include Emily’s List, Democratic Women’s Caucus, Women’s March, I Stand With Her, and American Association of University Women.

Gillibrand said, “When I saw the list at the U.N., I couldn’t believe it. I was so aghast, I was so furious. I don’t understand how we cannot have solidarity amongst all women in the United States and globally — that using rape as a weapon of war is unacceptable. It has to be condemned. The fact that the U.N. has not called Hamas a terrorist organization and condemn[ed] the horrific violence on October 7 is unacceptable. And they’re not even enforcing international law.”

She went on to say, “I think women’s rights groups in the United States should care deeply about women around the globe and should not turn a blind eye. They should not keep their head in the sand. They have a moral responsibility to have moral clarity…”

Perino asked Gillibrand if she watched the video of the October 7 massacre that the Israeli government provided for Congress to watch. She responded, “I did. It’s unspeakable. The horrific acts that were committed in the most heinous and evil ways you can imagine: beheadings, dismemberments, mass rapes, shooting of babies and children. It’s something that should never, ever happen. And it has to be called out not only by the U.N. but by the world community. … They did not show us the victims of rape, and they did not show us the videos of rapes happening because they thought it was too horrific for Congress to see, but we should see it. And these films and these photographs should be made public because the world has to condemn this…”

Abargil’s and Gillibrand’s emotional pleas stand in stark contrast to the cold words of Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, December 3. When CNN host, Dana Bash, asked her why women’s groups are “downright silent” about Hamas raping and mutilating Jewish women on October 7, Jayapal shockingly downplayed Hamas’s evil acts, continually trying to compare those acts to Israel’s justifiable right to defend itself.

Bash said, “With respect, I was just trying to talk about the women, and you turned it back to Israel. I’m asking you about Hamas…”

Jayapal interrupted, “I already answered your question, Dana, I said it’s horrific. I think that rape is horrific — sexual assault is horrific. I think it’s horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians…”

Bash pointed out, “And it’s horrible, but you don’t see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.” To which Jayapal responded, “Well, Dana, I don’t want this to be the hierarchy of oppressions…”

Although U.N. Women finally condemned Hamas on December 1 (almost two months after the October 7 attack), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still pleading with groups such as the United Nation’s own World Health Organization and women’s groups around the world to be vocal advocates for the many Israeli women and girls that were raped on October 7 (and for the hostages that likely continue to be abused). He said, “I heard heartbreaking stories of abuse. I heard, as you have heard, about sexual abuse and unprecedented cases of cruel rape.”

He then asked, “Did you remain silent because it was Jewish women? … I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you? I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations to speak up against this atrocity.”

Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, Meg Kilgannon, is not surprised by women’s groups’ lack of attention to this horrific issue. She told The Washington Stand, “National women’s groups have been part and parcel of the Democratic Party for years. For women who pay attention, we know that these groups will never represent our values or the real interests of women. The example of excusing depraved behaviors of terrorists is just another of many ways the leaders of women’s groups serve the interest of progressive and authoritarian men.”

FRC’s Director of the Center for Human Dignity, Mary Szoch, agreed and added, “The terroristic actions of Hamas are pure evil and should be denounced by everyone — especially those claiming to speak for women. Failure to speak out against members of Hamas raping Jewish women is inexcusable.”

AUTHOR

Kathy Athearn

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Debunking Child Trafficking Myths in the USA & Facing the Truth

Child trafficking is a heinous violation of human rights, with many misconceptions obscuring the real issues. Let’s unpack and demystify these myths, offering a transparent lens into the truth about child trafficking in the USA.

What is Child Trafficking?

The sale and exploitation of children, often for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. It involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of minors through force, deception, or coercion. Tragically, child trafficking treats children as commodities, prioritizing profit over their well-being and fundamental rights. This heinous crime occurs globally, transcending borders and socio-economic barriers, and demands urgent attention and collective action to safeguard the vulnerable youth. Read more.

Recognizing the Signs of Child Trafficking:

  • Children traveling alone or with non-relative adults.
  • Children appearing dominated by an accompanying adult.
  • Unexplained school absences or frequent transfers.
  • History of runaways or homelessness.
  • Child labor with long hours or low pay.
  • Expensive possessions or inappropriate clothing.
  • Overcrowding or unsafe environments.
  • Tattoos or branding hinting at commercial sex trafficking.
  • Performance of sexual acts or prostitution.

Read more.

Dispelling Myths:

Myth 1: Child trafficking mostly happens in developing countries.

Reality: The USA is the main source and destination for child trafficking, with an estimated annual income of $50 billion from child sex trafficking.

Myth 2: Child trafficking mostly involves kidnapping.

Reality: Trafficking methods vary, and most trafficking isn’t through abduction. Kidnapping is one of many tactics, but statistically, it’s the minority of the instances of child trafficking. Over 90% of the time, children are trafficked by family members and/or friends.

Myth 3: Trafficking victims come from low-income backgrounds.

Reality: While socio-economic vulnerabilities can play a role, children from all economic, racial, and social backgrounds can become victims of trafficking. It’s not restricted by socio-economic status, region, or neighborhood type. Traffickers often exploit areas where they believe they won’t be suspected or caught.

Myth 4: If they wanted to leave, they could.

Reality: Many assume that victims of trafficking can easily leave their situations if they wanted. However, traffickers often use manipulation, threats, violence, and other coercive tactics to control and keep their victims from seeking help.

Myth 5: Trafficking involves moving across borders.

Reality: Trafficking doesn’t always involve the transportation of victims across state or national borders. It can occur within the same state, city, or community.

Myth 6: Trafficking children can be easily identified.

Reality: The truth is, most victims are scripted and show subtle signs that may not be obvious to most. Many may overlook a child who is attending their school or church, unwitting to the harsh reality that child may be facing in their home life.

Myth 7: Law enforcement can easily spot and handle trafficking.

Reality: Trafficking cases can be complex, and specialized training is often needed to recognize and handle them appropriately.

Myth 8: Traffickers are sinister strangers: 

Reality: It’s a common belief that traffickers are always unknown to the victim. In many instances, traffickers can be family members, friends, or acquaintances who exploit the trust and vulnerability of the child.

Myth 9: ​​Child trafficking is only for sexual exploitation.

Reality: While sexual exploitation is rampant, children face trafficking for many sinister purposes, including forced labor and organ trafficking.

Myth 10: Only girls are trafficked.

Reality: Trafficking doesn’t discriminate by gender. Boys are also victims of trafficking for both sexual and labor exploitation.

Echoes of Trauma: Effects on Child Trafficking Survivors

A. Psychological Trauma:

  • Deep-rooted trauma and PTSD become a part of many trafficked children’s lives. This impacts their mental health, relationships, self worth, and perspective of the world.
  • What may seem normal or even comforting to the average person may be very off putting and even distressing for survivors. Compassion, grace, and understanding, along with quality trauma-informed therapy are paramount to supporting a survivor’s healing journey.
  • If untreated, the persistent trauma can lead to long-term mental and physical health challenges.

Read more on healing and overcoming trauma.

B. Physical Aftermath:

  • Trafficked children frequently face health complications and injuries from their experiences. Many have lasting physical symptoms even decades after the trauma.
  • Many victims were deprived of basic needs and suffered additional trauma due to subpar living conditions.
  • Survivors may take a while to get comfortable around other people, especially crowds or strangers, and feel safe in their surroundings.

Our Collective Role Against Trafficking:

  • Government Measures: Strengthen and enforce laws, amplify awareness, and establish dedicated local and federal task forces.
  • Community Vigilance: By spotting and reporting suspicious activities, communities can reduce the predator’s ability to operate and prevent countless children from trauma.
  • Personal Duty: Awareness, support, and action. Support the organizations on the front lines of the fight against child trafficking in the USA.

In Summary:

Child trafficking remains a dark shadow in our society. The myths and misunderstandings surrounding it only hinder our fight against this crime. With a better understanding and collective responsibility, we can not only raise awareness but also put an end to this atrocious act.

Act now. Dive deeper into preventative strategies in our “Tools & Education” section and stand up against child trafficking in the USA!

EDITORS NOTE: This Veterans 4 Child Rescue column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

California Democrats Vote against Anti-Child Trafficking Bill, Then Change Course

Last week, one Democrat in the California State Assembly made a rare public apology — not over a scandal, but over her position on a vote that had taken place the same week. Assembly member Liz Ortega had joined fellow Democrats just a few days earlier in blocking a bill aimed at cracking down on human trafficking of children. The move justifiably made national headlines and garnered widespread criticism. But it shouldn’t take a national controversy for Democrats to vote the right way on something as blatantly evil as the human trafficking of children.

Now, Assemblywoman Ortega says she “made a bad decision,” and in her public apology on Twitter, she wrote, “Voting against legislation targeting really bad people who traffic children was wrong. I regret doing that and I am going to help get this important legislation passed into law.”

On July 11, the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety failed to pass SB-14. The only two Republicans on the committee voted in favor. Yet not a single one of the six Democrats on the committee, including Ortega, voted in favor of the bill, instead making the cowardly decision to abstain from voting at all. The bill had already passed unanimously in the California State Senate in May with bipartisan support.

SB-14 would make “human trafficking of a minor” a “serious felony” under Section 1192.7 of the state’s Penal Code. “Serious” felonies get harsher punishments under California law and are considered “strikes” under California’s “Three Strikes Law.” Eighty-nine nonprofits and organizations and 13 individuals registered their support for the bill (including multiple district attorney’s offices, police departments, and anti-trafficking groups), while only seven groups opposed it. The State of California Department of Justice’s own website states, “California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States.” Thus, a bill aimed at making the penalty for trafficking children harsher should be something that California Assembly members of both parties can see is necessary.

After originally declining to vote for the bill, Ortega told the Washington Free Beacon, “Sending someone to prison for the rest of their lives is not going to fix the harm moving forward. And that’s the part I’m struggling with. It’s a complex issue.” Ortega’s grave misunderstanding of the criminal justice system was covered over by her with a veneer of compassion. It ignores the fact that putting a trafficker behind bars for a significant amount of time is not only an act of justice for the crimes that were committed, but it also protects the children whom the trafficker might target next were he or she not behind bars.

At the California Assembly’s hearing for the bill last Tuesday, one survivor of trafficking, Odessa Perkins, called out the Democrats’ reluctance to inflict harsher penalties for child trafficking as continuing the “horrific cycle of abuse and depravity.” As a black survivor of trafficking in California, her testimony contradicted opponents of the bill who claimed the proposal would lead to lead to overcrowded jails or contribute to mass incarceration of black individuals, saying, “I was molested and raped repeatedly by black and white men and even some women. So, it does not matter the race. What matters is saving our children. Traffickers are getting out of jail, parole, and reoffending …” Progressives who are soft on crime may try to use their tired and routine talking points, but this is simply not a racial issue, an economic issue, or even a partisan issue — it’s about protecting vulnerable children.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Senator Shannon Grove, expressed her shock and frustration that SB-14 was blocked, saying, “I am profoundly disappointed that committee Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to support the bill, with their stubborn and misguided objection to any penalty increase regardless of how heinous the crime.” Even Governor Gavin Newsom (D) was unhappy with the committee Democrats. The day after the committee vote, he called Grove to see how the bill might be revived. After the call, Newsom told reporters, “I want to understand exactly what happened yesterday. I take it very seriously.” He further noted that he “cares deeply” about the issue of child trafficking.

The public outcry and chastisement from California’s liberal governor was enough for most of the Democrats on the committee to reverse course entirely. On Thursday — just two days after the initial vote — the committee voted on SB-14 again. This time, it passed with six votes in favor while two Democrats still abstained from voting.

This is a small victory for justice and for the survivors of human trafficking. Next, the bill must be approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which will likely vote on the bill mid-to-late August, before going on to the full Assembly. Grove believes that “most Assembly Democrats want to vote for this bill if they are given a chance” and is hopeful that the bill will be successful.

The controversy in California comes at a time when child human trafficking is garnering heightened attention after the theater release of the movie “Sound of Freedom,” based on a true story of a sting operation in Latin American that successfully led to the rescue of dozens of children trapped in sex slavery. Negative reactions to the movie from some legacy media outlets have been outrageous. The Guardian published the following heading: “Sound of Freedom: the QAnon-adjacent thriller seducing America.” Rolling Stone followed suit with the headline “‘Sound of Freedom’: Box Office Triumph for QAnon Believers.” The Washington Post attempted a faux nuanced tone with “QAnon and ‘Sound of Freedom’ Both Rely on Tired Hollywood Tropes.”

Many in the legacy media are trying to discredit “Sound of Freedom” — and its underlying message that the trafficking of children is a serious problem that ought to be addressed — by linking it to the QAnon conspiracy theory. But it begs the question: why? Do these progressive elites not think that human trafficking of children happens? Or is the reason even more sinister? The exact motivation is unclear; but what should be clear to Christians is that there is an intense spiritual battle surrounding this issue right now. We must pray that the darkness will be exposed, and that American’s hearts will be moved to bring the perpetrators of trafficking to justice and the victims of trafficking to freedom.

Human trafficking should be exactly the type of issue that unites everyone with an intact conscience. Human trafficking, especially of defenseless children, is a horrifying reality — one that everyone should want to see effectively combatted, and ultimately ended. The debacle over SB-14 last week was unexpected and disappointing, even for California. It might have taken a national uproar for Democrats to rethink their position on SB-14, but at least some did rethink it and change course.

We can hope that California Assembly members will now work diligently to see SB-14 pass the full Assembly. Beyond that, politicians across the United States should strategize on how our laws can more effectively address this scourge upon society.

AUTHOR

Arielle Del Turco

Arielle Del Turco is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, and co-author of “Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution.”

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission.  All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Rome Failed on McCarrick – and Needs to Change

Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek: If the Vatican previously investigated abuse, those results must be shared; if Rome didn’t investigate, we need to know why not.


Representatives of the American bishops have now met with Pope Francis to discuss the much-needed investigation of the McCarrick Affair. This is understandable since any process involving the ex-cardinal and other prelates requires papal permission. It’s one thing to ask the pope’s support for an investigation, however, and quite another to trust Vatican officials to run it, given what we now know.

Because we now know – from former Metuchen Bishop P.G. Bootkoski and from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri – that the Vatican Secretariat of State received credible allegations against McCarrick over a decade ago. Yet the Vatican did not deprive him of access to seminarians and priests. Therefore, an investigation focused on McCarrick and the American bishops risks ignoring the pivotal role of higher-ranking officials in Rome.

Bootkoski recently acknowledged that in December 2005 he informed then U.S. nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, of three complaints against McCarrick. The accusations involved inappropriate physical contact with a priest as well as sexually touching seminarians. Two of these allegations resulted in financial settlements.

An October 2006 letter has come to light in which Sandri, who worked directly under the Cardinal Secretary of State, referred to “serious matters” involving seminarians at Seton Hall, which had been reported to Montalvo by Fr. Boniface Ramsey in 2000. Ramsey has repeatedly claimed he informed the nuncio of allegations that McCarrick harassed seminarians and shared a bed with them at his beach house.

The Secretariat of State, therefore, received credible allegations in 2000 and 2005 that McCarrick harassed and “groomed” priests and seminarians, sexually exploiting the latter. If Rome investigated, they should now share the results and save us the trouble of repeating their work. If they didn’t investigate, they need to account for their failure to protect seminarians and priests.

Even if Rome did investigate, another crucial question arises: were dioceses notified of the allegations and the possibility their seminarians and priests had been exploited? That would include any diocese that used seminaries frequented by McCarrick, especially the seminaries where he resided after 2005. Minors might have been at risk since incoming college seminarians can be under 18.

The Penitent Saint Jerome by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1514 [National Museum of Art, Bucharest]

Cardinal Wuerl insists that neither he nor the Archdiocese of Washington knew of the allegations. This would mean Rome said nothing. To confirm Rome’s silence, Catholics and journalists should ask Cardinal Dolan whether he or the Archdiocese of New York were notified.

Note that Bootkoski’s statement and Sandri’s letter were not written to support the recent testimony of Archbishop Viganò. In fact, he accused both of cover-ups. Unlike Viganò, their testimonies to Rome’s knowledge of the allegations were not meant to suggest Vatican complicity in the McCarrick Affair.

Whatever the original intention, however, Sandri’s letter now constitutes documentary evidence that Ramsey spoke to Montalvo in 2000. The letter also implies that the Secretariat of State deemed those concerns credible no later than 2006.

Furthermore, Bootkoski’s statement proves that allegations were judged credible since payments were made based on them. Unfortunately, his statement provides only a summary of the memo he sent to the nuncio in 2005, which was presumably forwarded to the Secretariat of State.

The reason offered for presenting a summary is that “the claimants have not given the diocese permission” to publish the detailed allegations. Perhaps the diocese or journalists could ask the claimants to allow the memo to be published, redacting any portions the claimants wished to keep confidential. That way, the public could see documentary evidence of Bootkoski’s report to the Vatican.

Unless Sandri had been protecting McCarrick, he would have promptly notified the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of the allegations forwarded by the nuncio from Ramsey and Bootkoski. By the time Sandri wrote the 2006 letter, he would have informed the new Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

We don’t have evidence that the allegations in 2000 or 2005 reached St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, or – prior to recent revelations – Francis. Yet if the popes were not informed, Vatican officials obviously cannot be now relied on to oversee the upcoming investigation.

The Secretariat’s failure to investigate the matter or to report the allegations to affected dioceses as part of an investigation would demonstrate a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of priests and seminarians, including minors.

A bishop exploiting seminarians and priests for his own gratification is an outrage that cries to heaven. How could the Secretariat of State have turned away? And did no other Vatican offices receive reports? Were there legitimate reasons an investigation was not initiated or proved inconclusive?  After decades of abuse scandals, how could officials not have recognized the gravity of the accusations? Or were some officials willing to tolerate these monstrous evils?

Answers and accountability are vital for Catholics everywhere, not only in America. In Chile, cries of Catholics were repeatedly ignored or denounced by Rome. Eventually, Chile’s bishops offered to resign, but no Vatican officials followed their example. That scenario must not be repeated.

These circumstances make it impossible for the Vatican to act as a credible guarantor of the forthcoming review of the McCarrick Affair. The pope’s approval and cooperation are necessary, but since American bishops and Vatican officials are under scrutiny now, the investigative process must be independent of both. For the investigation to be effective the pope will need to cooperate by freeing Church officials from the Pontifical Secret and directing them to answer legitimate questions from investigators.

The review should be transparent and overseen by a board comprised of laity, religious, deacons, priests, and bishops. That way the entire Church would be represented in assessing and remedying the problemsThat should involve exonerating the innocent, punishing the guilty, repairing the harm, and changing administrative structures and policies. A board like this could become a model for dealing with other failures by bishops and the Vatican.

Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek

Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek

Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek, STD has been a priest of the Diocese of Austin since 1985 and is currently the administrator of St. Mary’s in the city of West. His studies were in Dogmatics with a focus on Ecclesiology, Apostolic Ministry, Newman, and Ecumenism.

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