Unmasking

Victims should come forward

Pedophilia is not a mental sickness caused by the water in a particular place. It affects people — almost exclusively men, it seems — of all ages. It is not something that comes and goes; to the contrary, pedophiles are constant threats to children.

Last month, Roman Catholic church officials released a list of priests in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston who had been “credibly accused” of molesting minors during a period extending back more than 50 years. There were 31 names on the list, with some not having been accused of improper behavior while they served in West Virginia, but only after they moved on to other states.

Then, on Monday, the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus released another list. This one contains the names of Jesuit priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

Three of them served for a time in our general area. None was accused of abuse while working here (their jobs were at Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling Central Catholic High School and St. Paul’s Church in Weirton).

Of the total of 13 priests identified by the order, eight are dead. The other five are living in supervised housing facilities “on a safety plan,” according to the Maryland Province.

As the church releases such lists, the question arises: Did any of those on the lists engage in pedophilia while working in our area, but not get caught until they moved elsewhere?

To their credit, church officials have emphasized they want to know if such situations occurred — and if priests not on the credible accusation tallies victimized children, too. The Wheeling-Charleston diocese has made it clear officials hope the names revealed earlier this month will serve as a catalyst to convince others who may have been victimized to come forward.

Let us hope that happens. It is difficult to believe that of the priests on the lists who worked in the Northern Panhandle, none was guilty of abuse until he moved on to another location.

Unmasking every priest who abused children is important. It will happen only if the pedophiles’ victims come forward.

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