A coalition of Catholic advocates for victims of clergy abuse wants the Vatican to investigate former Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali based on a 2011 city grand jury report that found, under his watch, the archdiocese was keeping about three dozen suspected abusers in ministry.
The call comes in the wake of Pope Francis’ June creation of a tribunal to probe cases where bishops were accused of covering up child sex abuse.
The 2011 report followed a damning 2005 report that found evidence of rampant child abuse and a systemic effort by church leaders to cover up the crimes.
“He was here when that report came out in 2005. It should have been his road map for what he needed to do to correct the church, to right the church. And that did not happen,” said the Rev. James Connell, a retired priest and canonical lawyer from Milwaukee.
Rigali, who was archbishop of Philadelphia from 2003 to 2011, had been archbishop of St. Louis from from 1994 to 2003.
“There’s other things both here and in St. Louis where priests were not removed, people were not warned,” said Connell. “So all of that comes together saying: this ought to go forward.”
The group, going by the name Catholic Whistleblowers, also called for the investigation of Cardinal Raymond Burke, another former leader of St. Louis Catholics.
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish of the Notre Dame de Namur order in New Castle, Delaware, said it’s incumbent upon all concerned Catholics to show the tribunal that the status quo isn’t good enough.
“If no one sends anything in, then whoever is on this board is going to say, ‘Well, nobody said anything, so there’s no reason for us to exist,'” said Turlish.
Arthur Baselice’s son died of an overdose in 2006 after two Franciscan clergymen at Archbishop Ryan High School introduced the boy to drugs and sexually abused him for years.
Under Rigali’s tenure, neither of the abusers were defrocked, and both remain in limited ministry.
“If you’re responsible for a child’s death because you started giving them drugs and you used your position as a priest to molest them and do unspeakable things, should you be protected or should you be ostracized?” said Baselice. “They’re protecting them.”
The group wants Rigali and Burke removed from all offices – and it wants them both to apologize and provide all information requested from those who were harmed.
Rigali, 80, now resides in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Burke, 67, known in Vatican circles for his strict conservatism, was demoted by Pope Francis in 2014 from the church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not respond to a request for comment.
The gathering comes about a week before Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia.
Catholic Whistleblowers hopes the pontiff publicly addresses the abuse and calls for a new era of transparency and accountability.