Church protected accused priests, report says

DALLAS – Between 100 and 200 Roman Catholic priests around the world were moved from country to country after they were accused of sex offenses against minors, according to an 18-month investigation by the Dallas Morning News.

Brooks Edgerton, one of three reporters on the series, gave an overview of the investigation Friday on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program. The first story in the series will run in Sunday editions.

Vatican officials declined comment Friday on the report.

“We’re focusing on international movement of abusive priests, people who have been accused and in many cases criminally charged, in some cases even convicted or otherwise admitted” abuse, Edgerton said. He did not say what time period was covered by the investigation.

He said initial coverage will focus on the Salesians, a large order that was founded in 19th-century Italy by St. John Bosco. It works mainly with poor and needy children.

“We have found a systematic practice of moving the most serious abuse cases on to other countries to protect the accused,” Edgerton said.

Edgerton also said the newspaper found that some of the priests who were shuffled between countries spent long periods of time in the United States.

“Frequently, what we’ve seen are priests who worked for a long time in America but remained citizens of another country,” he said. “They came here and, when trouble arose, there was an easy escape hatch, and that was to go back to their native lands.”

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