Priests have been conspiring to harm children under the roofs of churches for generations, and church authorities have been covering it up. The problem is systemic, from Boston to Pittsburgh to California and who knows where else. Until the whole and absolute truth of this is determined in broad daylight, every Catholic church must be considered a possible crime scene and sealed accordingly. The victims deserve nothing less.
In order to properly pursue these investigations, laws regarding the statute of limitations — the window of time in which a crime can be prosecuted — must be altered to reflect the circumstances. In Pennsylvania, the window for legal action can be as short as two years. The abuse report sternly noted that thousands more victims exist beyond those noted. Some died in the intervening years, others refused to come forward, and virtually all of them have no legal recompense because the statute of limitations expired. When the last large abuse scandal was exposed by the Boston Globe, the church lobbied fiercely against lifting or changing those statutes. That must not happen again.
I do not believe the government should commonly be in the business of shutting down religious institutions, nor do I hold some cruel desire to see Catholic parishioners permanently cut off from their houses of worship. These are grimly uncommon times, and I offer this proposal from a place of desperation. Every other strategy for confronting the systemic, institutionally enabled mass abuse of children — from concerted activism from within the Catholic church, to public shaming, to financial penalties — has failed for decades. The dilemma is as simple as it is horrific: Rapists within the church continue to maintain their access to children, and have not been punished for previous crimes. It must be stopped.