Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Moving Past Shock
An AP writer speculates a California bishop could face misdemeanor charges for a three-day delay in reporting a sex predator priest. This is from Kim Curtis' article:
State law requires priests and others to report child sexual abuse "immediately or as soon as practicably possible." Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. And the diocese's own policy reiterates the same reporting obligations.
Here's the timeline: Friday 28 April: Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh places Rev. Xavier Ochoa on leave after the priest admits to three incidents of abuse. Saturday: Bishop Walsh contacts his lawyer. Monday: The attorney, Dan Galvin, calls Child Protective Services Tuesday: CPS tells Galvin to inform the county sheriff, but a fax sent there is lost Wednesday: The lawyer-law enforcement connection is finally made, but Ochoa is long gone. Bishop Walsh from his apology letter to the diocese:
"The reading of my motives have been so wrong - that I waited so he could escape, that I was covering up. The delay was not premeditated. It was a human mistake ... I don't deal with this every day."
Confronting child sexual abuse is a shock. When my wife and I were taking classes to be certified as foster/adoptive parents, we were exposed to the brutal reality which is child abuse. We met a few of these kids at gatherings. We read dozens of case histories. It's enough to make you want to scream. After a good cry. I might have a better solution to Bishop Walsh's problems than six months in the slammer. You can't go wrong getting to know kids who have been sexually abused. If anyone who has delayed in reporting abuse just read about a hundred case histories, it would cure them of the "mistake" of waiting. Walsh needs to realize an admitted sex predator is now on the loose in Mexico. Maybe Ochoa was prepared to flee the minute he concluded his interview with the bishop. Maybe it wouldn't have made a bit of difference if CPS was notified after an episcopal shake of the head and a flip through the government section of the Santa Rosa phone book. But maybe it would have. In the last paragraph of his letter, the bishop implies he will be the last person in the Santa Rosa diocese not to lose his job on this error: "I will ensure that in the future, all mandated reporters in our Church obey the law or be removed from service." This is a tough spot to put oneself in. The law doesn't stipulate a person lose her or his job for failing to report immediately. However sincere the bishop's apology may be (and his consultant helped him quite well with it), his sincerity might well be tested if he himself doesn't resign if a court of law should find him guilty.

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