Pennsylvania authorities have re-opened an investigation into a decades-old case in which a former student accused a Catholic priest of sexual abuse, the district attorney said.
The accuser, Edward Rodgers, said Monsignor H. Desmond McGee raped him several times between 1988 and 1989 when he was headmaster at Bradford Central Christian High School.
“When I came out in the ’90s, I got trashed bad,” Rodgers, 45, told NBC News. “People said, how could I go against the church? I promised myself I’d never put my family in that situation again.”
Rodgers told CBS This Morning the abuse began with a grooming process that included “some alcohol” and “dirty movies,” and “went from there.”
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The reopening of the investigation comes about a week after a grand jury report said six Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania covered up the sexual abuses of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests over the last seven decades.
McGee was not among the 300-plus priests accused in the grand jury report. Still, investigators said Monday that they decided to look into the case after Rodgers went public after the report’s release.
Rodgers said he was inspired by a fellow student and family friend who acknowledged he was molested by a priest, and encouraged him to speak out.
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“He said: ‘I’m coming back to Bradford. Would you stand with me?'” Rodgers said. “After talking to my wife for three days, she said it was time to take a stand so this doesn’t happen to another child.”
Rodgers had previously tried to sue criminally and civilly in the 1990s, but the statute of limitations had run out. McGee was soon promoted to monsignor.
In a phone call from his nursing home, McGee, now 71, told CBS News, “It’s not true . . . I did not abuse anybody.”
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Former Bishop Donald Trautman said he did not hear of the allegations until 1996 and said he “notified law enforcement” and said the church “investigated the allegations,” but found them unsubstantiated.
Trautman’s name appears numerous times in the grand jury report, accused of concealing other claims of abuse.
In a released statement, Trautman denied those accusations. He said that his record “includes disciplining, defrocking and ultimately laicizing pedophiles in the Diocese,” and he has also made “efforts to provide care and support for victims.”
Forty-one states have eliminated criminal statutes of limitations for at least some child sexual abuse felonies, a Child USA 2018 report on child abuse and neglect shows. Pennsylvania is not among them.
Rodgers’ case is the latest turn of events on an issue that’s loomed over the Catholic Church for years, and particularly this month.
This week, former Vatican Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said Pope Francis and Pope Benedict were both aware of abuses by one former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but ignored the record of abuse and failed to punish him.
Vigano also called on Pope Francis to resign for the good of the church.
The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement Tuesday refuting Vigano’s claims.
“Cardinal [Donald] Wuerl has categorically denied that any of this information was communicated to him,” the statement said. “Archbishop Vigano at no time provided Cardinal Wuerl any information about an alleged document from Pope Benedict XVI with directives of any sort from Rome regarding Archbishop McCarrick.”
Pope Francis has not addressed the claims, except to suggest Vigano isn’t a credible source.
“I will not say a single word about this,” the pontiff said, adding it “speaks for itself.”
Vigano has been critical of Pope Francis’ more liberal stance on social issues.
Meanwhile, the pope was criticized this week for remarks in which he said parents of gay children should seek psychiatric help for those children. Critics said he’s promoting an archaic notion that gays can be changed through conversion therapy.
However, the pope said his words were taken out of context and he did not mean to suggest homosexuality is a mental illness. He has previously been accepting of gay people, once telling a sexual abuse victim his orientation did “not matter.”