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By Christopher Carr, Georgia.gov. April 3, 2023
In 2019, I convened a meeting with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC), the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Georgia Catholic Conference to discuss the growing sexual abuse scandal plaguing the Roman Catholic Church globally. Our meeting led to PAC, the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Diocese of Savannah entering into a Memorandum of Understanding permitting PAC to conduct an independent review of Church records concerning suspected child abuse at the hands of Church leaders in Georgia.
On March 24, 2023, PAC released its 267-page report, and it confirms what many have feared and suspected. While PAC’s report did not uncover any current, ongoing or unreported sexual abuse by priests, it did reveal historical criminal allegations in Georgia against priests. The report shows that prior to 2002, the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah knew about and enabled sexual abuse of minors by its priests, prevented the discovery and investigation of these acts by public or civil authorities, and relocated priests after they were accused of sexually abusing children.
This abuse and cover-up by the Church prior to 2002 is horrific and indefensible. As I turned each page of this 267-page report and saw the pattern that emerged and the number of lives destroyed, it further sickened and angered me. It is a travesty of justice that this was ever allowed to occur, either in the Church or anywhere in the State of Georgia, but it must never be tolerated again.
The PAC report clearly cites the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 as a critical turning point for the Catholic Church in Georgia. The Charter requires specific actions to be taken when allegations of child abuse are filed, including notifying the appropriate secular authorities, such as law enforcement or the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). It is clear that these new policies have proven effective, and I encourage the Church to continue to educate Catholics in Georgia and others on ways to report abuse.
As a Roman Catholic myself, I am fully aware of the impact, devastation and deep distrust the issue of sexual abuse within the Church has had on its members and Georgians as a whole. Significant damage was done over many years, and the healing will not be quick.