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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2005

Blind eye toward abuse

WEEKS after he was appointed Toledo police chief in June, 1956, Anthony A. Bosch got a respectful gift from fellow members of the local Knights of Columbus council - a specially designed solid-gold badge, emblazoned with his name and a three-quarter carat diamond. Three years later, the state council of the Catholic fraternal organization, of which he was an officer, gave him a new Cadillac.

These incidents help explain why Chief Bosch, a devout Catholic who headed the police department for 14 years, turned a blind official eye to continued sexual abuse of children by Toledo-area priests, as documented in a report Sunday by Blade reporters Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr.

This was not, by any means, a policy of benign neglect, no matter how Chief Bosch, who died in 1982, may have rationalized it in his own mind. Rather than prosecuting criminal acts by priests, police and other civil authorities quietly and systematically shuffled aside cases of abuse, leaving them to be dealt with by the church.

The church hierarchy, in turn, did its utmost to keep the abuse quiet, usually by sending offenders away for "treatment" or - worse - transferring them to another, unsuspecting, parish, where they were free to molest more children.

As we know now, this conspiracy of silence only magnified, inflamed, and perpetuated a malevolent cycle of abuse, denial, and grudging acceptance of responsibility by the church for wrongdoing committed by its messengers of God.

What the church's officialdom refused to acknowledge was that sexual abuse must, first and foremost, be recognized as a crime rather than a sin. That denial was compounded by police officials, many of them Catholic, who apparently felt they were protecting the church by ignoring abuse.

In most cases, police never filed written reports or conducted investigations. The result was that most offenders went unpunished. And, decades later, there is a sparse official paper trail documenting the abuse, allowing the church to minimize the problem and offenders to claim they did nothing illegal.

Even in cases where priests have been defrocked by the church, the quiet concealment of their crimes has allowed offenders to find their way into jobs with access to children.

We would not, of course, place the entire blame for what transpired in Toledo on Anthony Bosch. Molestation of children by priests certainly began before he became police chief and the unwritten policy of deflecting criminal prosecution of offenders did not end when he retired in 1970.

On the contrary, as Jim Richards, diocesan spokesman from 1971 to 1995, confirmed, church officials "knew who to call in the police department" to keep an abuse case quiet.

At this juncture, it is difficult to decide who were the worst offenders - the priests who took advantage of religious trust to molest children or those in the police department whose protective indifference let them get away with it.

But neither can ever be excused.



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