Mr. BROOKS EGERTON (Reporter, The Dallas Morning News): We're globalizing the story, I think, for the first time. We have traced this problem to all six occupied continents, and I think we've all failed to understand that the church is the most global of institutions.
INSKEEP: So you're saying that it wasn't just the Catholic Church in the United States that was discovering cases of priest sexual abuse and then just moving the priest along to another location.
Mr. EGERTON: Right. We're focusing on international movement of abusive priests, people who have been accused and in many cases criminally charged, in some cases even convicted or otherwise admitted, who have gone from country A to country B and, in several cases, on to countries D, C and E, who are in active ministry today while on the run from law enforcement.
INSKEEP: What happened in an order of priests called the Salesians?
Mr. EGERTON: That'll be the focus of our initial coverage. This is an order that focuses entirely on ministry to children, primarily children in the Third World. It's not an order that's well known in the United States. It is the third largest order in the world, however, very, very well known in the developing world. And we have found a systematic practice of moving the most serious abuse cases ! on to other countries to protect the accused.
INSKEEP: I know your reporting covers many cases. Can you give me an example?
Mr. EGERTON: One of the examples we'll be looking at in the first day of our coverage involves a priest named Frank Klep(ph), who had a long career working with the Salesians in youth institutions in Melbourne, Australia, and was repeatedly accused of sexual abuse. In the 1980s, the order moved him to Rome for a bit, a little cooling-off period, and then on to New York, and they wanted Frank Klep removed from duty with children, and in one sense he was. And he went back to Australia and he went right back to working, as the Salesians do, with poor and needy children. People began to go to the police at that point. Frank Klep was criminally convicted, got some community service time, went back to work again.
INSKEEP: As a priest?
Mr. EGERTON: As a priest all along. He is still a priest and he has admitted to us and to one of his victims that he did these things. Finally a new criminal i! nvestigation began later on in the 1990s, and his order moved him to Samoa and told his accusers that he was no longer in ministry, that he was in a very remote area, that he had no contact with children. And so we set out to simply test that claim. And we went to Samoa and the first day that we were there, my colleague went to church and saw children running up to Frank Klep after Mass, calling him by his first name. And he was pulling candy out of his pockets and handing it out to all the little kids. We later found that he was in very active ministry and sometimes tutors children alone in his bedroom.
INSKEEP: You found him there and talked to him, and he confessed to what he had done?
Mr. EGERTON: In one case he did. He denied all the others. He said that he didn't feel he was a threat to children any longer, that he had overcome whatever problems he had had in the past and didn't see that it was really a problem to be working with children.
INSKEEP: Is Frank Klep the only Salesian priest you found with a record like this?
Mr. EGERTON: No, no, not at all. Other cases that we'll discuss include a guy who started in Peru and has worked in at least six countries in the Western Hemisphere. He was sent to the archdiocese of Chicago with a specific letter of reference. We have the document saying that he has never showed any behavior that would give rise to concern about children's safety, and yet we have other documents from the Salesians showing that their own priests in a church disciplinary panel specifically said that he should never be allowed to work around children.
INSKEEP: What was the response of senior church leaders when they found out this information?
Mr. EGERTON: Well, in the case I was just describing, many people in the Salesians wanted this guy removed from duty, but that didn't happen. In other cases, we don't have any evidence of internal protest, simply that someone was moved from point A to point B and often to point C. There's been no broader response to our findings.
INSKEEP: Are the Salesians the only order of priests that you investigated and found problems with?
Mr. EGERTON: No, certainly not. Probably the name that folks will recognize the most is the Franciscans, and then there are several others whose names are far less well known.
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