Port: Catholics win the 'liberty' to keep silent about child abuse

People who are committed to protecting children actually protect them. They don't hide behind religious dogmas, however long-standing.

MINOT, N.D. — Catholics and other supposed proponents of "religious liberty" are crowing about the defeat of Senate Bill 2180 .

The legislation introduced by Sen. Judy Lee, R-Fargo, would have crossed out a clergy exemption to a state law mandating reporting of child abuse. Lee ultimately withdrew the bill after a pressure campaign organized by lobbyists for the Catholic Church and other interests.

If you want to understand why so many Americans have turned away from religion , generally, and Catholicism, specifically, one need look no further than the Diocese of Fargo’s Bishop John Folda spiking the football because his priests won't have report child abusers.

“It really was an assault on our practice of the faith, not just for Catholics but for any people of faith,” he said, according to my fellow columnist, Roxane Salonen .

“It’s not the first time in history civil authorities have tried to use the life of the church for their own ends, and that’s kind of what was going on here,” he continued, adding that his church is “utterly and completely committed to protecting children."


Do you believe him?

I don't.

People who are committed to protecting children actually protect them. They don't hide behind religious dogmas, however long-standing.

The number of priests who abused children, just in the United States , numbers in thousands. The true scope of that global holocaust of harm done to children probably won't ever be known. The Catholic Church's reticence to take responsibility continues right up to the present day, and not just in opposition to this bill.

North Dakota Catholics like to tout a recently completed investigation, conducted by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's office, as somehow clearing their good name.

It didn't.

That investigation found two living priests who could have been tried for alleged abuse but for the statute of limitations.

Other priests couldn't be prosecuted because they are no longer living.


Their victims go on living without justice.

The Catholics like to claim that they cooperated with Stenehjem's inquiry, but the diocese only reported the names of suspected abusers among its priesthood a year ago , after the AG's inquiries had already begun.

Before that, they refused to do so, despite many, including reporters, asking for the information.

How can anyone describe these things as liberty? When the apologists for the Catholics use that word in this context, I want to rip it from their mouths.

I want to remove it from their lexicons.

They don't deserve to use it.

They clearly don't know what it means.

Those of you who are practicing Catholics, please consider, before you attend your next mass or make your next contribution to the church, if this is the sort of thing you stand for.


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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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