Wednesday, December 4, 2002

I will be very interested to see someone, somewhere, bring all of these Boston materials together and lay out some timelines for us, along with salient quotes from supportive hierarchs.

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? And this wasn’t even all of the documents. Thousands more pages have yet to be revealed to us.

As I read through today’s articles, though, some points came to mind, most of which are old points, but that still bear repetition.

Apologists for the bishops’ actions in regard to abusers have often placed blame on the bishops’ reliance on faulty expert opinion. It was thought that these were problems that could be cured it’s said. The bishops were only following the advice of psychologists’ prevailing wisdom and advice.

Incidentally, this apology is often then used to score points against arguments for greater non-clerical involvement in decision-making in these cases. Oh, yeah – see what happens when the laity get involved?

Well, over the past months I have read of cases where abusing priests have been given an okay by psychologists or other professionals, but more and more I am struck by how many warnings were completely ignored. There’s an example in this article about Cardinal Medeiros, for example.

It would be interesting to take say – 50 of these cases and do a good analysis of what counselors told diocesan officials about these offenders and what those officials did with that advice. I would guess that most of the time offenders were given the “all-clear,” they were given it by professionals with ties to the diocese or to some of the more questionable treatment centers. I’m wondering how often truly objective clinicians with no vested interest in Church affairs actually told officials that it was safe to put clerical sexual abusers back into active ministry.

Another point: I don’t know why people are so intent on defending this sick culture in Boston and others like it around the country. If I hear “only a few priests” one more time, I’ll …I don’t know…go shovel snow or something else radical. Everyone knows that most priests are normal guys trying to do their best in a difficult job and a challenging lifestyle. But here’s the point: These “few priests” did not live and act in a vacuum. Their behavior was known – by bishops, by some laity, and yes – by their fellow priests. The majority of “good priests” know a great deal about the sins of their brothers. But for some reason, they seem paralyzed – by what, I can’t say. But the reason some of us are angry with the very real clerical culture, and are not interested in the defensive whining of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, for example, is that too many of them have tolerated too much, and too many victims have suffered because of the silence of the “good priests.”

Finally, for now: We are told to stop being cynics and to trust the bishops. Here’s the challenge: The Archdiocese of Boston didn’t first encounter the problem of sexual abuse in a public way in 2002. The entire Church in Massachusetts was shocked by the Porter case in the early 90’s, and the entire Church in Massachusetts promised it would clean up its act after that. Policies were put on paper, promises were made and, it was said, the ranks were being pruned. Not to worry.

Now look. Some of the documentation revealed yesterday deals with cover-ups extending back to the 1960’s, but some of the cases involve offenders who were known about, but remained in some sort of ministry up until the 21st century….while the policies were supposedly being enforced and the promises being made.

This is why trust is so hard to come by. We’ve been told everything’s all right before, and it took lawsuits and the press to bring out the truth. Now we’re being told, post-Dallas, post-Washington, once again, that everything’s okay, and the children are safe.

Given the track record of places like Boston, who can blame us for not believing a word of it?

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