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Gruesome details

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 16, 2004

USA Today has won the race and set the tone.

Without waiting to see the US bishops' full report on sexual abuse-- which won't be out until next week-- the newspaper has published the first critical editorial-- beginning what we have no doubt will be barrage of critical editorials, mostly on the same theme.

The problem with the bishops' report, USA Today tells us, is that there aren't (or, should we say, won't be) enough details. It's not enough to provide national statistics, the editorial insists; we need more specifics: more names and numbers and times, more rigorous statistics, more details on specific bishops. And only when they publish those details will the bishops regain credibility, USA Today says.

Wrong.

Do you choose a doctor on the basis of how thoroughly he can describe the symptoms of your illnesses? Wouldn't you prefer a physician who provides a cure?

No report from the US bishops is likely to inspire confidence right now-- no matter how exhaustive the statisics, no matter how gruesome the details. Why not? Because the American public-- Catholics and non-Catholics alike-- don't trust the people making the report. To regain credibility, the bishops are going to have to apply a remedy rather than merely describe the symptoms.

In appraising the bishops' credibility, does it really matter whether the number of priests accused of misconduct was 1,300, or 1,500, or 1,800? What really matters is that the bishops didn't stop the abuse. Why didn't they? That's the key question, which is-- and likely will remain-- unanswered. And you can't answer a "why" question with a statistic.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 18, 2004 11:19 PM ET USA

    By any measure of effectiveness the American episcopal ranks have utterly failed in their mission over the last 40 years. If they were supposed to help us get to heaven ... they've largely ignored that responsibility since so many of them apparently believe everyone is saved anyway. If they were supposed to run a well-ordered ship that created no waves, they've obviously failed in that regard as well. What to do with this salt that has lost its savor?

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Feb. 16, 2004 12:37 PM ET USA

    For what Mahoney and the rest of the Neo-Apostates have done, there is nothing that can replace a public dressing down and banishment to a monastery on some remote island, where they can devote themselves, for the rest of their earthly lives if necessary, to prayer for the souls of the faithful departed, and the tortured souls that they have left behind on their watch, wandering the Earth, lost in plain sight. The days for Kumbaya counselling for this theological freak show is long past.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 16, 2004 11:41 AM ET USA

    Not wrong, but right, Diogenes. Sometimes I think writers in our basically protestant society have a far healthier view of our Boishops than we Catholics. Come on now, Diogenes, to compare our Bishops to benevolent doctors, thats REALLY stretching it! The protestants don't trust our Bishops, and for some very good reasons I might add. They want details, and from guilty men, whose negligence caused the problem, that is only reasonable. Let them (the bishops) "apply" the cure...and resign.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Feb. 16, 2004 10:17 AM ET USA

    I know that my recommendation isn't very "enlightened" but until I see Bishops being launched on metaphorical catapaults overhead, I won't hold my breath that things have changed.

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