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double bluff

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 21, 2005

Investigators are asking whether a Diocese of Gary priest was as versatile as he was mobile.

A timeline compiled by The [Northern Indiana] Times of the Official Catholic Directories during the Rev. Richard A. Emerson's 26-year career in the priesthood shows nine different moves to various parishes or other diocesan assignments, an average of about one move every three years.

Emerson's timeline shows extensive contact with youth during his career, including four years as head administrator of Schererville's Hoosier Boys' Town -- a home for troubled youth now called Campagna Academy -- and six years as the Diocese of Gary liaison for the Boy Scouts.

And throughout his career, Emerson has held high positions of authority within the Diocese of Gary, including a three-year stint as the diocesan chancellor -- or chief administrator -- and as a consultant on policy to the diocese and its bishop.

Add to Emerson's resume two accusations of sexual abuse against boys that the church has now deemed credible, and you have the "classic profile" shared by many priests who have been accused of and/or proved to be pedophiles.

The last paragraph is somewhat scurrilous -- is it kosher to talk about a "classic profile" of men accused of a given misdeed? -- and the paper seems to be connecting the dots in the case of an untried man more eagerly than a news story should. Further, the alleged victim claims to have been between 11 and 18 years of age when the abuse occurred, and that means his abuser, if abuse there was, is not a true pedophile but a "thinking Catholic" -- to use the conventional nomenclature. The reach for the more sensational term is bad form. And yet, as so often, one's uneasiness about an accused priest's innocence stems not from the charges themselves but from the style of denial employed by his superiors. In this case, the diocese is claiming Emerson's frequent moves were unrelated to accusations of wrongdoing:

The Rev. Brian Chadwick, Diocese of Gary spokesman, said Emerson's assignments during the priest's career -- made by diocesan bishops over the years -- had nothing to do with allegations of sexual abuse or other scandals. He said the diocese had no knowledge of any previous accusations of sexual abuse against Emerson until late last year.

Here is Emerson's career in outline: ordained 1978, Gary Diocese 1978-1988, Orlando Diocese 1988-1991, Gary Diocese 1991 to present. Now, how can Chadwick know what he's claiming is true? The Gary bishops who assigned Emerson before and during his Orlando sojourn are dead. Bishop Melczek, who became administrator of the diocese in 1992, was a Detroit priest and not necessarily privy to Gary diocesan scandal. If files recording complaints against Emerson ever existed, they may have been destroyed before 1992. Chadwick might reasonably declare that no record exists of misconduct on Emerson's part, but who would be in a position to pronounce categorically on the non-public motives of now-deceased bishops?

Sometimes they say less than they know, sometimes they say more than they can know. The former may, in certain circumstances, be defensible.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 21, 2005 12:49 PM ET USA

    Hide the sacramental wine from Diogenes, or whoever is posing as him. Your reasoning borders on the insane. Are we to consider Hitler's pogroms "scurrilous accusations" because, alas, he entered the gates of Hell before he could be tried? You must be angling for a position in the episcopacy if you believe that. For once, I find you shouting-at-the-top-of-your-lungs wrong.

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