When you paint a wall covered in tar with white paint you get a gray mess, but the wall will look less black. Now, take the brush with the gray mess, dip it into a bucket with white paint and then paint over a nice white door ... you get a graywash. In essence, a graywash in reporting at once conceals or diminishes the evil of the bad guys, while making the good guys look bad. In the case of Pope Benedict--who has done more than any other prelate in a long time to address the problems of clerical corruption--the New York Times and other media have engaged in outright distortion and have made him out to look much worse than he is in fact. Whereas the likes of bishops Weakland or Kicanas are ignored, effectively making them out to be much better than they really are. It's a graywash. Journalistically, the New York Times is the Gray Lady that likes to graywash.
The John Jay Report is the research variant of a graywash, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops no less. By blending results of good and bad dioceses, the report diminishes the appearance of evil in the bad dioceses and tars the good dioceses, along with their bishops and clergy. The book After Asceticism (featured in CWNews three years ago today, coincidentally) points this out in some detail. Here's a brief excerpt:
The summary tables do indicate that there were some regions of the country (clustering two or more US dioceses into a single unit) that reported no incidents of abuse. Those diocesan regions with no reported sexual abuse are in stark contrast to other regions that reported over 20 percent of priests having been accused of sexual misconduct with minors of the same sex. (John Jay Report Table 2.3.3) The fact that there were evidently numerous dioceses that reported no abuse--whereas others seemed to be a sexual playground for pederasts--suggests that the severity of the problem of abusive priests varies widely across the United States and does not lend itself to a simple summary...
Recall that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a graywash forty years ago that helped put us where we are today, in the 1972 report by Eugene Kennedy. "The Catholic Priest in the United States: Psychological Investigations" claimed that two out of every three US priests were "psychologically immature." It's this same Kennedy report (also critiqued in After Asceticism) that missed the pederasty crisis which was at its peak at the time and occurring right underneath his researcher's nose. Nevertheless, the report contained not even the faintest hint of the eruption of aggressive sexual misconduct that was ongoing at the time. Indeed, in his introduction, Kennedy opines: "There is little indication that American priests would exercise freedom in any impulsive or destructive way." (p. 14) Evidently, a lot of good priests get labeled "immature" and some real scoundrels go unnoticed, or worse, were given a pass. Either way, his report was a graywash.
The current USCCB commissioned graywash will continue later this year when the folks at John Jay College release their findings on the personality characteristics of the abusive priests. No H-bombs will be dropped and the media will seize these findings to cast the honorable celibate priests as a clan of cranks and perverts, and the gay clergy as the normals. And as is always the case with a graywash of the Church, there will be no light shed on the spiritual causes that led up to the catastrophe.
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Posted by: a son of Mary -
Apr. 18, 2010 9:12 AM ET USA
Uncle Di - yet another well done piece! Thanks brother.
Posted by: GabrielAustin9013 -
Apr. 14, 2010 4:44 PM ET USA
In the secular world, it is assumed that one is innocent until proven guilty. It is not so in the Church. We are all sinners. Now it is indeed a scandal that some [a few] priests used their position to manhandle youngsters. It is greater scandal when bishops did not act immediately to root out the malefactors. It is no great difficulty for a bishop to quietly cut out from the flock a priest who has been accused.
Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 -
Apr. 14, 2010 8:18 AM ET USA
As the Pope is trying to root out the filth in the Church, perhaps he should disband the non-canonical, suprefluous idea of bishops' conferences such as the USCCB. Bishops' conferences were NOT what Vatican II meant by "collegiality", but their apologists have twisted that otherwise excellent notion to justify the existence of these corrupt bureaucracies.
Posted by: doceo4186 -
Apr. 13, 2010 7:09 PM ET USA
Does anyone else have access to the statistics so an accurate accounting can be done? Or do we already have a pretty good idea which dioceses are most culpable? It would be nice for confirmation!
Posted by: Hal -
Apr. 13, 2010 5:53 PM ET USA
I fear corruption at the very top of the USCCB; only those in power could influence the outcome through the manipulation of the method. Although, the citation to the 1972 Kennedy Report makes me despair that it was ever thus. Where does one go from here?
Posted by: KL Flannery -
Apr. 13, 2010 2:13 PM ET USA
Thanks for this, Diogenes.