Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

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.


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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