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in like Flynn

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 10, 2004

Archbishop Harry Flynn, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, has an article in the current America titled, "What Has the Charter Accomplished?" Methinks it serves as a pretty good index of where we are on the Learning Curve. Here's Flynn on the Zero Tolerance policy (Article 5):

The proposal to make removal retroactive as well caused bishops to ask about the priests who had owned up to their misconduct, cooperated in treatment and had served faithfully since. Was a bishop to break faith with them? There was also the question of whether or not the church was now about to say that this is a case of the one unforgivable sin.

One: It is sophistry, and maudlin histrionics as well, to suggest that permanent removal from ministry makes sexual abuse into an "unforgiveable sin" -- it means Father, once shriven, can devote himself until his death to praying for the universal Church. We can forgive a major league shortstop for betting against his team, but we don't let him play any more: his sin we pardon; his crime has permanent consequences. Two: So a bishop "breaks faith" with an abuser by giving him the hook? Dry the starting tear, folks. Ask yourselves how often the victims of Father X have been invited to consent to his return-to-ministry deal, as opposed to how often they've been falsely assured "Father X will never be in an a position to offend again." When you have kept faith with the victims-- then, and only then, should you give voice to scruples about "breaking faith" with the predators. Three: In speaking of priests who "owned up" to misconduct, Flynn means priests who confessed after exposure; in speaking of priests who have "served faithfully since," he means those who are not known to have reoffended. The episcopal habit of minimizing the moral significance of sexual assault has not been shaken, no less the tendency to view their own betrayals as "mistakes":

For more than a decade, many bishops tried to retain in ministry offenders who, after state-of-the-art in-patient treatment, seemed sure not to reoffend. While this was sometimes done with public disclosure of the priest's past misconduct, too often it was not. This left bishops open to the charge that all they were doing was transferring priests from parish to parish. In truth, these priests were often reassigned only after professional treatment and careful consideration of whether or not it was safe for them to serve. But an image was created of a hierarchy and a priesthood that saw themselves above the law.

How often was the "public disclosure of the priest's past misconduct" initiated by the bishop, instead of the press or the police? Not only is it hard of come up with a single clear instance of spontaneous disclosure, there is a multitude of examples where victims or parents were paid (or enjoined) by the diocese to keep silence. Flynn does not see fit to mention this fact.

Although we categorically reject the contention that bishops acted outside or above the law, we bishops have now been asking ourselves whether we had mistakenly thought we had the skills and resources necessary to assure that an offender would not reoffend.

Whaddya mean, "we," Keemosabe? The bishops of Manchester and Phoenix both signed public statements admitting criminal wrongdoing -- acting outside the law -- in exchange for non-prosecution. Are you "categorically rejecting" O'Brien and McCormack from your number, or are you suggesting that, being bishops, their criminal acts were for that very reason committed within the law?

This America article is available on-line to subscribers only. That's less a disadvantage than it may seem, because the most striking feature of the piece is omission. There is not one syllable, or a suggestion of a syllable, that acknowledges abuse and homosexual wrongdoing by bishops; not the slightest indication of a connection between episcopal turpitude and cover-ups; not a single word about the fact that two bishops are currently pleading Fifth Amendment immunity to keep mum about their own boffing of boys. Richard Sipe has already revealed that a bishop-abuser "referred" one of his own sexual victims to a priest he knew to be a pederast, yet Flynn soars far above any recognition of the problem of collusion, pretending that abuse is a thing of the past and a few tweaks to the language of the Charter will put us back "on message."

So, what has the Charter accomplished? It has demonstrated that gamekeepers can't be poachers, because poaching, by definition, is that which the gamekeepers have resolved to punish.

Trust restored yet, folks?

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