lessons learned

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 26, 2007

In an op-ed column for the San Diego Union Tribune, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, an auxiliary of the San Diego diocese, offers some thoughts on what Catholics might have learned from the sex-abuse scandal.

Could I add a few more items that seem to have escaped the bishop's attention?

  1. There are many American bishops still alive, and many still functioning as diocesan ordinaries even today, despite clear evidence that they obstructed justice and in many cases continue to do so. Governor Keating made this point when he resigned from the National Review Board. Cardinal Mahony has been making the point-- by example, I mean-- ever since.
  2. With the exception of Cardinal Law, no American bishops have been persuaded to step down because of their malfeasance in handling abusive priests. Bishop John McCormack, thoroughly implicated in the scandal that brought down Law, remains at the head of the Manchester, New Hampshire diocese.
  3. The John Jay report, cited by Bishop Cordileone for its "scientifically verified data," failed to show due diligence in the following areas:
    • It failed to list the rate of abuse among priests from different dioceses, priests trained in different seminaries, and priests led by different bishops. In other words the data in the report tar all bishops, dioceses, and seminaries with the same brush, while letting the most conspicuous failures escape notice.
    • The report took note of the fact that most abuse victims were teenage boys, but did not pursue the clear connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. Bishop Cordileone does the same.
    • The John Jay report said nothing about the results achieved by the treatment centers to which troubled priests were sent. There is a wealth of data in the files of those centers, as yet unexplored. And since the centers were obviously not successful in predicting the future behavior of abusive priests, a critical look at their methodology is warranted. We're still waiting.
    Keep in mind that the American bishops commissioned and paid for the John Jay study. They had the authority to set the standards for the investigation. If this is what they got, it's because this is what they wanted.
  4. Bishop Cordileone notes that "only 3.3% [of victims] were abused in more than one diocese." Therefore he concludes, citing a John Jay investigator: "It is clear that transferring priests [among dioceses] with allegations of child sexual abuse was not a general response to the problem, and was limited to a finite number of cases." It's nice to know that the number is finite. But notice those words in brackets: "among dioceses." True, it was not the "general response" to transfer a predator to another diocese. But it was the standard response to transfer an abusive priest to another parish within the same diocese.
  5. Since the scandal erupted, we have been waiting for brave bishops to call for public acts of confession and repentance, including voluntary resignation of those who proved unworthy of pastoral leadership. Instead we have seen a circling of the wagons. Bishop Bruskewitz, it's true, has admitted that the real problem is a lack of episcopal leadership. Ironically it is Bruskewitz who is criticized for his refusal to go along with the flawed process of an "audit" that measures symptoms but ignores the disease.
  6. The "scientifically verified data" do not resolve what is, in the final analysis, a spiritual problem.

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