Taking the Fifth

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 03, 2004

Kim LAWTON: Some groups fear the bishops' energy and commitment may fade.

Archbishop Timothy DOLAN: Can't happen. Can't happen. We never, never, Kim, want to go through what we've had to do. We just can't do it. We can't do it personally. I think we bishops will collapse if we ever have to go through this again. And we can't, we just can't, in justice, put our people through that again. So, I don't think there's danger of us forgetting. [PBS interview, November 2003]

Shaken by public contempt consequent on their mishandling of sex abusers, the bishops -- while the cameras were rolling -- have collectively and severally pledged to "restore trust." Yet two of their number, Anthony O'Connell and Thomas Dupre, are currently refusing to respond to questions about allegations of their own sexual abuse of minors, invoking their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

No one faults the bishops' attorneys for advising their clients to make use of this entirely proper tactic; they're simply doing their job. But the good of the Church is larger than her legal standing, larger even than the solvency of her dioceses and the liberty of her bishops. It seems clear that shielding bishops from punishment and restoring trust are mutually exclusive alternatives: either you try to convince people you're interested in the truth, or you allow your brethren to keep mum in order to beat the diddling rap. You can't do both.

Is there a canonical mechanism by which bishops can force an unwilling brother to act contrary to his lawyer's sound advice and his own clear interest? Nope. But if they were serious about justice they could do it anyway. You send five bishops to put the case to Dupre or O'Connell in a room with no back door. If five fail to convince him, send ten. If ten don't work, try twenty. If he won't listen to twenty, bring fifty. The concerted moral pressure of his peers can make an ordinary man do extraordinary things -- such as remain at his post in battle when only flight could save his life. Were it impassioned and sincere, such moral force couldn't fail to make a bishop risk telling the truth about himself, even knowing that he would suffer as a consequence.

Help me out here. Bishops Dupre and O'Connell refuse to reply to questions whose true answers they can't help but know, indisputably eroding the stature of the episcopacy and conceivably prolonging an objective injustice. Their brother bishops respond by ... doing nothing. Whose good is served?

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  • Posted by: Remigius - Aug. 06, 2004 4:37 PM ET USA

    The comments by ABP Dolan reveal precisely how this disaster is viewed ab intra by the hierarchy: it is such a bother, can't we be rid of it. The self-interest of the whole thing is staggering: It is not the peace of the Church that has been disturbed, it is not the faith of the pew-sitters that has been betrayed, it is the tranquillity of the hierarchy that has been disturbed. "We'll do anything to get that back!" Wake up and see: Bishops need to exercise courage, but alas, that costs a lot

  • Posted by: - Aug. 06, 2004 10:33 AM ET USA

    As usual,the Word of God has the answer.Proverbs 1:7,"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,but FOOLS despise wisdom and discipline."(emphasis mine).These bishops are merely trading comfort in this world for pain in the next.One wonders if they ever had any faith at all and if they did ,what became of it?Wycliffe

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2004 11:28 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, it doesn't take a village full of bishops to bring an errant apostle into line. One bishop, the bishop of Rome, has all the power and authority necessary to discipline these errant knaves. His reluctance to utilize that power belies either his infirmity, ignorance or complicity. It's not for me to presume to comment on which factor(s) influence his policy. Some day people will wake up and realize we are just reaping the fruits of the modernist rebellion, ascendant now some 40 years.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2004 3:13 AM ET USA

    I think what Archbishop DOLAN is going through is cake compared to what the victims have endured. Good always prevails, and it's good to see the tidal wave of survivors coming back home to stand up for themselves. These guys are angry, I wouldn't piss them off anymore than they already are. If I was a church leader, I would quit wasting all the basket money on attorneys and start mediating with victims directly. I say we CAN the " 2 Speak No Evils" pronto and do what it takes to make them talk.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2004 12:23 AM ET USA

    No one is served, Diogenes, yet one must remember that we're talking about the same men that criticised Abp Burke and his companions for taking a stand against manifest sinners such as Daschle and Kerry. All that concerns them is covering their steps and protecting the status quo. It would be welcome if the Holy Father could conduct a thorough housecleaning. We probably will have to wait for our next pontiff-hopefully we'll get a traditionalist.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2004 10:42 PM ET USA

    Let them collapse, already. The bums. Who needs them? They don't even know the fundamentals. Hey, bishop, let me buy you a pair of glasses--it's on me. I root for the Cards, but the longer I'm Catholic, the more I know what it feels like to be a Cubs fan.