Yet another Roman Catholic diocese has filed for bankruptcy after being hit with a much deserved judgment in a sexual abuse case. Religion News Service sums it up this way:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth announced on Monday (Dec. 7) that it had filed for bankruptcy protection following a jury verdict last month that held the Minnesota diocese responsible for more than half of an $8.1 million judgment on behalf of a victim of sex abuse by a priest. . . . jurors who deliberated for just a day following a trial last month said the diocese failed to supervise the priest, who worked in one of its parishes, and said that it should have known that he was dangerous.
Sadly, its a story line that has been repeated over and over again across America with the Church's policy of protecting sexual predators knowing no international boundaries. I have no sympathy for clergy or parishioners who may find their fairy tale world turned upside down by the financial fallout to the diocese.
Meanwhile, the New Yorker has a lengthy piece that reviews the movie "Spotlight" that looks at the Boston Globe's breaking the story of the rampant sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in January 2002, a story that finally forced police and others to stop closing their eyes and giving totally undeserved deference to the Roman Catholic Church and the criminal conspirators heading it up. Of course, the Catholic Church is not the only denomination that has sexual abuse on a wide scale - e.g., the Southern Baptist Convention has engaged in similar cover ups and denials. One of the take awys of the article - I have yet to see the movie - is that had the Catholic Church (or any other denomination) not been afforded deference and facts not been ignored or hushed up, many victims of abuse would never have been abused in the first place. Yes, freedom of religion is an American value, but it ONLY means one has the right to worship as one chooses. It does not mean that churches and denominations get to be above the law. It also doesn't mean that the rest of the citizens need to indirectly bankroll denominations through their tax exempt status. Here are highlights from the New Yorker piece:
Since seeing the movie “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and the questions it raises—about how far institutions will go to protect themselves, about who we listen to and protect, about who and what we ignore, about the power of disclosure and even conversation. It begins with a portrait of institutionalized secrecy—at a police station in Boston in 1976, where cops, a bishop, and an A.D.A. are keeping a molestation accusation quiet—and shows us the process of how the truth came to be revealed. Spotlight, the Globe’s investigative team, published its first story in its series, “Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years,” on January 6, 2002; in the next year, it published over six hundred more, using the Church’s own documents to document extensive and almost systemic abuse by clergy.
I asked what they had heard about sexual abuse in the Church before working on the investigation. Not much, they said. Like most, they considered it to be individual cases about individual priests. “This is pre-Internet,” Robinson said. . . . The relative isolation of that era helped keep things quiet, made it harder for people to connect the dots. “So in a way, the Church was more protected. The bishops and the cardinals said, ‘Well, this is one aberrant priest.’ And they actually said this—‘We’re no different than the Methodists or the Lutherans or the Boy Scouts.’ ”
Robinson said, “So when we got the assignment, as an investigative unit, to look into the case of one priest who had eighty-four lawsuits against him, and a lot of speculation—how could they not have known what he was up to?—we took that on as ‘Find out about the one priest.’ ” . . . . all of a sudden we realized that it was some much larger number. And the much larger number we thought of was a tiny fraction of what it ended up being.”
What was not in the documents was any indication anywhere of concern for the children who had been harmed. Not anywhere. It was all about protecting the reputation of the Church, and then, in parens, keeping it secret. It was always about the secrecy. If the crimes of the priest were mentioned, they were often referred to as ‘sins,’ for which the priest had repented and been forgiven.
[A]n idea that “Spotlight” had raised: that many priests are psychosexually stunted, on the emotional level of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old. . . . . People, boys, used to go into the seminary in junior high school, and so were essentially deprived normal sexual development, important to any human being.” . . . . in a diocese of twenty-two hundred priests, was that some two hundred were abusive—a figure closer to ten per cent.
Rezendes said, “Wherever institutions are operating in secrecy, and people aren’t accountable, you’re likely to find wrongdoing. The Church is literally a secret institution. It doesn’t have the reporting requirements of a corporation or a nonprofit. It doesn’t file tax returns. They just don’t have any disclosure requirements at all. And they’re protected in large part by the First Amendment.”Pfeiffer said, “Institutions that seem virtuous—nonprofits, religious organizations—tend to get a pass.”Pfeiffer said, “This is absolutely an example of what happens when for decades people didn’t question authority. We’ve all talked about this, because we were all raised Catholic. We understand the deference the Church got.
Read the whole piece and, better yet, see the movie as I plan to do.