Catholic leadership had plenty of abuse ‘standards’ to follow — but didn’t

A Minnesota Catholic university professor’s quote in a MinnPost article left me shaking my head in disbelief (“Could Archbishop Nienstedt face charges or lose his job?”).

Professor Charles Reid compared the plight of Boston’s disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law with that of embattled Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, and tried to excuse Law’s horrific, longstanding complicity in clergy sex crimes by claiming he was “not operating in a time when we had clear standards.”

Really? Professor Reid should do his homework.

Since the 1980s, most U.S. Catholic dioceses have had abuse policies. In 1985, three experts sent a 200-page report on clergy sexual abuse to every prelate in America. In the early 1990s, the U.S. bishops set up a national panel on abuse that wrote up guidelines.

So while Law was protecting predators and endangering kids, he had plenty of “standards” to follow, carefully crafted by his own colleagues and predecessors.

And secular law provided Law with some “standards,” too, like not hiding or destroying evidence of crimes.

Common sense and decency also gave Law some “standards,” like calling the police when crimes were suspected.

Law, like almost every Catholic official, is smart and well-educated. He had top-notch defense lawyers and insurers and public relations professionals. He knew exactly what he was doing every time he shunned victims, deceived parishioners, stonewalled police, stiff-armed prosecutors, shuffled molesters and kept a tight lid on known and suspected child sex crimes.

It’s disingenuous of Reid and other Catholic apologists to pretend that corrupt bishops who deliberately hide known and suspected crimes are just well-intentioned but slightly misguided men. That kind of spin is part of why we see this heinous scandal still surfacing today.

Judy Jones is Midwest associate director of SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 10/16/2013 - 11:55 am.

    Amen, Judy


    Why, after all the years of religious teachings that clergy have undertaken, are so many of them unable to make the right moral choice when becoming aware of a sexual predator in their ranks?

    Why? It’s so simple: Call the cops if you become aware of a sexual predator in your ranks. Period. Do it now. Do it before sitting down to write your next sermon on morality. Do it now. Do it before signing a purchase order for a couple of thousand anti-gay DVDs.

    Kind of puts the lie to the oft-heard proclamation from religious types that without living a life of faith and following religious scripture, one is morally deficient.

    I cry foul on that. I am an atheist, and have extremely high morals and values, thank you very much.

    And despite not studying scripture for moral guidance, I can say with 100% certainty that I would call the cops if I ever learned of a child molester.

  2. Submitted by Bob Schwiderski on 10/16/2013 - 04:40 pm.

    Grand jury investigation of archdiocese is in order

    The current list of 179 accused Minnesota clerics:

    How about a grand jury investigation ?

  3. Submitted by Michael Skiendzielewski on 10/16/2013 - 04:54 pm.

    Canon Law vs Civil Law – Priests vs Children

    “Canon law is very eloquent on what a bishop is supposed to do, but there is no list of Thou Shalt Nots,” says Father Reginald Whitt (2002). “These (sex abusers) are criminals, but they are our criminals and we can’t lose them. Indeed, the bishops have a duty to try to save them,” says the Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. (2002)

    “……BISHOPS HAVE A DUTY TO TRY TO SAVE THEM (sex abuser priests)…..” Well, Fr. Whitt, where is it written (no, not in text or canon law…….it is written in one’s heart and soul) that the bishops have a duty to try to save the CHILDREN ABUSED and INNOCENT CHILDREN from the risk of abuse?

    Seems like little has changed since these issues were studied over a decade ago by during the Dallas Charter Charade of the USCCB.

    Father Whitt has a degree in canon law and civil law. Which perspective will take prominence and priority when he reviews the findings of the task force committee he established to review the debacle in the archdiocese? It is humanly, ethically and morally IMPOSSIBLE to avoid conflicts of interest from both perspectives (civil and canon law) when attempting to review and resolve the rights of priests vs the rights of child victims.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (Retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/23/2013 - 12:10 pm.

    Then and (perhaps) now.

    I’ve always believed that the Roman Catholic Church’s response to sexual abuse of children by its priests and its laity was dictated by its belief in sin and forgiveness. the Church’s actions many decades ago can be understood as a failure to recognize sexual predation as the deep psychological disturbance that it is and the resulting decision to treat it as simply a matter of choice on the part of the predator. “Go and sin no more” carried to its logical end.

    I suspect that this still plays a role in the Church’s attitudes toward the sexual predators in its midst, though other motives were and remain in play as well. It’s not good advertising to admit that your shepherds eat the sheep.

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