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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