Holding the wrong people accountable

Holding the wrong people accountable

It’s important that we have accountability among bishops and priests and that we use all just tools at our disposal to prevent a repeat of the Scandal. But some measures designed to fix the problem will only create new ones. Take, for example, a proposal to open the personnel files of every priest in the country to outside auditors. The danger in this action is immense.

Note, we’re not just talking about priests who have been accused of something, but every priest. Imagine that a co-worker in your place of employment has been accused of abusing his kids. Tragic, yes. But in response the company mandates that all employee now have to be fingerprinted and submit all kinds of personal information, and that this along with your personnel file will now be given to an outside auditor who is only accountable to your bosses. Now imagine that this co-worker was abusing kids in the company day care, and that your bosses not only knew about it, but did nothing to stop him.

How would you feel about the disclosure of your information now?

Let’s keep this straight: It’s not the vast majority of priests in this country who are responsible for the Scandal. About 4 percent of priests since the 1960s have abused kids, but about 66 percent of bishops engaged in coverup. So why is the 96 percent of priests being made to suffer and feel like criminals?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • All I can think of is the case of the Boston Globe and the credit card numbers of their subscribers being used to wrap papers.

    Don’t you think there will be people scouring the trash outside the auditors offices looking for “the goods”.

  • Does any other group have to go through such rigourous checks? Boy Scouts? Episcopal Church? 4-H Clubs? 

    I’m with what you almost always state-and has to keep being stated until people GET IT.

    It’s not the average lay person or even most of the priests in the priesthood.  It’s the mindset of laxity when it comes to homosexuality.

  • Dom, I have preached all along that this has never been about abuse, it has been about silencing the Church. If these people were about safety of children they would be working in a more comprehensive manner. However, they give the public schools a pass. Let us face it, children are much safer in Church than they are in schools or even in some of their neighborhoods.

    Walter Czizek in He Leadeth Me describes these kind of tactics used by the NAZIs and the Communists against priests just to silence them. He spent 15 years in the soviet prison system just for being a Catholic priest. MA is choosing to go the same route and will do so if people allow it to happen to their priests.

  • Fr. Carr,

    But what about the priests being silenced for speaking against sex ed? And that is being done by their bishops.

    I know I need not mention any names as we all know who I am talking about.

    And if this is an action of the government, or the liberals why did bishops move child abusers and perverts from parish to parish to parish. Why were the abusers only removed once the civil lawsuits began?

    Growing up in Vermont, 2 of the 5 pastors I had growing up were child abusers. On molested for 20 years, the other was only suspended 2 years ago.

  • I think the media is opening up that this isn’t just a Church problem. Think about how many families turned the other way when an uncle molests children from within, or a mother is in denial that her boyfriend is sexually abusing her children. I believe it was in Maynard where the teacher was doing it for decades. 

    I have a problem with the possible misreading of CORI type and personal files. For example I was once had a criminal complaint against me for “hit and run”, the case was dismissed at the first court appearance and I even argued successfully to the insurance appeal board to lower my insurance back to a step 9. Still it is on record, but people might misinterepet any smudge on any report completely negative.

  • Ah yes, the bulldozer approach. Very sensible. And then in 20 years when we have no priests we can be sure that no kids will be molested by them.

    Incidentally, all adult males will now be required to be castrated after fathering two children (replacement rate, you know). After all, it’s for the children.

    In fact, we should just shut down the Church, fire the bishops and priests, and let people worship in their homes where the kids will be safe.

    Get real: If not one single bishop is trustworthy, if not one single priest is trustworthy, then we have bigger problems than the abuse of children.

    Treating all priests as criminals, regardless of whether they’ve been accused or not, is like treating all Arabs as if they are terrorists (or in a previous era, all Japanese as subjects of the Emperor or all Germans as Nazis). There’s no justice or logic in that.

    Of course, it’s not as satisfying to the burning hatred and rage in your heart if you’re not allowed to lynch anybody.

  • Dom,
    Isn’t it a stretch to call background checks lynchings?

    What do you recommend as a solution to the problem of child abusing priests?

    Zero tolerance doesn’t seem to be working- see Chicago.

    What do you see as the role of the state in protecting children from being raped? Is there one? Should the Church have the obligation to report incidents of child abuse or are they exempt?

    I’m not asking rhetorically. I really want to know what you think.

    And as to your comment re: castration to limit the population, why would the Church need that? Most Catholics only have two children anyway, especially in Boston.

  • Instead of investigating the records of every priest, regardless of the fact that there has been no suspicion that a priest has done anything wrong, I don’t understand why, in Massachusetts, whenever a minor child is tested for the HIV/AIDS infection at a clinic under the jurisdiction of the Mass. Dept. of Public Health(MDPH), the parents of the child are not informed when the results show their child has tested HIV positive. The MDPH does not report this evidence of sexual activity to law officials. Therefore, the person who infected the child is free to infect other children. The Director of the HIV/AIDS Bureau,Kevin Cranston, has stated that these youth are often infected by “older gay men with prevention fatigue”.(Bay Windows,July 10,2003,“HIV in Youth on Rise”). When Atty. Gen. Reilly’s office was asked if any of these “older gay men with prevention fatigue” have been investigated to determine who infected the minor children, the Asst. Atty. Gen., Kurt Schwartz, acknowledged : “It is a criminal offense for an adult(or anyone) to engage in sexual intercourse with a child.” He further stated:” these matters more squarely fall within the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health rather than the Office of the Attorney General.”
    It is a scandal that the parents aren’t told that their child was infected and is HIV positive. It is a scandal that neither the parents nor legal authorities are given this information so that there could be an investigation as to who infected the child.
    Can it be that the Attorney General’s office would prefer to look into the records of all priests rather than let parents of children who test positive for the HIV infection know about the positive results that show that someone, possibly an “older gay man with prevention fatigue”,infected their child so that an investigation can take place?
    infected their child

  • Interestingly, I was reading the article carefully and noticed that the recommendation came from… the Bishops Administrative Committee which has 60 members. I presume they are all bishops. Cardinal George is one, Wilton Gregory and Bishop Fiorenza another member.

    So the people making the recommendation to open priests’ personnel files to independent auditors are their own bishops.

    That certainly puts an interesting spin on things doesn’t it?

    So what we have here is an attempt by the bishops to hang their own priests out to dry? Dom, you were mentioning if we can’t trust one bishop then we have a real problem. What do you think?

    Can we trust these 60 bishops who want the priests’ files exposed?

  • Mary: I didn’t call background checks lynchings. I called opening up every priest’s personnel files as a matter of course to be an over-the-top response and not in keeping with the principles of justice.

    This isn’t about the state getting to see the records. If you’ll read the article, this is about letting the bishops’ auditors look at them.

    The problem is not with the 96 percent of priests who did not rape children, but with the 66 percent of bishops who did nothing to stop the 4 percent. By making this all about the priests, we let the bad bishops off the hook.

  • I should think, Dom, that there would always be good and holy priests who have nothing to hide or fear from an examination of their records.

    The Soviet secret police used to say that to the people: “If you have nothing to hide, then you won’t mind me looking through your car/house/documents, etc.”

    Of course, many children have been hurt scandalously, but you don’t solve a roach infestation by burning down your house.

    Treating all priests as if they are guilty until proven innocent is burning down your house.

  • My problem with the opening all personnel records approach is that the bishops who are recommending this approach already have access to these records. If there are problems hidden in these records, then why aren’t they doing anything about them now? If it’s about accountability for the keepers of the records, well… bishops holding each other accountable rather than re-directing the attention to the priests would certainly be a novelty.

    The other problem with background checks and reviewing records is that it only uncovers people who have been caught before. There is a first time for every molester.

    Not to mention I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from a friend in Dallas of a youth minister who was supposedly CORI’d who later turned out to have a record of abuse that somehow wasn’t revealed in the CORI. Explain that one.

  • Melanie wrote:

    “My problem with the opening all personnel records approach is that the bishops who are recommending this approach already have access to these records. If there are problems hidden in these records, then why aren’t they doing anything about them now?”

    Maybe some bishops are being blackmailed.

    Maybe some Bishops, Ryan in Springfield, Ill. comes to mind who are abusers/homosexuals themselves and are unwilling to stop this behavior, so they can hardly govern their priests when they cannot or will not govern themselves.

    In light of those possibilities I’m afraid it makes perfect sense.

    If Rome is unwilling to remove homosexual bishops I guess this is what we are left with.

  • Hmmmm, as I said before of the two places a child can be, a public school or a Catholic Church, the safer of the two by far is the Church. There are schools in our country today that cannot guarantee a child will not be beaten, shot, stabbed, raped or verbally abused.

    Locally here in MA, some public school teachers encouraged high school students to share their sexual stories on an internet bulletin board. Later police found a pedophile with 200 of those students’ names on his computer.

    Another school had an incident where a student was beaten with a pipe by a group of fellow students.

    Public school teachers are also teaching students how to be gay.

    In a host of sting operations regarding internet porn, few reports of priests being stung were found, the same could not be said of teachers.

    Yet, Mary Alexander and James, you seem to feel that we should ignore the safety concerns in the public schools and instead focus only on priests, the VAST majority of whom are safe.

    Would you two care to fully identify yourselves, your affiliations and your actual intentions in your stand on this issue?

    Mary Alexander you also make the following statement on your blog: “One former priest- Fr. Many was accused of child abuse, though no longer a Catholic priest he is “pastoring” for Dignity in Vermont. (But please repeat there is no connection between child molestation and homosexuality).”

    Apparently, there was a connection in that case.
    May I also ask if he was tried and convicted?

    There are no gay teachers abusing students? I find that assumption rather naive. It certainly cannot be said about heterosexual teachers.

  • We’re NOT talkin’ about public schools; we’re talking about the Church.

    James, you’re not even talking about what we’re talking about. You have gotten yourself way off the topic.

    No one is saying that we shouldn’t do background checks. Re-read the post above and the linked article. Then breath a second and think about it before going off half-cocked.

    We’re all upset about what happened in the Church and you’re not telling me anything I haven’t been saying on a daily basis since January 2002 on this blog. But you’re missing the point I was making.

  • The Church must give us priests we can know we can trust before Catholics will listen to them (or let their kids anywhere near them)

    —Cardinal O’Malley called his priests to be people of courage. He defined courage, however, not as what one sees as televison in violence, but as being gentle and strong. He admonished his priests to remember that “we cannot be shepherds as long as comfort is our concern.” He added “We will find that courage through a prayer life and priestly fraternity.”—


    James, I appreciate your exhortation to priests. The solution is that the priests must be Godly men today, actually, especially at this time. That is the next step therefore to truly build a holy Church among priests and the laity.

  • Dear Fr. Carr,

    I am quite happy to give my affiliations and positions. I am a Catholic mother of 8 children. I am prolife and have been arrested many times trying to stop abortion, former homeschooling (the children are now in a Traditional Catholic school) and I bet we agree on everything but this. I would call myself a Traditionalist even with the baggage that that title brings.

    I am also sickened by the homosexuality that is pervasive in the priesthood. I’ve had friend’s sons return from seminaries disgusted at what they have seen. I’ve had 2 pastors outed as homosexual, child abusers. Even as a child I thought there was something wrong with them. But no one did anything and saddest of all the good priests that my family trusted who were upstanding and moral KNEW ABOUT the abuse and did nothing, said nothing and never lifted a finger when my brothers and sisters were going on camping and canoeing trips with these priests and the youth groups. NOTHING. My brothers and sisters came back with stories about Fr. taking pictures of them swimming, Fr. telling the boys to swim nude and then taking pictures, Fr. sharing a tent with one of the boys. And everyone said, you’re overreacting, boys will be boys, there’s nothing wrong with that. That priest (who had been doing this since the 1970s) was removed in 2002. The only reason that I think my brothers and sisters were protected was b/c my father would have beat the hell out of the priest and that priest knew it. His prey were those of weak fathers, those with absent fathers or the children of divorce.

    I’m against women priests, against altar girls, against married priests- really what more do you need to know?

    And I think it is a huge mistake to think that conservative Catholics are going to continue to be duped by priests and bishops who allowed child abusers to prey on children.

    The reason I am not exercised about public schools is that I’ve long known what cesspool the public schools are. None of my children have ever set foot in one, nor will they. That is not my battle. When termites have infested a building, sometimes you can fumigate and sometimes you have to burn the building down. I’m talking about the public schools here.

    My children need the Church they don’t need the public schools. We can point to the sins of the public schools (though it’s about 20 years too late) but that doesn’t change the problem of priests abusing children.
    P.S. I hope you left some comments on my blog. I would be quite honored.

  • Fr. Carr wrote:
    —Cardinal O’Malley called his priests to be people of courage. He defined courage, however, not as what one sees as televison in violence, but as being gentle and strong. He admonished his priests to remember that “we cannot be shepherds as long as comfort is our concern.” He added “We will find that courage through a prayer life and priestly fraternity.”

    And when Boston priests are courageous they will be silenced, like Fr. Mullen- right?

  • Well thank you to Mary Alexander and to James for responding to my questions. I have a better picture of the locus of your comments.

    Mary Alexander: Fr. Mullen and I worked together re: TAT. He told me these words— specifically that “Let people know that I was not silenced but was told not to speak to the media.”

    I learned on my own to stop speaking to the secular media, except on rare occasions. I am not in the business of making them money. Others who read this blog and my own online material know me and my own Catholic media work as well including my statements about TAT and the two letters of reprimand I received for which I am very proud.

    The statement that received the most reaction by the way can be found here, http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3056 I think this will address some of your concerns. The media would be clueless on this kind of message.

    The two of you represent some righteously angry Catholics who are demanding that their priests be Holy Men and rightly so.

    The solution is a much more profound one than just maintaining vigil over records. It is a church wide conversion heart, which requires a more profound and comprehensive change. 

    The Archbishop (now Cardinal) used to tell me when I asked him what I could do for him: “Pray and pray hard.”

    I cannot tell you enough how important those words are and how effective they are. I can tell you that there is a lot happening on several levels for which there is not enough space to describe. I ask you to hang in there, but please “Pray and Pray hard.” If you do, you will not be disappointed. I assure you. I will also encourage you to be open to God’s grace in this. That is extremely important.

    Trust me, all is not lost, not even close.

    May I also encourage you to read Truth and Tolerance by now Pope Benedict XVI.