The Boston settlement is done, but suddenly a group of activists wants to re-open everything. Survivors First, on the day before the 541 participants in the $85 million settlement were to receive their checks, were looking for headlines. They want to the settlement amended to include: lifetime reimbursement for therapy (rather than the current eligibility to participate in the program set up by the archdiocese); an admission of guilt and apology by Archbishop O’Malley; “full disclosure” about priests accused of abuse; and “independent” oversight.
First, SF’s desire for lifetime therapy would mean that any victim could go to any therapist for as long as they wanted for as much money as they wanted and the archdiocese would have to pay without any recourse or oversight. That’s a recipe for abuse of the system and could cost us tens of millions of dollars more (and by “us” I mean the Catholics of Boston since we’re really the ones paying for this stuff).
Second, an admission of guilt is not tenable legally. It would open the floodgates to more lawsuits and would strip the Church of any defense as well as any insurance money. It would beggar the Church, probably all but shutting down the archdiocese. We all know who that really benefits.
Third, the full disclosure that SF wants would include every single allegation no matter how ridiculous and would completely open up the archdiocese’s files, exposing private matters that have nothing to do with clergy sex abuse.
Fourth, independent oversight as they envision would encumber the Church, violating the separation of church and state. The assumption is that no one who is Catholic can be trusted to do the right thing and so we would have to be putting ourselves at the mercy of non-Catholics, who may have goals and agendas at odds with the Church’s.
Survivors First is a radical group that will not be satisfied until the Church is reduced to ineffectiveness. They have gone from advocating for victims to seeking every opportunity to bring down the Church. The difference between them and those like me who want reform of the Church is that they aren’t motivated by love of the Church.
For example, look at the Bishop-Accountability web site, which is put up by the same people who are behind Survivor’s First. There is a lot of good documentation there, but there is also a lot of bad interpretation. The analyses are biased by an a priori prejudice and it poisons what they offer.
I think that in years to come, once we are hopefully long past having to think about this every day, these same bitter people will be out there, wailing in the darkness, asking someone to pay attention to them.