It is in the nature of victims’ groups to not want to move on and to be skeptical of promised reforms by the institution by which they were harmed. But in this case, I think they are slightly off the mark.
These members of SNAP take their local bishop to task for, in their minds, minimizing the Scandal. Bishop James Moynihan of Syracuse says: “It has been difficult to learn the diocese has not been immune to incidents of child abuse. No one with a background of sexual abuse will be allowed to work with minors.” Sounds reasonable, if bland, right? But the column’s authors see somthing sinister.
The bishop’s reference to “incidents” is demeaning to any victim of this devastating crime. The definition of “incident” is, “liable to happen, an event, an episode.” An incident would be a shouting match, a blackout, a fender-bender, a shooting star, the emptying of a dugout during a baseball brawl. The attacks, past, present and future, are better defined by words like “sexual assaults,” “ritual abuse,” “horrors,” “terrorism,” “murders of the soul.”
Okay, yes, they were attacks, but calling them “incidents” doesn’t minimize their seriousness or demean the victim. Only someone looking for a reason to be unhappy would find it in the bishop’s words.
Sure, some of what they say is true. Many bishops are still holding out, refusing to release complete lists of abusers. But the writers make some bald assertions that are unsupportable by the evidence. They claim that there will be another wave of victims like the kind we have had in the past two years. I’m sure there will be more victims, human nature being what it is, but the very secretive nature of the crime itself means you can’t know how often it is going on now. Perhaps some of the child protection strategies are having an effect.
I also don’t buy their assertion that 8-10 percent of priests have abused. Over what time period? What is the definition of abuse being used? Is it just the accused or does the allegation have to be proved? It doesn’t minimize the horror of the problem to say that it is not that pervasive in the priesthood.
They also criticize Moynihan for saying, “The sexual abuse policy in place was too harsh, too tough for the accused priests . . . we shouldn’t throw them to the wolves.” I don’t know what the policy was or how it was changed, but it is true that the accused have rights and we don’t want an innocent man to be punished on the off chance a guilty man may go free. Remember the old axiom about our judicial system: Better than a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be jailed.
But when you’re a victim, you’re angry and you lash out. You say figuratively, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.” But that’s not justice and it’s certainly not mercy. And it’s not the Christian way.