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A Hell of Their Own Making

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The anger at Catholic leaders over their part in covering up years of abuse is starting to explode in very public ways, and some of those leaders are handling the backlash as badly as possible.

WGN

On Monday, (Chicago based) Cardinal Blase Cupich responded to a scathing letter by former top church official in a controversy that has the so-called whistle-blower calling for the pope’s resignation.

Carlo Maria Vigano penned a letter leveling substantial accusations against top Catholic leaders. His criticism begins with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – and accusations he sexually abused seminarians for decades. Vigano said Pope Benedict sanctioned McCarrick, Pope Francis knew about it, and that Vigano personally told him but the Holy Father ignored his claims.

The pope said only, “I will not say a single word about this.” He called on journalists to make their conclusions and said “It’s an act of trust.”

“The pope knows we have a bigger agenda. We have to speak about the environment, about the poor, we have to reach out to people who are marginalized in society. We cannot be distracted at this moment,” Cupich said.

The contest of which statement, the Pope’s “no comment” or Cupich’s “bigger agenda” is the more tone deaf is a matter of personal perspective. What is becoming increasingly clear is the Vatican has no idea how to handle this present crisis it finds itself in.

The smoldering public anger in the US from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation returned to a burning fire with the release of the Vigano letter. In over 11 pages and 7K words, the former Vatican ambassador to the US laid out accusations of systematic cover-up that goes all the way to the Vatican:

LA Times

In his letter released over the weekend, Vigano wrote that (Popes) Francis and Benedict were aware of sexual abuse by McCarrick, the former cardinal who led churches in the Washington region from 2001 to 2006.

McCarrick resigned in July and was stripped of his title of cardinal after U.S. news outlets reported that he had abused seminarians. Vigano also said that other Catholic figures, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, were aware of the abuse.

Wuerl said through a spokesman that he was never told that the Vatican had barred McCarrick from celebrating Mass.

Vigano is a controversial figure himself, and has drawn criticism for laying part of the blame for the abuse scandal at the feet of “homosexual current” and “pro-gay ideology”. Church officials have been quick to point out Vigano may have his own ax to grind against the Vatican:

“This letter has everything to do with factions in the church that are vying for power and influence,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University who studies the Vatican. “You have a convergence of interests that is making this a huge mess in the U.S. Catholic Church.”

Which might well be true, but the problem Faggioli and others that try that line of defense have is the abuse is not only in the US, but worldwide. Chile just saw a mass resignation of bishops and raids by prosecutors who are investigating abuse and coverup in that country. In Australia, the Archbishop of Adelaide was convicted of covering up child abuse in the church there, and had to be forced from his positions by pressure from then-Prime Minister Turnbull and others.

Meanwhile in the US, the dam of silence might finally be breaking. Social media was alight with not just outrage, but reports on Sunday of parish priests openly condemning the silence by the church and the coverups in their Sunday messages. Public reaction to the Vigano’s letter was mixed, but noted for some support among church officials:

In a statement released Monday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the allegations must be investigated.

“The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence,” DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said. “Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”

Also named in the letter was Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J., who said in a statement that the allegations had “factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology.” Tobin said there needed to be “scrutiny of the claims” to “help establish the truth.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a leader among conservative Catholics, issued a statement praising Vigano’s “integrity” but said he could not comment on the letter because it had details “beyond his personal experience.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, went further. In a letter to church members, he said that the details in Vigano’s letter “are still allegations but as your shepherd I find them to be credible.”

The leadership of the Catholic Church has only themselves to blame for this. While the claims by Vigano are still just that, it is very clear that something very wrong has gone on for a very long time. What also is clear is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church up to and including the Pope is in no hurry to do anything meaningful about it. Whatever Vigano’s motivation, he is either lying or telling the truth, and “no comment” is no longer going to cut it with an increasingly furious congregation that not only wants answers, but is rightfully beginning to feel stonewalled.

When writing about the Pennsylvania report some weeks ago, I wrote this, and it applies still. I fear this concern will be proven horrifyingly true the further we go into the dark recesses of this coverup:

No comment. No contrition. Move the next official up to replace the removed one and carry on. It’s been established; this is the Catholic Church’s pattern for decades. We have 2000 years of history that says the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to police itself, preferring to maintain its own power structure and public image. If the abuse of victims by the Catholic Church is hard to bring to light in countries with strong legal rights, established criminal justice systems, and free presses like the United States and Australia, what horrors lie uncovered in the diverse places where such freedoms do not exist but the Catholic Church does?

I ended that piece by calling on Pope Francis to clean house and then resign himself. I feel even stronger about it now. The Pope’s silence is deafening, and the current tactics of deflection by blaming homosexuals, decrying intra-church politics, claiming a conspiracy to overthrow the Pope, and dozens of other excuses are all just more kindling for the fires of lies that brought this hell upon innocent victims in the first place. Proclaiming to be God’s instruments on earth, the leaders of the Catholic Church who covered up, enabled, and excused the abuse of children and others for decades perpetuate suffering with the hypocrisy that they are above all accountability. The guilty should be brought to swift justice by law enforcement authorities. The good and decent of the Catholic faith should rise up and cleanse their church of anything and anyone that even tacitly allowed the abuse of innocents. Until then there will be, and shouldn’t be, any peace to be found within the guilty of the Catholic Church.


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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59 thoughts on “A Hell of Their Own Making

  1. I really don’t like the idea of calling for a pope to resign. It took a grand total of one pope for us to go from the consideration of the possibility of a pope resigning to members of the faithful calling for a pope’s resignation. There’s always an impulse toward fracture in the Church, and Benedict’s resignation is enough of an oddity that it’s easy to see how controversy could lead to schism.

    The last big schism started with an election of an abrasive pope. This was just after the Avignon Papacy, and the French weren’t happy about their loss of control. The pope got on people’s nerves, and it gave the French cardinals an opportunity to claim that the conclave, and pope, was illegitimate. I don’t like where this is headed.

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    • I hate the idea, but I see no alternative. I am of the opinion that you stop the rampant sexual abuse of children and covering up first, and worry about how that looks organizationally later. I call for it because after 5 years as pontiff he is either unwilling or unable to do anything about the rampant sexual abuse and covering up of it. Either way he has to go as part of the solution to the problem. I take no joy at all in it, but this is what would be demanded of any organization with a similar circumstance. We would not let a company claim “but it’ll hurt the company” as an excuse, nor should we allow the Catholic Church to use “but it’ll hurt the church,” which is the cry that has, frankly, allowed a lot of this to fester in the first place. Stop the abuse, turn the guilty over to authorities, then worry about the Catholic Church, in that order.

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      • The problem with your argument is that you do not account sufficiently for the actual legal and constitutional structure of the Church.

        I can sympathize with the idea that the Pope should go (in fact, I’d be very happy to roll the dice on a new pope); but canonically the Pope presides over a sort of nobility that have life-time appointments and legal jurisdiction and protections that make the Church the Church and, incidentally, the Pope the Pope.

        We could talk about the “path dependencies” of “Primacy of Jurisdiction” and how far the Pope can go before the Eastern Orthodox Bishops offer Western Catholic Bishops refuge from Papal overreach.

        Or, we could look at the Curia and ask why the one thing the Pope has real direct control over is the one thing they never seem to control… and whether a trend of Papal resignations is better or worse for Curial dominance/insouciance…

        So, I didn’t really want to argue with your conclusion that the Popes have been unequal to the task at hand… but your frame of reference is all wrong, and the specific call to action would likely have the opposite effect of what we all want to happen.

        So I agree with Douthat that calling for the Pope to perform his obligations as Pope is the right course; which is not to say that “the Pope will take care of it” – I think those days are over – but rather to insist that the Pope perform his duties perhaps with more Lay involvement (bordering on Oversight) than ever before… but that’s the path forward. Not allowing the Cardinals/Curia to select their preferred manager… which is what would happen once Francis resigns

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        • Respectfully, the legal and constitutional structure of the church is what has allowed this problem to fester. If removal of the Pope results in continued abuse by the structure, which is the argument against removal you are making, why is that structure allowed to continue. The structure is secondary concern to children no longer being abused and rapes, and the leadership using that structure to hide beind. I realize that is harsh but until the abuse stops harsh is required. Until the abuse is stopped and those accountable are removed the structure cannot be trusted. Not the spiritual structure, the actual men in the positions.

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          • Yes? But you didn’t write a post unpacking the structural challenges to reform and the various ways to exert pressure on the Episcopacy and how the Curia would respond and in what ways the Pope might side with alternately the Laity, the Bishops or his own Curia. Or why Pope Benedict resigned and remains eerily silent. Or what a new Pope would do once the old one was gone – having all the existing structural apparatus in place… indeed a product of the existing structures.

            You wrote a post comparing the Church to a corporation and used that as a framework for why its obvious that anyone else in this position should resign.

            You think you are proposing a “harsh” tonic; I’m telling you you aren’t. And why.

            Respectfully I was trying to agree with your sentiments and suggest as delicately as I could where you might look anew at how to see your sentiments turned into actionable items.

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            • I’m viewing this situation, as all things are, as a leadership problem. To me, you cannot claim (not you specifically just this argument that is being made) that the Pope is in charge, while at same time saying it isn’t his fault or he must be allowed to remain. If he is not able, or not willing, he does not need to be the leader. If he is unwilling/unable there is no point in him being in the role.

              There are real victims, right now, that must be addressed. There is no place for any other concerns until the abuse is stopped and those responible held accountable. The Catholic Church structure is, frankly, irrelevant to the fact that they need to stop enabling, covering up, and excusing the rape and abuse of children. Once the abuse is stopped and those responsible are rooted out, the Catholic Church can have whatever structure it sees fit. But the current structure enables, and is unacceptable until it stops doing so.

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                • Your point is something that I’ve struggled with in reading and studying this. At what point does what I would like to happen spiritually have to take a back seat to what needs to happen in the real world temporally. This scandal is not a theological exercise, this conduct is not just immoral or unseemly. It’s criminal. The Vatican itself is probably fully safe from actual law enforcement and prosecution, but that is part of the problem. The Catholic Church from the top down has not been accountable to anyone for so long I don’t see any way there is any meaningful change without the wholesale removal of all those individuals who have perpetuated that system. To me, the spiritual concerns are all secondary until the abuse stops and the abusers reckoned with.

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                    • “why did the Catholic Church seem to get more than a normal ratio of abusers”

                      They didn’t.

                      Families have more than a normal ratio of abusers.

                      Otherwise the best stats say it’s more or less pervasive across everything.

                      They did get a more than normal ratio of cover-uppers? Maybe? But again, not more than there are in families.

                      Now, I personally don’t feel, for spiritual reasons that “no worse than everyone else” is at all acceptable for ANY clergy, and I’m extra mad at the Catholics because they’re mine in a way that other clergy aren’t.

                      But the question isn’t “why worse?” it’s “why no better?”

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                      • But the question isn’t “why worse?” it’s “why no better?”

                        Bingo! I was in a conversation on FB about all this when someone brought up a whatabout abusers in the public school system. My reply is that acting as a moral authority isn’t a part of the core mission of our educational institutions. In loco parentis is a thing for our schools but it’s only incidental to their core mission of education and highly contingent and variable at that depending on the particulars of the situation. OTOH, the Church is held up, both by itself and by others as a moral authority and that entails serving as a moral exemplar.

                        So the Church isn’t just one of many institutions that have some awful stuff happening within its walls; it’s an institution which has failed at its core mission. At this point it barely serves any purpose and its dissolution would hardly be a loss.

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                        • FWIW as a secularist who absolutely believes in holding teachers to a higher than average moral standard – and also a realist who spent a dozen years being indoctrinated in various ways by public schools – I might quibble that “acting as a moral authority isn’t a part of the core mission of our educational institutions. ”

                          However, I don’t mean to overargue with your agreeing with me :)

                          I do think the church’s core mission *shouldn’t* be moral authority, that that should be a side effect of actually helping people, and that if it wasn’t so very vested in its moral and temporal authority, we probably wouldn’t have ended up here…

                          But again, not sure how that differs from anyone else.

                          My cynicism about most of human history knows no bounds on this issue, and is matched perhaps only by my hope for the future.

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                      • Otherwise the best stats say it’s more or less pervasive across everything.

                        Not across everything. Not, like, across Walmart greeters, or insurance salespeople, or gas station attendents. As you’ve said, the relevant contributor to child sexual abuse is access, presumably to both children and a power structure that can insulate a person from accountability. There aren’t that many institutions that satisfy those conditions, to be honest. The Catholic Church satisfies them in spades. IIn one sense, a very very cininical sense, the whole institution is could be viewed as consistently serving that end.

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                        • Yes. Except no.

                          Because most Walmart greeters, insurance salespeople, and gas station attendants are *in families* and thus if you look at them they are going to follow the same pattern as gen pop, the same pattern as the Catholic church, the same pattern as everybody.

                          If you left out all the Walmart greeters who are not also in families, and to be extra parallel to the church, all the women (though women can and do abuse, at vastly underreported rates IMO, and they certainly cover up) – the numbers for “Walmart greeters” and “the Catholic church” would be expected to be more or less the same.

                          Well, except that, as already stated “families” are even worse than “the Catholic church”, so if you DID do all that the Walmart greeters would be worse.

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                          • Because most Walmart greeters, insurance salespeople, and gas station attendants are *in families*

                            Exactly. So it’s not “pervasive across everything”, but across some specific types of institutional structures. Families, the Catholic Church…

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                            • Sure. But *most people* are in families. Almost no one lives outside an institutional structure, and certainly children are not ever exempt from living within them.

                              I mean, once you allow that families are an institutional structure, basically it collapses into “this happens at the same (detestable) rate” throughout society, except I suppose for hermits, which is why I end up at “why aren’t they better than average?” and not “why are they worse?”

                              ETA I guess you could argue that no institutions other than families may be set up so as to allow access to both children and power over each other of the type that allows for cover up, but that sort of sounds like arguing people can’t be people?? Not sure at all how that could work, and that’s coming from someone who’d be a social anarchist if that was a realistic option. And it would still leave children at nearly the same risk of being abused as before since it still mostly happens in family settings.

                              That’s why I’m so big on cultural change rather than (or at least worked harder on than) legal wins. I mean, legal wins where we can get them by all means, but not *at the expense of* cultural change.

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                              • But *most people* are in families.

                                Right. So if *that’s the criterion* which determines frequency, it’s not true that it’s pervasive across everything, but pervasive across families (and similar). I say because the posts where you’ve made that comment are specifically, very intentionally, focused on institutional structures and remedying defects within them consistently with institutional analysis. Families, well. All happy families are the same, but every unhappy family probably has some child abuse going on…

                                ETA I guess you could argue that no institutions other than families may be set up so as to allow access to both children and power over each other of the type that allows for cover up, but that sort of sounds like arguing people can’t be people??

                                Two parts to that that I can’t connet. a) I am in fact arguing that the Catholic Church is uniquely situated to accomplish exactly that, to satisfy both relevant properties contributing to sexual abuse. Not necessarily on purpose, of course. But that’s the structure of the church right now (and has been for so many hundreds of years it might well as have existed at its inception.) b) If sexual abuse of children is people being people then we really are at an impasse. So I think you must have meant something different.

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                                • “but pervasive across families (and similar). ”

                                  You aren’t reckoning with the rest of that paragraph. “children are not ever exempt from living within them.” [ie within institutional structures]

                                  Children are literally more or less at the same risk of being sexually abused no matter what – the ONLY factor that significantly changes their risk of abuse is already having been abused by someone. Because families are SO MUCH worse for the risk, adding on extra risk of also “being close to Catholic priests” or “being in the Boy Scouts” or “being a potential Olympian” or whatever it is, does add SOME risk. Some. But proportionally to the risk they’re already at, not much. That extra risk is less than what they already risked. Institutionalized kids, to take an example that’s been upsetting people a lot for the last 60 years, are at a horrible, awful risk of it happening, but LESS risk than if they were in families. That’s how awful it is.

                                  b)
                                  I’m not saying sexual abuse of children is people being people (and I’m glad you realized that can’t be what I was saying).
                                  I’m saying that the *risk* of sexual abuse of children, in the current culture, with our current way of treating each other, is an unavoidable side effect, and that because of that such that if we change legal structures and ignore (or worse yet counteract) cultural change, we may end up merely occluding rather than ending the problem.

                                  Not that sexual abuse of children is an unavoidable side effect AT ALL in the absolute, but that there’s no way to regulate against it, given how pervasively it’s part of our shared culture – otherwise “family” wouldn’t be the most dangerous group – so we better find a way to fix it that isn’t based on regulating. Otherwise we’ll just keep assuring ourselves that FINALLY we’ve fixed the problem, and it will keep damn happening.

                                  Because people are currently quite terrible, in the aggregate.

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                                  • Part of what’s confusing is that of course any individual when thinking of the individual kids they themselves know, does not want to believe they are at risk AT ALL from their *particular* own family.

                                    So then they see these other institutions as the danger.

                                    But of course we know *that’s an error* if you are looking at statistics which means it’s very often an error in the individual case.

                                    In my own family some people were horrified that they didn’t save us from my dad, that they could never have guessed that he would have done something like that. Sincerely horrified. And some (not at all, all!!!) of those SAME DAMN PEOPLE then started pressuring us to cover it up.

                                    As long as families can get away with working this way (and I am far far far from unusual in having a story like this among sexual abuse survivors), it *will not matter* what happens in the rest of society.

                                    Because those same predators will be preying on their nieces, nephews, whomever. They will *find* access. Predatory pedophiles are not passive actors drifting into crime, they actively seek out cover and they will *find* it as long as people don’t believe THEIR friends, neighbors, family, etc could possibly be among the predators.

                                    They will find it, they will set it up, and they will pass unremarked among the rest of us, because MOST people have an idea in their head of what a pedophile is that *does not match* what they will actually see happening when someone is preying on kids.

                                    That idea is, IMO, the first thing that needs to change. The rest of all this is individually tragic – and individual justice is absolutely *deserved* and valuable – but not socially effective to make change.

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                                  • “is an unavoidable side effect, and that because of that such that if we change legal structures and ignore (or worse yet counteract) cultural change, we may end up merely occluding rather than ending the problem.”
                                    sorry that was a big mess
                                    “is an unavoidable side effect of people being people, such that if we change legal structures and ignore (or worse yet counteract) cultural change, we may end up merely occluding rather than ending the problem.”

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                                  • Children are literally more or less at the same risk of being sexually abused no matter what

                                    I’m really having a hard time locating this argument in intellectual space, to be honest. That’s probably on me more than you. The Catholic Church is accused of {you know…} yet you seem to be arguing – with me anyway – that focusing on the Catholic Church somehow misses the point.

                                    How can it miss the point if the specific point is to focus on remedying abuse in the Catholic Church???

                                    I mean, let’s suppose that as of today all Catholic parents and family members agree to (and actually do…) refrain from sexually abusing their children. The family contribution to sexual abuse of those children *from them* becomes zero. It’s still the case that priests exist in an institutional culture where abuse will occur and be enabled, right? At existing rates, if not for the scandal? And maybe even despite it?

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                                  • Children are literally more or less at the same risk of being sexually abused no matter what

                                    Then an institutional analysis is irrelevant and we go to psychological or social (or economic or etc etc) analysis…. Yet you said that access is relevant to child abuse, and that’s a property of various institutional structures.

                                    Add, that last bit, about pedos don’t look like what people “think they will” is absolutely right. I’m just not sure how it’s relevant to a discussion about priests sexually abusing small children.

                                    I mean, I get that part. Really I do.

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                                    • That’s the point at which the fact that predators are active, not in Brownian motion, becomes relevant.

                                      Fix the Catholic church, don’t fix the underlying social issues, and the predators go somewhere else OR they just get smarter about covering up.

                                      So if a person is trying contribute to the fundamental goal of *stop children being abused* rather than *stop group X from abusing children*, which I do assume all of us here are more interested in**, focusing on this issue with this group or that issue with this other group is missing the point.

                                      That was what I was saying with my original comment that you took issue with.

                                      That as long as Catholic families are more dangerous to the children within them than even their priests are, it’s *very socially risky* to think we can fix the Church and thereby fix the problem.

                                      That Andrew’s whole project of treating the church like any other corporation, as a solution to the actual problem of *not having just as many kids abused*, while fascinating and I welcome any future posts he has on the topic, is fundamentally misguided.

                                      So if you’re thinking that’s what I’m saying, well, that’s because it is what I’m saying.

                                      ** statistically it’s very likely that there are pedophiles lurking on this site without commenting, and not impossible, again statistically, that at least one person I enjoy talking to on here is, in fact, an active pedophile. I choose to not think about that for my own sanity, although any evidence to the contrary would of course change my own perspective, and I tend to shy away from people who abuse power in any way, no matter how “understandable”, which lets me believe I don’t actually know anyone in that category *other* than y’know, my dad, my cousin’s (unrelated by blood) dad, my high school band teacher…. surely that must, statistically be enough pedophiles for me to have known, and I don’t have to know any more, she said wistfully.

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                                      • Hm. Thinking, thinking. Disagree with some stuff, agree with some other stuff, trying to form coherent thoughts by my own limited personal standard to express…. Like the texture of the comment above everything else …. brownian motion…..

                                        I mean, I think you’re talking about a better world here, where the shit like described didn’t and doesn’t happen. I’m in favor! I just don’t know how to get there from here other than focusing on verifiable instances, and punishing those actions, and learning from it, and repeating the cycle enough til some clarity emerges, and then maybe – by law and culture – things begin to change. So as it is right now we have – per Andrew – Catholic priests Xing the little kids and Cardinals and Bishops apologizing for it, and if *those people go to jail* as retribution but also a signal to others, that may be the best we can hope for right now and a better tomorrow.

                                        I dunno, obvs. The whole thing sucks.

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                                        • I appreciate your comment and please take what follows as me taking an opportunity to get up (stay up) on the soapbox rather than as me assuming you need to be lectured.

                                          I’d say we get there from here by focusing more on telling the truth – allowing, encouraging, supporting people to tell the truth about their own experiences of being harmed – and less on punishing the guilty, and forensics in general. Both are worthwhile, both are important, but if you focus too much on the latter, you actually interfere with the former, and I think the former is *much* more important to cultural change on this issue, because *no one wants to believe how much it happens or who it happens to (or who does it)*.

                                          I mean, I get it. There have been times when I wanted to wreak some serious, seriously mentally detailed vengeance on various abusers, including my own.

                                          But that very fury is part of what leads us (as a society) to say “pedophiles look like THIS and they should burn in the fiery pits of hell and also whatever social equivalent of that we can find for them”, then do that to a few pedophiles (not all! my dad got less than 5 months in minimum security the first and only time anyone ever managed to get him convicted, and that was a time-served-misdemeanor plea bargain because they couldn’t be bothered to bring him to trial (or thought he’d trick the jury and then have a clean record, if the law enforcement involved were actually good people – who knows…) – just for example). … anyway, throw the book at a very few pedophiles, set up stuff like Megan’s law which is security theater for child safety, and then feel like this terrible awful horrible problem has been dealt with. While simultaneously predators persist in institutions (including most significantly the family) because they have the advantage that *no one* who isn’t doing those things (and isn’t a vicious terrible person) wants it to be true of some other person, and so everyone (nearly everyone) will have blind spots the size of Mack trucks that let them believe the thing that is happening couldn’t POSSIBLY be happening, and not notice the clues that in some other context would scream “child molester” to them.

                                          I mean, all of that is more or less the way they/we used to deal with it, only a new iteration. Have a panic, find some people to punish, firmly agree it’s fixed, sweep it back under the rug. They were doing that in medieval times.

                                          If kids *knew*, really knew, that what happened if they reported pedophiles was that society would make sure the pedophiles were very effectively never allowed near children without state supervision again, the kids who reported them would be believed and supported and protected and safe, and not a whole lot else would happen except maybe some of the pedophiles being helped in the rare cases where they actually can be helped (but that seeming “helped” wouldn’t mean they could get their ban from kids revoked), I firmly believe the problem would be solved, with very few false reports, fairly quickly (like a decade instead of hundreds of years). The piece that would be a bit harder would be where the pedophiles are *also* violent, coercive, and abusive in other ways, because you’d have to really really work at the “kids feel safe” piece.

                                          I can also see some pretty big holes in that solution, some pretty big reasons why the political will for it would never happen, etc. And I go back and forth on the false reports being rare and that’s a super-key problem but it’s also just as much of a problem with the law and order solution (as we see with the ex-nuncio accusing the Pope).

                                          But even with all those holes in my theory (including the very big one of it having taken years for me to stop wanting to murder the pedophile who abused me, my father, and being reasonably sure that if he ever gave me reason to believe he was still doing it, and I was literally nearby, I’d be going to jail myself soon thereafter), still I can’t help but advocate for the things I think *would* help instead of the things I have reason to believe won’t help much (at scale, again, not in terms of justice for individual cases) other than by making people feel better that they did something.

                                          I don’t want to settle for making people feel better, I want the problem to actually stop.

                                          This is an aside, kinda, and/or maybe an example set, but that list of 3 pedophiles I’ve actually known? I left one off – it’s 4 – and I did that because I’ve trained myself not to think of that guy because the people who told me what he did did so in confidence, there was a divorce, the damage was intervened with as much as possible (though one of his sons turned out to be a recidivist rapist of adult women when drinking and ALSO one of my favorite people, safe as houses, when sober, so, y’know, damage not all that contained – but I hadn’t hit puberty yet when all that started to happen so not much I could have done). And then certain members of the family made sure he was never allowed near any children unsupervised ever again on pain of death, which was far more effective a threat, and less damaging to the abused family members, than a jail term would have been. (I told y’all I come from the Canadian equivalent of Appalachia…)

                                          And none of all that is anywhere close to what it should be, but I feel somehow like it’s better than my terrible father going to terrible jail, getting deported, and then – “somehow” but really because most people can’t quite believe he did all the horrible things he did which really don’t stop with sexual abuse, because they want to believe they can recognize pedophiles and he doesn’t match their imaginary template – and then ending up free and clear, walking around unmonitored, theoretically able to snow anyone he wants into anything he wants, including access to their children, because society will. not. fucking. listen. to people who’ve been abused. or the people who believe and support them. *deep breath* Sorry. I have trouble knowing what of all this that I think is useful, and what is just me being angry at people who’ve done horrible things…

                                          It’s been a long week.

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                                          • PS Just a note that my (sincere) crack about “Canadian equivalent to Appalachia” was about my perception of some people thinking it’s more effective to take the law into their own hands and enforce vigilante social rules rather than to trust the government to deal with it effectively, as evaluated by my m-i-l’s stories about growing up in Harlan County. Not about the rest of what’s weird and awful about that situation, some of which is particular to the place I grew up and some of which is universal, but none of which I think of as particularly Appalachian.

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                    • >why did the Catholic Church seem to get more than a normal ratio of abusers?

                      They didn’t, at least for organizations “most likely to have kids alone with grown men” and “most likely to trust the grown man’s word”. (See: Coaches and Boy Scout leaders for two other examples of such structures).

                      However, what they had was both scale — the Catholic Church is simply massive — and a lengthy period of bad institutional cover-up. Which led to abusers getting, to avoid mincing words, a lot of practice and when they inevitably got enough complaints, they were moved to other hunting grounds.

                      There’s not really a good sort of cover-up, but there is the sort of cover-up that can prevent reoccurance from a known bad actor, especially given the nature of priesthood — why the Church didn’t send them to monasteries or positions with strict “no contact with kids” rules enforced by their superiors I don’t know, although it appears to be that simply some of the more effective predators had high enough rank to protect themselves (and others).

                      Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the various Popes over the past thirty or forty years have had a lot of sunshine blown up their asses over this issue.

                      Too many powerful fiefdoms, so to speak, and the guy in charge utterly dependent on his subordinates for information (and they on theirs, etc).

                      It’s a lot like bad cops moving from police force to police force, with a serious informational clamp-down that prevented the new force from realizing this was a possible bad egg.

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                • If we’re thinking about this from a religious perspective, one could argue there is benefit in forcing the Pope to stay and pressuring him to reform. Think of it as his penance.

                  Well, if he’s complicit in covering up any of these crimes he’s not gettin into heaven, that’s for sure.

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      • And I hear that argument, but if he has not “fulfilled his obligations” by now it strains credulity that he will do is now, and if he only does so under immense pressure what kind of meaningful change are you really going to get? You cannot get a pi lic comment other than sympathy I have no faith you will get meaningful change, let alone justice and prevention.

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        • See my note above.

          Its early to tell for sure, but there’s a fundamental shift among the practicing laity that the Bishops are going to be held accountable; accountability is slightly different than “change” so if the goal is some sort of nebulous “change” that isn’t specific to the problems of child abuse, sexual incontinence, and sexual exploitation of seminarians, then we’re not talking the same “change.” But the movement for accountability is growing and that’s far more powerful than a Papal resignation only to have the Cardinals who aren’t being held accountable select their next leader.

          The Church always reforms (or doesn’t) from the bottom up.

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          • The church is people, those leaders are people. The standard of decent people always applies, regardless. The Church moves slow because the people move slow, and is not an answer or excuse to “why isn’t something being done about the sexual abuse of children and others.” The people must be held responsible.

            Regular culture dynamics, such as abuse is not acceptable and a leader that covers it up should be turned over to authorities, needs to be applied here. What is the good reason for not swiftly dealing with what is now a multi-decade scandal and abuse?

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              • That’s a fair point, and I think you are right that it is important in preventing it from happening in the future. I just want the “why” discussion to be an autopsy discussion, not a diagnostic one. Why the ship is sinking is a pointless discussion if it sinks while the debate rages. Right the ship, then delve into that.

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                • I disagree… and I’m saying this because my job is to ask the Why. One tool we use a lot is a 5 Why analysis (I’m sure many of our commenters are familiar with it). We start with this because this gives us true root cause and you can’t put a fix in place until you actually understand the problem. What I think a lot of people are hoping for is a cosmetic fix but not a lasting one. It makes people feel good in the short term but doesn’t keep it from happening again.

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                  • I love 5 whys and the Lean processes. Have used it extensively. Not to torture the metaphor but again, we have 5 why meetings over issues. We dont have a 5 why meeting when the buildings on fire, we deal with the fire. Then you have the root cause meeting after the fact of what caused the fire.

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              • I suspect that some of the “why” has been dealt with. This is where we need to be specific about what problems we’re trying to solve. Abuses from 70 years ago? Abuses today? Promotions today? Cover-ups today? If cover-ups today: lack of notification of authorities, or out-of-court settlements, or lack of cooperation with investigating authorities, or lack of cooperation with Church officials?

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  2. Off-thread, but not really:

    Michigan State: NCAA finds no rule violations in Larry Nassar scandal

    Michigan State said it received a letter from Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, on Wednesday saying that no NCAA violations were found in a review of how the school responded to sexual assaults committed by former university doctor Larry Nassar or how the school handled separate sexual assault allegations made against members of the football and basketball programs.

    How many MSU students accused Nassar of sexual abuse? 332. Yet, not a single instance of anyone at MSU committing an NCAA rules violation. Not a single one…

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    • Here’s another relevant data point on how big institutions deal with systemic abuse and cover ups:

      USA Gymnastics asks Mary Lee Tracy to resign for contacting abuse survivor

      “USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past,” gold medalist Aly Raisman posted on Twitter. “This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at [USA Gymnastics] has changed. What a profound disappointment!”

      “Mary Lee Tracy publicly defended Larry after I and others came forward, refusing to believe,” Denhollander wrote on Twitter. “USAG just made her elite program director. Tell me more about that change USAG. Tell me more. What a slap in the face.”

      USA Gymnastics, under new CEO Kerry Perry, has said it is trying to move forward with an athlete-focused attitude to improving its culture.

      An “athlete-focused attitude”. Riiiight. As opposed to what exactly?

      The whole article is worth a read.

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  3. I’ve been mulling this over for a while now and I don’t find the ex-nuncio’s accusations credible. He has a long history of trying to f this pope over AND he himself was friends with McCarrick and hid his knowledge of abuse for years. He was also, as far as I can tell from actual history and Benedict’s response to his claims, flat out lying that the Pope reinstated McCarrick from some sort of punishment – there was no punishment under Benedict (at least not anything that McCarrick bothered to pay attention to), and this Pope is the one who actually punished/censured McCarrick. So within his accusations there exist provable lies.

    Which is not to say, at all, that the Pope’s hands are clean…. just that “believe victims” doesn’t mean “believe ex-ambassadors-to-the-US-from-the-Vatican who are themselves complicit and have giant axes to grind”. People are, of course, throwing up clouds of “proofs” and “counterproofs” on both sides of this at the moment, but my info-literacy hunches are coming down on the side of the ex-nuncio being a lying liar pants. This guy reminds me of other abusers / enablers I have known who try to pin everything on someone else, both personally and in the press. While the pope doesn’t (yet).

    The Curia and their pets have long been a cancer on the Catholic church, IMO.

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    • I am with you in being leary of his testimony, but much like a criminal case you have to have testimony from unsavory characters sometimes, and that doesnt mean they are not telling the truth. I doubt in the upper levels there are few that dont know and few with completely clean hands. All the more reason to find the whole truth.

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      • Oh sure, and remember that my preferred ideal solution is not “the pope should resign” or “the curia should resign” but the far more radical, “the entire leadership should give itself over to the authorities, the laity, and the RCWP (which has both distance, and as far as I can so far tell, clean hands) to clean house” (I’d also be okay with #firethecuria on general principles, that opinion is one I’ve held since I was old enough to hold opinions about Catholic politics though.)

        Within the realm of “actually possible though difficult”, I think a pope who is willing to say “We fucked up” (not y’all, but *we*) and actually invite cops to investigate him if they feel the need (not that they will, but) is far preferable to anything else that is likely to happen.

        I realize that I am biased on many levels, starting with the fact that “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” is exactly the acknowledgement I’ve been waiting for from SOME dang person in the Church – anyone with authority! let alone the actual pope! – since I was around 8 years old and realized my mom was being counseled by her priest to help my dad rather than protecting his children.

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        • One complicating issue is that there isn’t one authority to whom the Vatican should submit. I don’t even know if it’s possible to enumerate the jurisdictions potentially involved. There are different laws and international treaties, and the Vatican itself is a sovereign state. We may be able to look at certain cases and see flagrant lack of cooperation, but could we identify what full cooperation would look like? There are no international standards for appraising the testimony of a Papal Nuncio, for example.

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  4. The Boston abuse scandal was exposed in 2001. Here we are, nearly a generation later, still finding new horrors. It’s clear there is no effort on the Church’s part to properly address this. How can anyone place any trust in these men?

    Just an editing note. It’s Chile, not Chili.

    Your first link is bad in this comment: https://ordinary-times.com/2018/08/30/a-hell-of-their-own-making/#comment-1389258

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