Friday, September 23, 2005

"Don't Read Report, Rigali Says"

That's the headline from today's Philadelphia Inquirer on this, Day Three of the PR (that's Post-Report) period.
Cardinal Justin Rigali said yesterday that Catholics should avoid reading the district attorney's grand jury report, which accuses past leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese of covering up years of sexual abuse by priests.

Its "prolonged explanations of the abuse" are "very graphic," the Roman Catholic archbishop said in an interview at his Center City office yesterday.

The 418-page report, released Wednesday by District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, also "gives a very slanted view" of how the archdiocese now handles sex-abuse cases, he said.

"I don't think it's of value to families," Rigali said.

Good God.

I love Rigali, I really do, and I'm just as hopping mad about the slant of the report as the next soldier in his army, but it's quotes like this from the consummate diplomat of the century that, candidly, drive me batty.

On a slightly less repressing note -- anything being less repressing than the local resurrection of the Index of Forbidden Books -- Rigali offers the strongest indicator yet that celibate homosexuals will be barred from seminary formation, responding to a question on the topic in these words:
"In due time, the position of the Holy See will be made public."
The piece called that response a deflection. In reality, translating from the Rigaliese, it means "Done Deal." This becomes especially clear as the Eminence did not throw himself in front of the train by repeating his March 2002 position that "The majority of pedophiles are not celibate, but married men..."

And just when you thought the decibel level was high enough, Jill Porter of the Daily News raises it, oh, by about 14%
Frankly, the only equivalency [to the Philadelphia church] that comes to mind in terms of institutionalized inhumanity - as much as I usually avoid inflammatory Holocaust metaphors - is the Third Reich.
When I saw that, I felt the need to bang my head against a wall. I still feel that need. But I'm sure as hell not gonna lose brain cells over an extremely seedy and unfortunate comparison. Again, Good God!

But the best quote, the emblematic quote, is from the Daily's lead article, which opens with these words:

They're still very, very sorry, and they'll try to make sure it won't happen again.

But they still insist the grand jury report about child sexual abuse by Philadelphia priests was unfair. Meanwhile, they're going to try to make sure that no gays become priests.

Oh, this brave new world we live in. I'm still trying to get used to it.



Blogger Daniel H. Conway said...

I read this report. It gave insights into the abuse issue that left me thinking again that this is not a gay issue but an access issue.

Seems that females were assaulted too.

Perhaps the "gay thing" remains a diversion. Perhaps its an access thing. How many parents will let "Father" have access to little Janey at age 14, alone in the rectory for hours. We just are learning that its not good for anyone (not just priests) to have unfettered access to boys.

Why is the Catholic Church singled out? Because it is nearly 20 years behind the time. Before 1985 I give youth groups a "pass" on trying to deal with this (kind of), but after 1985 I, as a 19 year Scout leader, knew how to deal with the event of sexual abuse. And had to deal with it. And I did well with it.

I expect that much from folks far more experienced and senior than me. I like Bevilacqua, but he demonstrated poor leadership in a vital area. Very poor leadership that rightly taints his entire tenure. And shames the rest of the Church.

The power of the grand jury allowed the development of the details of Phildadelphia's abuse to go on record. Its on the record now. And this is a justice to the victims, to the laity and to the current priests. And to Rigali. He knows that the public is watching and informed. He does not need to be a moral hero and out his priests. He just has to respond in a routine fashion when this comes up in the future. He has been done a service.

Rigali should consider himself lucky. Consider the alternative-the scandal breaks in 2012 instead of 2002 and he has had 10 years of "business as usual," covering up the abuse, a habit that seemed to be the choice of episcopal leaders throughout the country. Now he will never consider that alternative. He is to consider himself blessed.

23/9/05 10:15  
Blogger patrick said...

The Scouts did not always handle these things in a manner that would be approved of by most people. I was a scout leader, both as scout and scouter, around the same time as Daniel. There was another troop in my same town sponsored by a well-known liberal baptist congregation, in which a dynamic committed middle-aged scoutmaster had transformed it into an outstanding scout troop. Unfortunately, he became very close to the senior patrol leader of the troop who also had a girlfriend. At the time, I thought their close friendship was a little "fishy" but there was a difference between mere suspicion and something more concrete. As it turned out, they were having a sexual relationship which continued until the young man was a college sophmore. They - so I was told - got into a dispute over money, and the young man reported the relationship to the authorities.

The whole matter was handled very discreetly. The scoutmaster was dismissed from his post. The DA agreed not to press charges if the scoutmaster agreed to move from the State and never come back. Nothing ever reached the press, though those of us who were Scouters learned about what happened. I doubt that the matter would be handled in such a way today.

And, for what it's worth, the prevailing view among the scouters (which I shared) was that while the scoutmaster clearly acted inappropriately and needed to be dismissed, the young man was not quite the "victim" that he portrayed himself. He seemed to be a very willing participant in this relationship because he got something out of it, i.e. he was rather mercenary about the thing. Thus, the young man was not viewed terribly sympathetically.

Whether this was the right way to look at the situation is somewhat debatable.

23/9/05 11:29  
Blogger RightJack said...

Rigali's comment will only increase the chorus of those who chant, correctly, "They STILL don't get it!"

23/9/05 11:41  
Blogger patrick said...

I think what Rigali is saying that the stories are so incredibly graphic that it is potentially damaging to even read it - separate and apart from the issue of the Archdiocese's role in the mess. I agree with the Cardinal. It's pornographic in its explicit detail and it will make a lot of people rather queasy or it even might unintentionally excite interest in these sorts of things that were either latent or non-existant. In fact, the grossly explicit description of the abuse so dominates the report that is OBSCURES the role of the Archdiocese in handling the abuse cases. I was left more with an impression of how twisted and evil some of the offenders were rather than how bad the bishops and the chancery rats were. This is a major defect in the Grand Jury report.

23/9/05 12:31  
Blogger George Collie said...

I read the report, and it is graphic, but instructive. A lot of coercive sex forced on 11-year olds, and even younger, children. It hasn't dented my Faith.

My take from the report, coupled with Rocco's first-hand story, is this. Something shaped Krol's and Bevilacqua's responses to the abuse incidents during the late eighties and nineties. At least since 1988, I don't believe any competent defense attorney would advise the Archdiocese to do what it did. And from Rocco, we see what the instincts of a senior prelate were. Unless they were involved in this heinous behaviour, they were as appalled as we are.

I now suspect the Vatican was systematically at work on this issue. I am begining to think the American prelates were told to slip the abuse under the rug. I surmise that these things (coverups) go to the top. Perhaps the very top.

This might explain why Cardinal Law apparently got a vote for pope in the College of Cardinals. He wasn't calling the shots.

And the gay "ban" is just another Vatican ruse to satisfy and/or divide us.

23/9/05 14:03  
Blogger patrick said...

"Something shaped Krol's and Bevilacqua's responses to the abuse incidents during the late eighties and nineties. At least since 1988, I don't believe any competent defense attorney would advise the Archdiocese to do what it did."

Well, Bevi must have gotten good advice from lawyers because he managed to avoid significant damage from lawsuits for priest predators. Despite the DAs spin on that, the straightforward answer to that question is that Bevi - unlike Krol - took serious pain and effort (though imperfectly to be sure) to keep priests from getting into situations where they were likely to re-offend, whether these priests got reassignments or not. And, contrary to the DAs implication, the liklihood that a fill-in priest for a weekend mass will have the opportunity to groom sex abuse victims is pretty small.

As to whether the Vatican forced tied the bishops' hands in some odious way is an interesting question. I doubt it, but we will learn the answer one day, if it is true. Yet another reason why "Santo Subito" is ill-advised until all the facts about JPII's reign are better known and understood.

23/9/05 14:56  
Blogger Dave Merkowitz said...

Interesting, the Philly Inq. has corrected their lead article on-line as not truly reflecting Cardinal Rigali's statement. Rocco, excellent work. You have a fantastic site.

23/9/05 17:09  

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