One and Done on the TV
The caller was identified as "the church journalist, Rocco Palmo." And the church journalist appreciates that appellation very much. For future reference, "Religion journalist" is better still.
I'm poking fun at myself, people. Get over it.
Once on, I was asked for my reaction to the report. I replied that it's been a moment of pain, of sorrow, of heartbreak, because we really should expect the best of priests -- that they be men of faith and men of purity, and it's always a tragedy when a beloved figure of such great expectations falls grievously short of the mark.
With that said, I proceeded to take issue with John Salveson, the head of the local chapter of SNAP. From everything I've read of him, I've always seen Salveson as a good guy devoted to his cause. But I was perturbed by his accusation that "the Vatican" was seemingly complicit, or at the very least was "pleased" with the efforts undertaken by prelates in the States "to preserve the church's image," squelch the cases and silence the victims.
Because someone's gotta defend Papa Bear and his honor -- not the most popular task these days, with him receiving Hans Kung, keeping Uncle Ted aboard and all -- I spoke about Cardinal Ratzinger's "Friday penance" (the time of week when he would read the abuse files at his desk at the CDF) and the resumption of the investigation into Maciel, the actions taken against Gino Burresi, etc.
Salveson replied that Ratzinger "let that [Maciel] case drop." He couldn't recall Maciel's name or his order (the Legion, of course), and he claimed that Ratzi "let [Maciel] go and he's still doing his thing."
I was getting impatient with the growing pile of inaccuracies by this time, so I just let 'er rip: "The case has been resurrected, John," the church journalist boomed. I then went on to explain that the Holy Father has sent some of his closest aides (Scicluna, et al.) to interview victims of Maciel and to apologize in the Pope's name for the harm done to them by the church. I closed by saying that the process would most likely result in Maciel's suspension.
Salveson looked a little stunned at hearing this, which was surprising to me -- for all his media exposure, I thought the man would be a bit more well-briefed; this is by no means breaking news. I didn't like going about it in that way, but I felt compelled to. For all the suffering they've endured, the victims have a heightened sense of credibility when they speak in these days, which is rightful as they were gravely wronged by the institution which was so God damn self-absorbed.
However, the credibility and trust given survivors of clergy sex abuse can never and must never be exploited by the misuse of their exposure to mislead an audience. No one is served by the portrayal of inaccurate, slanted, agenda-driven statements as "facts" which present the church, its good work and its efforts in a light meant to encourage greater aversion to it from those whose faith has already been challenged and damaged much by recent events.
In sum, if you want to be credible, be responsible. Crying "victim" alone can't cut it anymore. It's time for SNAP to really step up to the plate, because it's bleeding credibility by the day with the press, with the bishops, with the faithful.
The tactics I saw tonight were an abuse of responsibility, an abuse of trust and an abuse of goodwill -- and, despite the survivors' great suffering, there's no justification whatsoever for it.