Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why is the US unique in pedophile priests?

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The problem is only partly the pedophile priests, of course. The Pope so far seems to be ignoring the complicity of the bishops (accessories after the fact) who covered up for the priests, transferred them to new parishes, and kept them free to continue their activities. I wonder why none of the bishops have been arrested as accomplices? (Of course, one such bishop, Cardinal Law, fled the country and now resides at the Vatican.)

Michael O’Hare at the Reality Based Community describes the puzzle:

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the US, and the church’s decades of serving the perpetrators parish after parish of unwarned victims, has bankrupted dioceses, driven bishops from office, and devastated thousands of the faithful. Remarkably, there has been almost no such history in Italy. Obviously, the Catholic hierarchy in that country comprises nothing but righteous and upright men, not a pedophile nor a predator among them, ever.

I guess…though if an Italian priest were to be charged with abuse, and a few have, the entire episode (victims, witnesses, accusee, and all) would immediately be covered by the most absolute internal secrecy under pain of excommunication, precluding any possibility of criminal prosecution or public notice, so we would know nothing about it. The same secrecy rules obtained in the US, but broke eventually under the weight of the secular criminal and civil law, and an independent press in a country only about a quarter Catholic and not party to a Lateran Treaty.

The Italian press has been completely supine on this issue (as here, for example), and when the occasional light is shone from outside, especially on the explicit policy of secrecy the church has imposed wherever it can get away with it, the result is an avalanche of namecalling and abuse, but as far as I can tell, no substantive refutation of the basic facts and policy. The Italian church’s view, in summary, is that attention to the possibility of priestly misconduct is hurtful to the accused priests (false accusations of this kind are in fact very rare).

The pope was in charge of this mess in his previous job, and it’s remarkable that in his current US visit, he kept bringing up the pedophilia scandal and wringing his hands about it. But a new high in what I can only read as the oiliest, cynical, chutzpah was surely achieved when he asked the faithful to reach out to the victims, something completely impossible in Italy because there are no victims to be found.

I’m astonished at the free pass he got from the US media, who seem to have never, in this entire visit, raised the linked questions (if not to his flacks, in analysis):

“If the church has completely protected Italian youth from abuse by priests, why were these wonderful methods not provided to the American bishops, and American children left at risk? And if it hasn’t, how big is the problem there? And why should we believe the answer, as long as Cardinal Law, the apostle of coverup, wilful ignorance, and mendacity, has been swept into the comforting embrace of the Vatican with about a dozen important jobs? And since you bring it up, how is anyone supposed to reach out as you ask, if the church’s policy continues to be that they remain unknown, invisible, and silent?”

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2008 at 12:35 pm

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