Sunday, June 22, 2014

Catholic bishops judged by the company they keep: Pope Francis doesn’t hold them accountable.

Every spring the American bishops meet at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As usual, protecting children is not a key initiative for the bishops. The chairman of their National Review Board stated that the church "continues to slowly make progress" on the child abuse issue. Although urged not to be so untroubled about clergy sexual abuse of minors, the bishops spoke little of holding one another accountable for failures in protecting children.

Besides their lack of concern about the children, they invited a controversial speaker: W. Bradford Wilcox, co-author of an article in the Washington Post about violence against women. Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia outraged every major publication on the Internet by saying that one way to end violence against women is for women to stop sleeping around and get married. Sounds like a ridiculous statement but maybe this is what bishops want to hear.  They don’t want to hear that the problem is actually abusive men, not unmarried women.

Said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, “We're saddened but not surprised that America's bishops have invited a man to speak to them who minimizes and mischaracterizes abuse.”

Bishops often consult with questionable "experts," like Paul McHugh who said “I believe that the belligerent frenzy characteristic of media reports on priestly sexual abuse has done much damage and needs to stop."  The bishops liked him so much they put McHugh on their first National Review Board overseeing the pedophile priest crisis.

McHugh previously testified on behalf of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a priest A. Joseph Maskell, who were sued in 1995 by two women who claimed the priest raped them in the 1970s as high school students. The women sought an exemption to the statute of limitations on such lawsuits, arguing that post-traumatic stress disorder prevented them from recalling the rape for 20 years. McHugh discounted the scientific validity of such recovered memory of sexual abuse.  The Maryland Court of Appeals sided with McHugh.

When the bishops do think about the abuse crisis, it’s about the priests, not the victims. They send accused predator priests to therapists like Father Benedict Groeschel, who said in 2012: “In many cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 is the seducer.” He made the comments while being interviewed by the National Catholic Register who later removed the interview from their website. Groeschel  even had sympathetic words for convicted Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky:  “Here’s this poor guy Sandusky. It went on for years. Interesting. Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

The bishops have a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People but when someone asked  the chairman of their conference whether all of the bishops are implementing it in their dioceses, the chairman said, "We are not able to say that."

If we are judged by the company we keep it is easy to see who the bishops are—self-serving, misogynists, sympathizers with child rapists and defenders of criminal clergy.  They have a long heritage of putting themselves and the church first at the expense of children, families and God.