Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Enablement Network

This is a topic that’s always going to be as current as the latest news story.

Yesterday, Christianity Today’s her-meneutics blog carried a story entitled Success, Honor, and the Legacy of Joe Paterno. It was subtitled “Why the world should never forget the football coach after the sex abuse scandal at Penn State”.

For all these same reasons, the world should never forget the Roman Catholic Church’s response to a sex-abuse scandal that is now well-documented and that lasted for decades, if not longer.

The author wrote:
Last week, years after his decision not to protect innocent boys was revealed, Paterno said he regretted this decision. "This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Not doing more will be his legacy. The wins on the field will mean little compared to this one big loss. The meal of a lifetime will fail to satisfy this man hungry for success with honor.

Ironically, because Paterno will be remembered for what he didn’t do—adequately report child abuse—his “great sorrow” may do more to change the world than his entire 46-year record as Penn State’s head football coach. Because of his reputation, the world will always remember Paterno as the man who failed to report child abuse. For the 33 victims of [the serial killer John Wayne] Gacy and those who escaped with their lives, and the thousands of children who have been victims of clergy abuse and those who continue to suffer in silence, and the millions of children who have been abused and the millions more who will be, Penn State’s scandal is a moment in history that has changed everything.

Because of Paterno, we all now know that we have an obligation to protect kids by speaking up to legal authorities when we learn—or even suspect—that abuse has occurred. … This week, the Big Ten announced that it was taking Paterno’s name off the trophy for the conference champion. The statue on Penn State’s campus may come down too, and some day they will probably remove his name from the library.

I have been chided for suggesting that certain Roman Catholic apologists stop defending Rome’s practices [well documented over the years, by the way], by trying to deflect attention, by saying “oh yeah, well everybody else is doing it too … etc.” A typical response is to accuse others of “pretending that sexual abuse is not a society-wide problem that is rampant in many Protestant and other circles as well”. But let’s get this off the table. I grant, here, now and forever: “SEXUAL ABUSE IS A SOCIETY-WIDE PROBLEM THAT IS RAMPANT IN MANY PROTESTANT AND OTHER CIRCLES AS WELL”.

But to say that is to miss the point that we have been making all along.

If you Google the phrase, “taking responsibility for your own actions”, or “being accountable for your own actions”, you’ll find any number of people and groups and organizations espousing that concepts – parents groups, pop psychologists, sales trainers, and on and on.

The organization is working to assure that, just as Penn State and the Big 10 are removing reasons to celebrate Joe Paterno, people will remember, understand, and see the actions of the Roman hierarchy for what they truly are. Here’s how they put it:
It is a matter of public record that U.S. bishops have knowingly transferred thousands of abusive priests into unsuspecting parishes and dioceses, placing fear of "scandal" ahead of the welfare of children. The bishops themselves have apologized for what they call their "mistake," but they say nothing about the crucial actions that constitute accountability.

For true "bishop accountability" to occur, two things must happen: 1) there must be a full "account" of the bishops' responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, both individually and collectively, and 2) bishops who have caused the abuse of children and vulnerable adults must be "held accountable."
Of course, there are networks upon networks of people who are working to deflect attention from these efforts.

Anyone who has dealt with an alcoholic or drug addict knows that, wittingly or unwittingly, it is possible to “enable” the addict to continue his harmful behavior.
Many times when family and friends try to "help" alcoholics, they are actually making it easier for them to continue in the progression of the disease. This baffling phenomenon is called enabling, which takes many forms, all of which have the same effect -- allowing the alcoholic to avoid the consequences of his actions [emphasis added]. This in turn allows the alcoholic to continue merrily along his (or her) drinking ways, secure in the knowledge that no matter how much he screws up, somebody will always be there to rescue him from his mistakes….

Simply, enabling creates a[n] atmosphere in which the alcoholic can comfortably continue his unacceptable behavior.
So simply put, Roman Catholic apologists who constantly seek to deflect attention from the Roman hierarchy – these folks foster and enable the atmosphere in which the many Cardinal Bernard Laws in that hierarchy can comfortably and peacefully avoid having to deal with the real evil they have perpetrated upon the world.

Penn State and the Big 10 are removing Paterno – making the effort to remember him for the evil he enabled, not for his “wins”. As the Christianity Today writer noted, remembering Paterno’s failures is about remembering “the double-injury inflicted when our trusted institutions fail in their duty to report allegations of child sexual abuse”

On the other hand, Rome continues to celebrate its worst offenders. Here are a couple of news flashes: whatever he may have said, you can watch what he did: an infallible Pope whisked Cardinal Law away to Rome. And Rome itself produced the Cardinal Law video. This is an organization that continues to evade responsibility for its actions. And this is one of those things we should never forget.

See also: Cardinal Law’s Birthday Party


  1. Thanks for keeping the focus on this, John. A few years ago I went to a mass with some friends while visiting in Boston. That church passed around a letter from the diocese explaining why this parish church would be closed due to the costs of the sex scandal. A parish that had been in existence since the 1800's...

    They cling to deceit;
    they refuse to return.
    6 I have listened attentively,
    but they do not say what is right.
    None of them repent of their wickedness,
    saying, “What have I done?”
    Each pursues their own course
    like a horse charging into battle.

    Jer. 8:5-6.


  2. Thanks Constantine. Peace to you.

  3. Hang on a minute. When did sexually abusing children stop being a crime?

    Why aren't people like Law in prison?

    Why aren't the people who concealed their actions being charged as accessories?

  4. The Roman Catholic Church apparently thinks it is above the law.

  5. "The Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Enablement Network"

    I remember quick-scanning the comment strings from NY Times articles about the Catholic Clergy sex abuse and hierarchy involvement, and read more than several comments saying that lifelong Catholics have quit going to their church because of this issue.

    Coincidentally, I've heard that the "Return Home to Rome" campaign by the RCC has been doing reasonably well. (But I'm not sure.)

  6. John, presumably, though, many of these bishops and priests are US citizens.

    What difference does it make if the RCC thinks it's above the law (as I'm sure it does)? Surely what matters is whether it actually is?

    What happened to the police? Don't they have an obligation to investigate and prosecute?

  7. Hi Truth -- I'm not sure how many people are leaving this, though some are. There is a high-profile convert to RCCism named Rod Dreher, who subsequently left over the scandal:

    He wrote widely in the Catholic press, but covering the Roman Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal, starting in 2002, led him to question his Catholicism,[3] and on October 12, 2006, he announced his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

    I haven't followed his story much.

    As for Anglicans going home to Rome, I've been wanting to write about that, but it's a moving target, and I don't understand all the players. The one really high profile Australian bishop turned out to have been a former Roman Catholic who had been abused and who is having some issues over the notion of returning.

    Fr. Robert Hart at the Anglican Continuum has commented on that a good bit.

  8. Jo Bmpmm. Ratzinger, Law, etc. are beyond the limits of most sovereign countries who want to talk to them.

    At, there's a pretty extensive database of all the priests etc., who have been prosecuted.

  9. That should be "Hi Bnonn" :-)

    Fingers on the wrong keys.