Saturday, February 1, 2014

Father Tom Doyle Responds to Cardinal George: "What Is It They Did Not Know 'Then' That They Know Now?"

Father Thomas Doyle

I received Father Thomas Doyle's outstanding rebuttal to the claims of Chicago Cardinal Francis George about his dioceses's handling of the abuse crisis by email from the National Survivor Advocates Coalition several days ago. I've been waiting to mention this document in a posting here until after I had seen it online at the NSAC website. Meanwhile, I see that Robert McClory has published Tom Doyle's text at National Catholic Reporter.

I highly recommend the entire document. To pique your interest, here are some important passages:

The claim voiced by the Cardinal and his auxiliary, Francis Kane, that "had they known then what they know now they would have handled the allegations differently," has become a mantra for bishops when they are confronted with their disastrous actions. It's also so worn out that one would think the conference spin-doctors would come up with a fresh excuse. 
If Cardinal George read any of the numerous documents sent by the conference and if he was awake for even part of the lectures given at their annual meetings he would certainly have known the serious nature of clergy sexual abuse. So what is it they did not know "then" that they know now? It's fairly obvious.  
They did not know that their duplicitous defenses and paper-thin excuses would gain them no traction. They did not know that the deference and unquestioned credibility they had taken for granted had eroded. They didn't know that the victims and their attorneys would not be intimidated or put off by the endless legal delaying tactics. In short, they didn't know they'd be caught! That's what they didn't know then that they surely know now.


Attorney Jeff Anderson knows the detailed history of the Chicago archdiocese's response better than anyone else. His summary of why things happened the way they did applies to Cardinal George and his predecessors: We see this as a long-standing pattern of top officials of the archdiocese making conscious choices to protect their reputation and to protect the offenders," he said. "That means conscious choices were made to imperil the children over the years." 

It goes without saying that the Cardinal and the archdiocese would have been much better served had he said nothing. But he didn't remain silent. The McCormack fiasco was not the result of confusing or bungled procedures, incomplete information. It was the result of the Cardinal's arrogance, his over-riding concern for his and the Church's image and worst of all, his disdain for the victims. The attitude that underlies the Cardinal's statement is not unique to him. This attitude, painfully evident wherever clergy sexual abuse has been reported throughout the Church, shows that the bishops in general have a long, long way to go before their actions began to match up with their promises. 

Again: as the homily of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, which I discussed in my posting just prior to this one, insists, there is a single path to healing the abuse crisis in the Catholic church. That path is the path set forth for all followers of Jesus in the gospels. 

It requires that the pastoral leaders of the church admit their enormous guilt in protecting pedophile priests and ignoring the needs of children at risk. It requires that the pastoral leaders of the church began treating survivors of abuse as the human beings that they are--with claims on Catholic pastoral leaders for healing and justice. 

There is no other path to healing this moral sickness at the heart of the church. And unfortunately for us who watch and wait for this healing in our church, that gospel path runs right through the hearts of our pastoral leaders--hearts over which we have no control at all.

No comments: