Questionable Motives

June 8, 2010

How does the RC church make a sex abuse scandal go away?

Filed under: abuse,Catholic Church,Morality,Priests,Scandal — tildeb @ 7:40 am

It orders a ‘fixer’ to come in and get to work. Ex-Benedictine monk, Patrick Wall (Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse), recently provided a revealing, disturbing, angering, and heartbreaking 12 minute radio interview describing his role in helping to make clerical abuse scandals go away. The broadcast is from CBC Radio:

I was a company man, I thought, “this is something I’m doing to both help the university as an alumnus, help the monastery which I belong to…”  When you’re trained to follow the workings of the Holy Spirit, unfortunately you assume it’s the Holy Spirit in action, rather than human error.

Was there no part of your mind that deep down said, “Hang on, I do know this is wrong?”

It was never on the radar screen.  It was just not there.  It was just never discussed, it was one of those things that was sub rosa and people knew it was going on, however, in defense of the institution, which we believe was instituted by God and as, basically, as a remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, you’re there as a soldier, you’re literally there to assist and defend the institution.

So your part in all of this, Patrick, was to make sure that everything was smoothed over, would that be the right way to put it?

That’s exactly what a fixer does, it doesn’t matter what diocese in the world, what religious order in the world, that’s exactly what you do.  You go in, you assess the situation, you try and find survivors, report it up the chain of command, and you try to make it as positive and life bearing as possible.  In fact, I was fortunate to have lunch a with a priest a couple weeks ago in Washington, D.C., former priest, who was a fixer in a northeast diocese and he recounted to me the same exact things I was assigned to do that he was assigned to do before he left… There’s been a consistent, uninterrupted procedure on what to do when clerics sexually abuse kids for centuries.

When you were still at the abby did you think, I should go tell somebody, I should go tell the police, what is happening here is illegal?

Never even crossed my mind.  We’re not trained to talk to any outside institution.  I remember going to a workshop in the fall of 1992 and we had a civil lawyer there, we had a canon lawyer there, we had a number of experienced people in dealing with priest sex abuse, explaining to us about how the civil legal system worked and never once was the discussion about calling child protective services, calling the police, calling any state authority outside the Church, it’s always keeping it in-house and dealing with it, in house…There’s very little about pastoral outreach to the victim, because the victim is now a liability, the victim is now a huge financial liability, a point of scandal, and a real problem, so that’s why we were trained to work in getting the people under control, so to speak, before they filed a civil complaint and working with them to keep it all in-house.

When these priests were moved on was there any warning given to the communities they were being sent to as to why they were being disrupted in the job that they were in?

Oh absolutely not, they’re not going to say that Father So and So had a problem with sexually abusing kids because if you did that more then more victims were going to come forward and you’re going to have more lawsuits.  Usually there was some kind of a cover story that Father Tom had to go to alcohol treatment. The key was that if you tell the lay people exactly what is going on, you’re going to start a reformation because with proper information people will make different decisions.  But if you keep them in the dark and you give them a pious answer, then they’re going to continue on thinking, “well, things are fine”, when in reality, it was the same old problem: childhood sexual abuse.

(Thanks to Camels With Hammers for the excerpts.)

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2 Comments »

  1. The other great Italian institution ‘the mob’ has ‘fixers’ – they call them ‘cleaners’.

    This is all very sinister, they actually had a job role for someone to go around and clean this up, perverting the course of justice, and we have witnesses who did this job who are admitting it in the national media. So not just orders, not just a policy that could be misinterpreted – but a person whose responsibility it was to ensure that the policy was executed as intended.

    This isn’t a scandal anymore, it is far worse than that – this is an atrocity of the most evil kind!

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — June 8, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Reply

    • Well, it is certainly revealing. This kind of testimony adds weight that these ‘few bad apples’ were common enough to warrant workshops on how to protect the reputation of the church as the most important goal. I just find the whole sordid mess evidence enough that the leaders of the church have no more moral a voice than any other human, and that the institution itself is immoral, aiding and abetting in criminal activity whose victims were the most vulnerable among us. People need to leave this corrupt and corrupting vile institution.

      Comment by tildeb — June 8, 2010 @ 11:50 pm | Reply


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