Church scandals II

My earlier post about sexual predation and the Catholic church’s reaction to it attracted a remarkable number of comments.  In reading them, I came to think that a sort of summary question to the hierarchy about transparency would be, “how many times have church officials at any level dropped a dime on known abusers, guilty in almost every case of multiple felonies, to the civil criminal justice system?”

An ADA in Milan who heads the child abuse team there gives a partial answer to that question today: at least on his beat, never.  “The list of abusing priests is so long that I have to wonder if many of them deliberately chose the calling  in order I to have access to children….[but] I have never received a single denunciation from anywhere in the Catholic hierarchy from bishops down to sacristans or teachers….when we investigate a priest for these crimes, we have to do it completely on our own, usually on the basis of denunciations from victims’ families.”   And he doesn’t have much respect for the internal machinery of the church: “Not only weren’t they punished, they were frequently just moved to another diocese to offend again.”  [translations are free but accurate in content, check at the link]

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

9 thoughts on “Church scandals II”

  1. OK, but I think that is not a fair question.

    How many times have doctors dropped a dime on a patient?

    How many times have defense lawyers given their information to prosecutors?

    Right or wrong, the Catholic Church believes that confession is inviolably privileged. It's not just for sexual abuse; it's not just for priests; that's just the way the institution works, as it is for doctors and lawyers.

  2. SamChevre you ASSUME that all reports are made through confession when many if not most reports come from parents, teachers or other church employees — even other priests — making reports and complaints of abuse. There is no "confessional" privilege that attaches to complaints by parents and others against priests. It's this kind of bald mendacity that is so destructive to the church.

  3. "Right or wrong, the Catholic Church believes that confession is inviolably privileged. It’s not just for sexual abuse; it’s not just for priests; that’s just the way the institution works, as it is for doctors and lawyers."

    At this point anybody who maintains that it's a matter of the secrecy of the confessional is presumed guilty.

  4. SamChevre: A pediatrician who believes that his or her patient is a victim of child abuse is legally required to report it. (In Massachusetts, the relevant law is 119 MGL 51A.)

  5. Right: many professions are required to report victims; reporting perpetrators is somewhat different.

    I'm not Catholic. I just haven't seen anything on a "the pope ordered a cover-up" heading that didn't relate to confession.

  6. If the Catholic Church's position had been "we will not violate the confidentiality of the confessional for any reason, but if we hear any credible report of abuse outside of confession, we will immediately call the police and turn over all of our files relating to the matter", I don't think we would even have an issue here.

    So the confidentiality of the confessional is a red herring.

  7. I just haven’t seen anything on a “the pope ordered a cover-up” heading that didn’t relate to confession.

    That's funny, I haven't seen anything along those lines that did relate to confession.

    You aren't talking about abuse that reportedly took place during confession, are you?

  8. In Massachusetts (I’m not going to look up other state laws; Google “mandated reporter” and the name of your state and you should be able to find more information), the “51A form” includes the question: “Please give other information that you think might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and/or the person(s) responsible for it. If known, please provide the name(s) of the alleged perpetrator(s)?”

  9. I would add that I haven't seen *anybody* claim that the Church should have violated the seal of the confessional, let alone anybody who gets column inches or face time in the MSM.

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