Not surprising

Given the choice between two prelates who had helped cover up clerical sexual abuse, the U.S. Catholic Bishops chose the more politically reactionary candidate as their new president. The New York Times finds this “surprising.” I don’t.

Given the choice between two prelates who had helped cover up clerical sexual abuse, the U.S. Catholic Bishops chose the more politically reactionary candidate as their new president. The New York Times finds this “surprising.” I don’t.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

10 thoughts on “Not surprising”

  1. OK, let's play this game. Please give details as to when exactly Timothy Dolan helped cover up clerical sexual abuse.

    The fact is, Archbishop Dolan has been one of the most pro-active Bishops in the country on this issue, and has gone to great lengths to offer sympathy and financial compensation to victims. Despite being largely shielded from lawsuits by the quirks of Wisconsin law, the Dolan-led dioscese of Milwaukee, on its own initiative, set up a fund to pay settlements to victims and sold off a ton of Church property to bankroll the fund. Let's be clear about this – Dolan directed the Dioscese to sell off property to offer financial compensation to victims who had no standing to sue the Church in Wisconsin. And there were lots of victims to deal with, given the fact that Dolan took over the cesspool of abuse and scandal that was the Diocese of Milwaukee from one of the 2 or 3 most scandal-tainted Bishops in the American heirarchy – Rembert Weakland (better know to those of you keeping score at home as the single most prominent "progressive" Catholic leader of the 1980s and 1990s).

    The other finalist in the final round of voting for the Chair of the USCCB, himself a darling of "progressive" Catholics actually has his hands dirty on this issue, having personally decided not to block the ordination of a man who had behaved inappropriately in seminary – a man who later went on to rack up a horrific string of abuse incidents.

    To suggest that these two men have an equivalent record on the issue of clerical sexual abuse – Hell to suggest that their records are anywhere in the same solar system – is to reveal either remarkable ignorance or unquestionable malice.

    1. The victims don't agree with you, especially on the sympathy point. "What was the name of your guy again?"

      SD, I've been on the clergy sexual abuse issue for years. The culture of cover-up ran high, wide, and deep in the Church, extending to the current Pope. Have you ever written on the issue, other than to slam your political and theological opponents? Remember that "conservative" Catholics were the most eager to play the "slime and defend" game against those who complained.

  2. Mark,

    "The victims don't agree with you?" By "the victims" apparently you mean one victim, who is quoted in a news story as feeling slighted that Archbishop Dolan didn't remember the name of the priest who abused him (year prior) when they met. This you set up alongside Bishop Kicanas's conduct – he who greenlighted the ordination of a troubled seminarian who had initiated unwanted sexual contact in a bar and who had a history of alchohol abuse because he didn't think it would be "fair to him" to keep him from being a priest. Give me a break.

    Liberals are currently cooking up a story about how last minute opposition to the election of Bishop Kicanas arose among right-wing Catholic activists because he was too "progressive." That is, quite frankly, bullshit. As someone who reads the Catholic and non-Catholic religious press regularly and extensively I can assure you that Kicanas became a subject of intense discussion in the last few days because and only because it became clear that his record on the clergy sexual abuse issue is spotty at best. In fact, until I saw the story in the NYT this morning about the election I had not seen a single mention of Bishop Kicanas's political or theological views despite reading maybe a dozen to two dozen news stories and opinion pieces about him in the last few days. What I read in all of those pieces was extensive discussion of his record on the abuse issue. No more, no less.

    "Remember that “conservative” Catholics were the most eager to play the “slime and defend” game against those who complained."

    I'd ask for evidence to back this statement up but of course you have none. "Conservative" Bishop Bernard Law had a horrible record on this issue, but then again so did "progressive" Bishop Roger Mahoney. Both attacked and coerced victims to protect the public image of the Church.

    1. How about William Donohue's Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, for a start? (Historically, the "Catholic League" was the organizer of the St. Bartholemew's Day massacre in France; no doubt the name is merely an accident.)

      For years, while the scandal simmered, and newspapers were afraid to print the facts, Donohue helped the cover-up by denouncing any discussion of the problem as "anti-Catholic bigotry." (He's always willing to equate criticism of the institutional Church with discrimination against individual Catholics.) Donohue still denounces concern about clerical abuse in Ireland as "hysteria." After all, many of the victims were juvenile delinquents, some of them were past puberty, and relatively few of them were actually raped.

  3. The bishops oppose ACA, on the (incorrect) belief that the government will fund abortion. Omigosh, a woman might get an abortion, think of the unborn child! Don't think of the baby's mother, who might die of her untreated asthma or diabetes or cancer, because she can't get health care.

    Pro-life, for some lives but not others.

  4. Mark,

    That's an excellent point and a penetrating insight. Now that I think of it, the Chicago Catholic League right here in my home town ( is probably also a thinly veiled hate group that models itself on the atrocities of the 16th century religious wars. All those cross country meets and basketball tournaments are just a clever cover for the real agenda – exterminating Calvinists.

    I mean, there's no other possible explanation for the name! The fact that The catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is a "Catholic" group, and that when it was founded in the early 1970s it was modeled on the then highly prominent Anti-Defamation "League" is pure coincidence. But that Henry of Guise connection? Why its clear as day for anyone with eyes to see!!!!!!!!

    Did I miss the evidence that Timothy Dolan covered up sexual abuse? The subject seems to have been conveniently changed.

  5. Arguing with sd brings to mind the futility of pig debates. In this case, it's perfectly ok to feed the troll (mixing metaphors) since it is Mark's blog and he endorses it, but I'll pass after the amount of dodges and outright lies sd engaged in during the discussion of the Wisconsin child molestor that the former pope made sure to let off the hook.

  6. I’d ask for evidence to back this statement up but of course you have none. “Conservative” Bishop Bernard Law had a horrible record on this issue, but then again so did “progressive” Bishop Roger Mahoney.

    I love how conservative Catholics pretend that Roger Mahoney, who agrees with them on every single sex-and-gender issue and who was appointed by John Paul II, is a liberal so they can smear the actual left wing of the church (the people who, if they had been listened to, would have prevented the sex abuse scandal by ending celibacy and putting married women in charge of the church).

  7. More generally, here's my problem with the Catholic Church. It isn't that there were child molesters in their midst. Every large group that works with youth, unfortunately, is going to have that problem. The public schools, the YMCA, other religious groups, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, etc.

    My problem is that when you discover a child molester, you call the police and you give them all your files and lock the bastard up. Period. That's the ONLY reaction a civilized, non-evil person has. A person who would instead reassign the molester to another parish where he could molest fresh victims who weren't made aware of the guy's past is an evil scumbag of the highest order. Again, period.

    And when you discover that, in fact, this went on, any civilized person would call the police and turn over all the files describing what the people reassigning the priests did and what they knew. Again, period. Lock them up too and throw away the key. Instead, the Church fought every lawsuit and every prosecution and claimed legal privileges to not turn over documents. To this day, they still haven't opened their files.

    Given that, I don't really give a crap that Bishop A was supposedly more sympathetic than Bishop B and did more to address the scandal. Because the Church failed the absolute MINIMUM standard, which is that all the files go to the police and all the Bishops who moved priests get turned in and prosecuted as accessories. Until they do that, which, as I said, is the absolute MINIMUM of what they could do (it doesn't, for instance, even get into the issue of financial compensation for victims), I don't think there's any reason those of us who are civilized and actually care about stopping child abuse should pretend that the Church is cooperating with the investigations.

  8. What Dilan said.

    Bernard Law today occupies a prestigious position in Rome. If there is one fact that tells you everything you need to know about the church's attitude toward child abuse that's it.

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