Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Abused on a "technicality"

Now from the Sun-Times:

The cardinal was hamstrung by a technicality in church law, he explained. According to protocols for handling allegations of clergy sex abuse of minors drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved by the Vatican in 2002, any clergyman with even one "credible allegation of abuse" against him must be removed from ministry.

Neither the Willowbrook boy nor his parents has ever brought accusations directly to the archdiocese, thereby stalling the canonical process by which McCormack could have been removed, George said. McCormack was removed from St. Agatha only after he was criminally charged. Archdiocesan officials have said they first learned of abuse allegations against McCormack in August, when the mother of the Willowbrook boy went to police. Church officials did not punish McCormack because they could not determine whether the abuse allegations were "credible."

I'm sorry, but this just sounds like BS to me. Suddenly our autocrats are impotent? This sounds like a self-serving argument to me. George may not have been able to technically remove McCormack as pastor, but he could have required him to live elsewhere, could have restricted his activities, could have done loads of stuff. But he didn't.

I'm actually a fan of canon law and the rights it guarantees not only to the ordained but to laypeople. And I imagine that not a few priests have been snared by frivolous accusations. At the same time, George has never shied from firing lay employees without process; he's using a canonical due process argument now to weasel out of admitting his own failure.

And besides, saying that the family never made an allegation is just blaming the victim. The police reported the allegation; that should have been enough. If it isn't, there's a gigantic loophole in the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Besides, parsing the word "credible" is a recipe for trouble; they've got to spell out exactly what they mean.

Bring in Anne Burke!


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