Friday, February 03, 2006

Failing the "Mom test"

The news just keeps getting creepier here in Chicagoland: Yesterday a deposition by Joliet bishop Joseph Imesch was unsealed, in which he testified that, although he thought it "inappropriate" that a priest went skinny-dipping and then played nude poker with young boys, he didn't think it was "sex abuse." He went on to say that he didn't report to police the alleged "dating" relationship between a Lombard, Illinois priest and a young woman in the parish because "I'm not going to go say, `Hey, police, go check on my priest.'" The "young woman" the priest was "dating" in 1987 was all of 14 years old, and the priest eventually plead guilty to child sexual abuse. (Imesch claims not to have known the girl's age, though he admitted he never asked.)

As a coworker of mine pointed out, none of those situations would have passed "the Mom test." Damn right. In light of her comment, I propose each diocese empanel a board of Catholic moms; when something wierd is reported, it goes immediately to the Mom board, which then judges whether the behavior is appropriate or inappropriate. That's one way of getting around idiotic bishops. Sorry, I know that sounds mean, but skinny-dipping? Nude poker? "Inappropriate"? That's just stupid. Read the story for yourself.

Now on to Francis George, who yesterday finally took responsibility for his absolute, utter, and abject failure to protect the children of St. Agatha Parish against a serial abuser: "I hope that if there is anyone else abused by Dan McCormack that he or she will come forward. I'm saddened by my own failure -- very much so. I pray that there will be nobody who has been abused by Father McCormack who would not have been had I taken him out. That's a constant worry."

Of course, then he offers an excuse: "I think we got used to that pattern [allegations being raised years after the abuse occurred]. I know I did. It didn't take hold immediately that this was current and I should have found at least some fashion in the canons, some way to remove Father McCormack." Current? Where in the hell have you been for the past four years? Were you or were you not instrumental in getting the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the Vatican? Of course child sex abuse is still going on; but that's the problem: In their desire to "move on," the bishops of the U.S. are making themselves blind to what is still going on.

Every grammar school teacher knows what to do the minute an allegation of child sex abuse is reported. No matter what canon law says, George could have asked McCormack to take a voluntary paid leave while the allegations were investigated. He probably could have required McCormack to live at his house. He could have done a million things, and he didn't.

Here's what I think should happen every time a credible allegation surfaces: The accused man himself, in consultation with the bishop, informs the parish of the allegation and takes a voluntary administrative leave. The diocese conducts its investigation as best it can and makes its judgment, constantly keeping the parish informed. When the allegation is resolved, the man is either reinstated or removed.

Why all this above-board stuff? Has anyone noticed that what parents are really mad about is that they were kept in the dark? It's time to start trusting laypeople. We know that sometimes people make false accusations. What we don't like is being treated like children by the old boys' club.

I know that may be hard to swallow for priests, but any professional in regular contact with children faces the same scrutiny. And children deserve that kind of vigilance.


At 1:54 PM, Anonymous aud said...

You're on fire today, Bry. Go get 'em. I hope someone from downtown is reading this, printing it out, and distributing it to the cardinal and the bishop and all their minions.

(He wasn't going to call the cops on his underling carrying on with a 14-year-old girl? What would any school principal do?)

How can these people be so blind and stupid?

At 11:12 PM, Blogger AC said...

I like your idea of the Mom test. There's no way that stuff would be allowed to be even suggested as an activity if they had to run it by a group of moms.


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