By Barbara Dorris
Outreach Director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)
We agree with Nienstedt: he and his staff can “do better.” But they don’t.
Instead they posture. And they perpetuate the fallacy that child abuse is the root of this inexcusable horror.
Priests that sexually assault adults and kids are NOT the root of this crisis. All kinds of trusted adults sexually violate the vulnerable. (And it’s pretty hard to stop them, at least before the first offense.)
The cover up of those crimes — that is the root of this crisis. (That’s what enables the second and 22nd offense. And that’s what enrages Catholics, citizens and victims – knowing that prompt, honest and responsible moves by Nienstedt and his staff would have prevented others from being hurt by at least some of the 34 publicly accused abusive Twin Cities clerics.)
And the cover up is what Nienstedt refuses to mention in his October 24 Catholic Spirit coloumn. Conveniently, he focuses on just how bad those awful predator priests are, cleverly diverting attention from his actions that ignore, minimize, conceal and enable those predator priests to commit their heinous crimes.
It’s deliberate deception. It’s a carefully-devised public relations calculation designed to shift blame and attention to those who can’t control themselves (the predators) and attention away from those who won’t control them (their peers and supervisors, the Nienstedts, McDonoughs, Lairds, et al.)
And it’s the latest in a long string of diversions. Bishops have claimed divorced parents, gay priests, bad psychology, the 1960s and our sexualized culture have caused or enabled priests to molest kids.
But bishops should recall the words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Bishops have caused and are still causing this horror.
Nienstedt of course has the power to change this, at least in his own archdiocese. Right now, he could turn over information to police and protect the children. But again, he chooses to do all he can to make sure this information never sees the light of day (while pledging “openness” yet again).
And since he’s still hiding hundreds or thousands of pages of long-secret church records about accused sex offenders, Catholics can’t help but ask “What else is he hiding?”
Instead of real openness, Nienstedt is doing what embattled bishops have done time and time again: hire more lawyers and pretend it's something different. (The most recent bishop to enlist another law firm to look at his clergy sex abuse files was Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City who was later convicted of withholding evidence from police about a priest's child sex crimes. That priest is now in prison for 50 years.)
Nienstedt's pablum about how “we” must “empower the community” and "we" must “educate children and parents” about abuse and being “open to research and development, gaining insight from psychology, sociology and forensic sciences” is yet another dodge.
He and his top staff are causing this crisis. It’s not the community, the parents or the kids. No lack of "research and development" and “insight from psychology, sociology and forensic science” caused these smart men in the chancery office to hide evidence of known and suspected child sex crimes.
What a head-scratching contradiction Nienstedt offers. He says “we” must “cooperate with civil authorities. Then he basically says “I’m not giving this information to police. I'm choosing and paying my own lawyers to look at it.”
Finally, like Nienstedt, I have lost my parents. But unlike Nienstedt, I wouldn’t dream of exploiting their deaths for any of my wrongdoing.
Likewise, I wouldn’t shift blame and seek sympathy for my and his staff’s alleged inexperience for sympathy. It’s disingenuous for him to pretend that things haven’t been “clear” to him or that since 2002, “we all hoped and believed that the horror of sexual abuse of minors by clergy was behind us.” He knows better. He knows there are always have been and will always be child molesting clerics.
This is a predictable, boilerplate move to give the appearance of change without really changing.
See also the previous PCV posts:
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?
Statement by Jennifer Haselberger
"Trust Your Shepherds"
Related Off-site Links:
Wide-Ranging Reaction to Nienstedt Apology: Praise, Gratitude — and More Calls for Resignation — Beth Hawkins (Beth Hawkins, October 25, 2013).
Revered for His Work with the Poor, McDonough Now Entangled in Abuse Cases — Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, October 27, 2013).
Task Force Supervisor to Control Group's Access to Clergy Abuse Information — Madeleine Baran and Tom Scheck (Minnesota Public Radio, October 28, 2013).
When Will Pope Notice Trouble in Minnesota Church? — Minnesota Public Radio (October 25, 2013).