With the state of New York now contemplating a Pennsylvania style investigation into the Catholic Church’s personnel files the prospect of a long, slow torture of shame may be a real possibility.
As one person observed after the Pennsylvania report: “One down. Forty nine to go.”
In the face of such an ordeal, here is what the bishops should do:
- Decide to work as single body to lance this boil once and for all. Be pro active and hire a third party investigative agency to go through all the personnel files from every diocese in the United States.
- Lawyers should strike a deal with the Attorney General of the USA to halt all other investigations while this major investigation is carried out.
- Only stories of men who have been convicted may be published.
- That agency will plan to publish the stories of all the priests who have been convicted, and the amount of money paid in settlements.
- In the cause of justice simple accusations should not be published together with stories of convictions. When the two are put together accusations are assumed to be true and this is unfair to the accused.
- This investigation should go back fifty years.
- This puts the bishops in the drivers’ seat. The independent investigators will control the information that is discovered and published, but the bishops will also be able to put their side of the argument–showing that most of the convictions are historic, most of the offenders are out of ministry or dead and that the rate of offending has dropped off since their child protection policies have been put in place
- While the investigation is ongoing if any bishop is implicated in a cover up, and if he is still in office, the investigators should draw his attention to this fact and if the charge is credible, the bishop should resign immediately and without question.
- When the investigation begins the bishops should make a statement about the aims of the investigation which includes:
- an explanation of how these cases were handled in the past and why
- an admission that some cases were handled badly and even criminally
- an admission that an insidious homosexual sub culture has existed in the church
- a promise to root out the underlying causes of clerical abuse including homosexual activity
- an acknowledgement that these crimes also exist in other churches, schools and institutions
- a promise that the Catholic Church is taking moral leadership to stamp out all forms of abuse
- Enable the investigators to move forward with a sincere desire to open the files and purge the church of this poison once and for all.
- While the investigation is ongoing they will pledge to pay compensation to any genuine victims according to the recommendations of the investigative panel.
- To protect against false accusations they should also promise to protect those who are merely accused, but against whom no credible accusation has been made or who have not committed a crime against civil or canon law.
- The bishops should also mount a strong defense against any who make false accusations promising to prosecute any slander, libel, blackmail, extortion or false witness to the full extent of the law.
If this were done–instead of the bishops sitting back and waiting for the civil authority to take action, they would begin to re-build trust where it has been gravely wounded.
PS: I should point out that I am just voicing an opinion. I’m not a lawyer or a profound thinker, but I do think those in charge should take charge and be pro active in weeding the garden once and for all.