Thursday, January 18, 2007

Return to Salem

Yesterday I posted "Biting the Hand," a documentary about a case of clerical sexual abuse in Salem, Massachusetts. I passed the link to Dom Bettinelli, who is from Salem, and I figured he'd have an opinion on it. I wasn't disappointed:

"Living in Salem, I’ve met a few men who knew those who were abused. At least one has told me that it was common knowledge, at least among his friends, what was going on and that quite a few adults had been told as well, but either they didn’t want to believe or they didn’t want to get involved. While there’s plenty of blame to lay upon the heads of men in holy orders, there are laypeople who will someday have to answer for their actions or inaction, as the case may be."

This comment doesn't surprise me in the least, and only reinforces what I've been saying for the last five years, not only in this blog, but to the would-be reformists who can't stop yammering about "accountability" to the laity, and demanding a role for themselves in the governance of the Church. The question for which I can't seem to get an answer is... who holds the laity accountable?

Take all the time you need, kids.

[UPDATE: Still think I'm crazy? Get a load of this: "A popular Fresno priest accused in a civil lawsuit of molesting an altar boy nearly two decades ago was welcomed back by his Fresno parish on Sunday [with] a standing ovation... Nine jurors in the civil trial concluded that Swearingen had molested former altar boy Juan Rocha. But jurors, split 7 to 5, could not agree on whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno knew that any molestation had occurred, leading the judge to declare a mistrial." I know situations more pathetic than this one. So do some people in Springfield, Massachusetts. More on that at a later date.]


Anonymous said...

The laity were a big part of the problem.

When a rare bishop tried to discipline an abusive priest, the abuser’s parish often rose up to defend him.

Abusers are clever con men, and know to play upon the laity’s weaknesses, whether it was the superstitious tendencies of older Catholics or the desire for entertainment of newer Catholics. Lay people defended abusers because the abusers were fun priests, and were willing to sacrifice children’s souls so that the entertainment at mass could continue.

If half the parishes in the US were sold to pay for abuse settlements, the laity would have only itself to blame.

Bubbles the Terrible said...

Agreed, Lee - as were bystander priests...those who heard or saw evidence worthy of investigation but did nothing or far worse, actively worked to quell any questions which arose. All those guys been held accountable...right??? Oh, of course they have, just like the lying bishops.

Todd said...

"Abusers are clever con men, and know to play upon the laity’s weaknesses ..."

Yes. Just like addicts are known to groom codependents who make excuses for them and help coddle such behavior.

I've known lay people so disgusted with the church they assumed complaining wouldn't get any action. And sometimes there are consequences for being the prophet when nobody is willing to listen. As St Bloggers are fond of saying, priests are not the most dangerous potential predator population out there. Parents are. And there are many parents who stand by while the spouse abuses children. It's horrid, but it does happen.

That said, I'm not a believer in the "Lay people enabled abusers too, so give the bishops a break" mentality. Bishops have both knowledge and responsibility.

btw, Thanks, David, for the plug. Your blog has always had snappy writing and good topics--you've been bookmarked on my computer for years.

Anonymous said...

Why is the gay population getting a "by" here? Yes bishops, yes parents, yes laity...but yes, yes and more yes is the gay population responsible for the abuse. 80% of the abusers were gay men "chicken-hawking" (their term, not mine) pubescent young men. As a sister of two brtohers targeted by a GAY priest, why is the homosexual community not being held accountable for their predatory members? The Catholic church clergy and laity are only two groups responsible for this three-legged stool. The complicit, hierarchical, approving gay community is the third.

Anonymous said...

Not too sure about lumping the Fresno priest, welcomed back by his community, in with other abuse cases. Most abuse cases are of priests who molested more than one child/teen. When one molest was revealed to have happened, other (now) adults stepped forward to account that it happened to them also, and this happened in the various parishes where the priests were shipped. This Fresno priest has had no other than the one man step forward to accuse him, and has not been shipped from parish to parish....

David L Alexander said...

"Not too sure about lumping the Fresno priest... with other abuse cases."

We're not sorting them by severity here. One victim is one too many. Especially when the predator beats the rap.