Friday, April 02, 2010

An under-appreciated point on the abuse of Roman Catholic priests

Michael Wolff makes an important point about the recent controversy about the Catholic Church and its handling of the recent scandals involving sexual and physical abuse committed by priests.
The issue in the Church’s almost decade-long sexual abuse scandal is less about priests and boys, and more substantially about its long, defining battle with secular authority.

That’s the message that comes through the clearest: The Church didn’t want to notify the police about the criminal activity of its priests and didn’t believe it had to. And, having enormous sway in US police departments—policing being, peculiarly, an Irish and, hence, Roman Catholic profession—and within governments in Europe, the Church was pretty much free to make that decision on its own.
As many have pointed out, the Church is not the only institution that has had to face this problem. There have been abusive Boy Scout leaders and public school teachers. But in such cases, accusations have been turned over to the police, and failure to report allegations is itself a serious enough offence that (say) a school principal would be dismissed for ignoring them. The Church seems, uniquely, to regard itself outside the law in these matters.

h/t Andrew Sullivan.