Sexual Abuse and 550 Souls

Some bit of personal disclosure to start:

First, in my professional life as a communicator, I have numerous times been retained to work with institutions and individuals accused of sexual abuse. I understand how difficult it is to communicate well about cases such as these.

Second, I come from a place of deep respect for the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian faith and the institutions of organized religions of all traditions. For several years, I worked for a Christian, though not Roman Catholic, church in a professional leadership capacity and was proud of the work and the institution. Further, I respect the priesthood; my uncle Anthony was an almost-universally beloved, pious and respected priest for over 55 years. I have seen firsthand the good works the church has done for the world’s poor and sick, people who would otherwise have been forgotten, neglected and left for dead. I am not a person who thinks organized religion to be an inherently corrupting or villainous influence on humankind, and I’m waging no war against religion, Christianity, or even Catholicism.

All that said, I am repulsed down to my bones by the latest reports from the bankruptcy settlement process in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, reported here by CBS News. People who were abused by Roman Catholic priests, as youth for the most part, are bargaining now with lawyers for the appropriate level of recompense for the damage done to them – not just by the priests themselves, of course, but by church leaders who systematically and consciously denied their accusations (though they knew them to have substance) and sheltered their abusers. And their claims are being treated, more or less, like those of other Archdiocesan creditors.

“The creditors committee, archdiocese and its insurance company will negotiate a dollar amount. After that, those who filed [abuse] claims will negotiate between themselves on how to divide the money.”

In other words, those 550-odd people who were callously mistreated by priests who put their own sexual desires above the spiritual needs of their parishioners, then were further and publicly abused by church leadership, have no greater standing in obtaining justice from the Milwaukee Archdiocese than, say, the phone company, or parish-luncheon caterers, or Kinko’s.

That is, in fact, how little this institution sometimes thinks of its people. If that makes you more than a little angry, write this man.

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