A Cardinal's Sin

New York Post [United States]
Downloaded May 23, 2004

May 23, 2004 -- Clergymen are meant to instruct on matters of morals, but you'd think the American Catholic church would approach this duty with at least a modicum of humility.


James Francis Cardinal Stafford, a senior American Vatican cardinal, charged the United States with "moral failure" and "deception" because of its Iraq policy and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Well, not to be too flip, but when it comes to "moral failure" and "deception," this appears to be a case of "takes one to know one."

Cardinal Stafford served as head of the Denver archdiocese from 1986 to 1996. That was a period when - as has only been revealed in recent years - abuse of young boys and men by Catholic priests occurred across the nation.

Many of Stafford's bishops actively covered up the abuse and transferred abusive priests to other, unknowing, parishes - permitting the same thing to occur with a whole new set of victims.

The impact of the revelations continues to cause ripples, ending otherwise distinguished careers (such as those of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law and Brooklyn's Bishop Thomas Daily) in ignominy and suspicion, and bringing the Boston archdiocese to the verge of bankruptcy because of multiple lawsuits.

That's the true end result of years of abuse and deception.

Contrast that with the American response to the Abu Ghraib scandal: The military commanders in Iraq conducted their own investigations and turned the information over to the administration.

Now, multiple congressional committees are investigating thoroughly. One serviceman has been convicted at court-martial and sentenced - with other trials soon to be under way.

In other words, instead of covering up outrageous behavior for years, the American system - military and civilian - is bringing it to light, addressing it and working to make sure it never happens again.

As for the reasons the United States went to war, a large cache of weapons of mass destruction may not be found.

Yet, the administration worked with the best intelligence it had at the time. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein made little secret of his contempt for the weapons-inspecting process.

The United States under George W. Bush was not the only nation or administration that believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The Clinton administration believed that, too - as did the United Nations, for that matter.

America might not have had the most accurate information on the weapons issue - though the discovery last week of an artillery shell containing sarin gas suggests that the book might not be closed on that subject.

Yet, at the same time, the level of human-rights abuses perpetrated by his regime were - if anything - underestimated by all parties, all along.

Freeing Iraqis from that horror alone should constitute something more than a "moral failure."