The Police and the Priests


Nathan Schneider | Jan 1 2015

A Catholic sister I know, on her way to yet another street protest for police accountability, emailed me the other day with “an idea for a column,” as her subject line read. This crisis of racism in policing, she wrote, seems familiar. Could it be that there is some connection between prosecutors protecting killer police officers and bishops protecting abusive priests?

It’s a haunting idea—haunting to think that these two hugely powerful yet distinct institutions might have systemic problems in common. Even more haunting is the thought of how touchy partisans of either the cops or the church might respond to such an intimation. Yet the second I saw the sister’s brief suggestion, I couldn’t help but think that there is truth to it.

Think of it this way. Police departments around the country are facing a renewed round of protest for practices and policies that victimize people of color; in a spree of high-profile cases, officers have escaped trial, angering communities and harming public trust in the institution as a whole. Dioceses around the country, too, have been exposed in recent years for practices and policies that victimize the people they purport to serve, particularly children; after a series of high-profile cover-ups, the systematic protection of abusive clergy has sorely harmed the faithful’s trust in the institution as a whole.

Am I missing something?

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