NEW YORK (NY)
June 22, 2020
By John W. Miller
In the 1990s, Steve Hurley was a police officer in Ocean City, Md., chasing down speeding teenagers and locking up beach bums driving drunk. At 34, he traded the badge for a collar, and he is now a monsignor in the Diocese of Wilmington, Del. “People see a 180-degree turn, but in both jobs the primary responsibility is care for souls,” he says.
The Catholic Church and the U.S. law-enforcement system have something else in common: They are both powerful institutions with fiercely loyal agents who have covered up misdeeds—clergy sex abuse and police brutality—and have been in need of reform.
The outcry over the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, an African-American man, in Minneapolis on May 25 has forced a reckoning with the philosophy and culture of U.S. policing. Across the country, demonstrators have marched to demand an end to police brutality and a change in the tasks assigned to the roughly 18,000 police departments and agencies across the country.
The Catholic Church and the U.S. law-enforcement system have something else in common: They are both powerful institutions with fiercely loyal agents who have covered up misdeeds.
Local, state and federal agencies from Phoenix to New York are now considering efforts to revamp policing and police culture. Already President Trump has ordered the creation of a database that tracks violent officers and has approved guidelines restricting the use of chokeholds, although critics said his proposals are not serious about tackling bigger issues of systemic racism.
In that conversation, is there anything to be gained by looking at the Catholic Church and how it has tried to better train and manage its priesthood, if not always successfully?
The parallels are not perfect, but they abound. Priests and police both wear iconic uniforms and perform service work for their communities. Both have at times commanded immense public trust that has now been eroded. Both are fiercely loyal to their “professional” communities with good and bad consequences: Catholic priests struggle with clericalism and U.S. police are reluctant to cross the thin blue line.
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