Let’s Not Always Give Wrongdoers the Benefit of the Doubt
December 11, 2020
We at Horowitz Law are grateful to every single attorney who takes on the tough and often risky job of helping a child sex abuse victim expose predators, get closure and safeguard others.
So we’re very reluctant to offer unsolicited advice to our colleague in the trenches of child protection.
But sometimes, we feel we must.
Check out these recent quotes from an attorney representing clergy abuse victims:
“The diocese thought it could fix this, and it was completely unable to fix it.” Diocese officials figured that they could counsel or treat a priest out of criminal conduct, he added. “And so they closed ranks, and that’s the heart of their negligent behavior.”
This well-intentioned lawyer is no doubt trying to sound reasonable. But he’s inadvertently doing what so many – especially church-goers – do in the face of terrible crimes and cover ups. He’s basically giving the benefit of the doubt to officials who are accused of enabling and ignoring this horror.
Let’s break it down.
“The diocese thought it could fix this, and it was completely unable to fix it.”
—-That’s one interpretation. But another interpretation is that the diocese wasn’t trying to FIX this but rather HIDE this. We submit this second view is far better supported by decades of evidence.
He also said that diocese officials figured that they could counsel or treat a priest out of criminal conduct.
—-Maybe. But maybe not. Considerable evidence shows that bishops repeatedly sent child molesting clerics to church-run ‘treatment centers’ (often in states with few or weak mandatory reporting laws) NOT for ‘treatment’ but to appease angry parents or parishioners and to keep the guilty out of the reach of law enforcement.
And ask yourself this: If bishops really wanted to ‘heal’ offenders, why did they send their abusive staff to the same three or four centers that repeatedly deemed the abusers ‘fixed’ only to see them re-offend, time and time again. Wouldn’t bishops have said “Well, this handful of places aren’t very successful. Let’s try some secular institutions.”
“And so they closed ranks, and that’s the heart of their negligent behavior.”
—-No, they refused to call the police, the absolutely bare minimum that any even mildly decent person would do. And remember, these church officials often had YEARS to summon the courage to call 911. And they’re for the most part well-educated individuals with access to plenty of parishioners who are police and prosecutors whose advice they could have sought if they were somehow unsure if calling law enforcement was proper.
THAT’s ‘the heart’ of their behavior, which could rightly be termed much worse than ‘negligent.’
“I don’t think they ever intended for more people to be injured, but they were convinced that they were doing the right thing, and they just weren’t.”
—-Sure, some Catholic officials ‘were convinced that they were doing the right thing.’ But many were not. Many deceived or actively and repeatedly lied to parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public. They knew lying was wrong.
“The right thing, the human thing, would have been to call the police and let the legal system fix it.”
—-Yes, but let’s go one tiny, obvious step further, and add “AND THEY KNEW THIS!”
So the bottom line is this: Victims deserve advocates who don’t cut wrongdoers a lot of slack.