Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Pity the Catholic Hierarchy

The poor Catholic Church. Or more precisely, the poor Vatican and Catholic hierarchy. They can never seem to catch a break when it comes to timing.

Just as the mummified conservative old guard was catching its breath last year and beginning to rally back from the tremendous blow to its morale provided by the metastizing clergy sex abuse scandal, an elderly retired bishop in Phoenix happened to pick the worst possible moment to flee the scene after hitting and later killing a pedestrian. It couldn't help but fan the flames of media coverage. It dramatized what appeared to be a hierarchy completely out of control, seemingly used to taking as its due whatever it wanted, whether that involved the sexual innocence of a defenseless young child or even the life of a bystander.

And this week the church's hierarchy is being hit with the lastest bit of awful timing. On the very day in which the Vatican's clueless official statement--that the American Bishops' zero-tolerance sex-abuse policy is an "overreaction"-- hits the American papers, the young man who helped touch off this latest sad chapter turns up dead, the apparent victim of suicide. Patrick McSorley helped push the entire sordid chapter into the open by bravely agreeing to go public with his testimony, in court and in the media, that Boston-area priest John Geoghan had molested him. Eight-five others later came forward with the same charge, in the process helping the Boston Globe break its explosive series, which touched off a wave of coverage elsewhere (to its lasting discredit, our own Plain Dealer had uncovered a mountain of its own reporting, by the talented David Briggs, on similar clerical abuse in this diocese, but chose to hold on to it until after the Globe helped open the flood gates). Patrick McSorley's name will be remembered as long as martyrs to monstrous crimes are recalled. His tormenters--and perhaps even more importantly, the dazzlingly robed cowards who continue to defend them--richly deserve all the ignominy we can muster.

To Read More: If you have the stomach to delve any deeper into this sad story, I recommend that you check out this indispensible web tool, the Abuse Tracker, ably begun by the Poynter Institute, a stalwart journalism organization, but now housed on the National Catholic Reporter's recently upgraded website.


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