The Jovial One Fires At Teachers

Archbishop Dolan defends one of his favorite statistics.

And he may well be right. I haven’t seen the Special Commissioner of Investigation report for New York State/City–the links weren’t functional as of this writing. But I would like to offer a few comments:

151 cases of teacher abuse in 2009-2010 would mean that in those two years the eight dioceses of New York (or the two of New York City?) had fifteen reported incidents (give or take) of priests abusing children. Does that sound right? Or is the archbishop comparing new teacher reports with old clergy reports? Maybe you can make a comparison on that. Or not.

Laity have known for decades that a small minority of abusers populate the numbers of clergy, religious, teachers, lay ministers, and volunteers. We are shocked and angry when individuals have violated trust and abused the innocence of minors. But over the past ten years, lay people are far more concerned about the administrative sins of bishops. Cardinal Law was shown to have been complicit in the harboring and hiding of abusers. A dark shadow hangs over one of America’s most powerful bishops. And even the past USCCB president made a grave error in judgment. That said …

The percentage of questionable behavior among USCCB presidents of the past two years exceeds that of public school teachers.

And given that percentage and those dark clouds, it is circumspect for a bishop to be criticizing teachers for being worse? That we even needed legal reports to tell us that says that the clergy and episcopacy have hemorrhaged an enormous amount of credibility.

The real point of comparison would be school administrators covering up the abuse of a child and moving a teacher to another school. I’m sure that happens. But we would need to compare the number of bishops who have moved predators with principals and school boards and government figures. Does anybody keep statistics on that?

Family members are most likely to abuse a child. That doesn’t mean that we’ve established a hierarchy of virtue: clergy, then teachers, then parents. It means that sin and evil must be called out, brought into the light, resisted, rejected, and that we ourselves are cautioned to be on guard. It’s important to be on guard for ourselves, and watchful of the innocent.

Parents, as a group, are loyal and defensive of children. Mainly their own, but often others’. Bishops are, of course, loyal to their clergy. Loyalty is not a sin. But truth is a higher virtue. When children misbehave, good parents step in. The same should be true for bishops.

Archbishop Dolan would give me more confidence if he were more attentive to the inner workings of the Church. And maybe, in private, he’s given Cardinal Rigali a cheerful dressing down. If so, good for him. But criticism of teachers comes off as rather inappropriate.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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