January 13, 2005

A Cover-Up Is a Cover-Up

by Hugh Hewitt
01/13/2005 12:00:00 AM
The Daily Standard

LARGE AND POWERFUL INSTITUTIONS do not react well to internal scandal, especially when that scandal threatens to erode a central pillar of the institution's authority. The first reaction will almost inevitably be denial, followed by various efforts to isolate and minimize the scandal, to protect leadership, and then to adopt only such "reforms" as are forced upon it. Genuine accountability and reform typically only accompany a crash so spectacular that no one can persist in the cover-up.

Thus did the Roman Catholic Church in America deal with the sexual abuse scandal which developed over 30 years and broke with such fury in recent times. The capitulation of Bernard Francis Cardinal Law was the result of a years-long erosion of his and his Diocese's credibility which was prolonged and embarrassing and which was accompanied by a series of half-measures and stalls that in retrospect defy understanding. There are even now still some corners of the American Church, like the Diocese of Los Angeles, that continue to resist accountability, even while neighboring bishops, like the Bishop of Orange County California sign off on $100 million plus settlements.

A similar pattern of denial followed by painful reform is unfolding at the oil-for-food-for-dictators scandal plagued United Nations, within a CIA that failed to see 9/11 coming and which has yet to account for the missing WMD in Iraq, and even within Major League Baseball as it struggles to persuade the fans that every homerun record of recent years shouldn't have a steroid-induced asterisk next to it. In each case, a large and powerful institution fought, through various ruses and tricks, to preserve a crucial reputation. For the Church, it was the character of the priesthood. For the United Nations, it is the claim to high-minded purpose. For the CIA, it is the agency's over-the-horizon powers of anticipation and analysis. And for baseball, the myth of the athlete-champion.

Posted by kshaw at January 13, 2005 07:19 AM