January 19, 2005

More Than Just A Trial

The Day

Published on 1/19/2005

The trial of Paul R. Shanley that began in Boston this week is only superficially an examination of rape charges against the defrocked priest at the epicenter of the Church's priest sex scandal. But the occasion carries a far heavier burden than the trial of one man in one city.

Despite the huge, $85 million settlement the Boston Archdiocese made to settle hundreds of clergy sex abuse cases, despite the fact that Cardinal Bernard Law is no longer head of Boston's Catholics, no member of the clergy has gone to prison as the result of this widespread scandal. The victims' pain is real and hasn't gone away. Even if a jury finds Mr. Shanley guilty, it wouldn't be surprising if the feeling in the end, on the part of victims and those outraged at the church, is one of profound emptiness.

Two years ago the court released thousands of documents to the public documenting the Church's actions on these and other cases. To sort through these memos, letters, notes and reports, many on official stationery, is downright hair-raising. Over and over, officials' concern is not for the victims, or the understandable objections of the laity over hurtful and even dangerous acts, but for public relations and reputations, at all costs.

Posted by kshaw at January 19, 2005 07:45 AM