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February 11, 2003

What about the boy? While you’re thinking back to those heroic days of 9/11/2001, think about this fascinating story in today’s New York Times. Or, at least, until they scrub it, the way they scrubbed the latest “Bin Laden” story.

[Rockville Centre is the Catholic diocese just east of Brooklyn and Queens, composed of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.]

A grand jury’s assertion that the Diocese of Rockville Centre secretly battled to protect priests while pretending to extend a pastoral hand to sexual abuse victims goes beyond anything seen since the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church erupted a year ago, victims of abuse and their advocates said yesterday. […]

While masquerading as sympathetic listeners, the officials were actually doing everything they could to fend off dozens of victims, keep their charges quiet and keep abusive priests in the ministry, the grand jury said in the report, which was released on Monday.

“I have not frankly seen a team that is so sinister and dedicated to the purpose like this,” said one lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, who added that he had pressed cases in more than half of the nation’s dioceses. […]

In one instance, the official told a parish employee who reported suspicious behavior that the priest would be sent for treatment, the report said. What about the boy, the employee asked. The grand jury report said the official replied: “It’s not my responsibility to worry about the boy. My job is to protect the bishop and the church.” […]

While his name never appears, Msgr. Alan J. Placa’s shadow hovers throughout the grand jury report.

Monsignor Placa was the architect of the diocese’s legal strategy, a national expert in the field and the crucial member of the intervention team. Several months after the panel was ended in April, he was suspended from the ministry after being accused of abusing children. Monsignor Placa is a close friend of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor, and works for Mr. Giuliani’s consulting business.

The grand jury report does not mention names. But it often refers to a priest who is a lawyer as dealing with victims. The description fits Monsignor Placa, and lawyers for victims have said he is the author of confidential legal memorandums quoted by the grand jury.

Monsignor Placa, who has defended his work on the panel and denied misconduct, did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday.

You didn’t hear it. You didn’t see it. You won’t say nothing to no one, ever in your life. You didn’t hear it. How absurd it all seems without any proof.

And Rudolph Giuliani is a national hero. You didn’t hear it. What about the boy? [11:37 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on What about the boy?:

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 02:00 AM:

"Do you think it's allright
To leave the boy with Father Ernie?"

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 02:02 AM:

According to Atrios, it was MSNBC that changed that Bin Laden story. Has the Times done the same thing, or was that the generic "they"?

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 02:14 AM:

According to someone in Atrois's comment section, the bit about overthrowing Saddam was supposedly a mistranslation. If this transcript is accurate, I can see that.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 07:47 AM:

Can someone explain to me why RICO isn't appropriate in this scandal? I mean, it appears to involve the entire RCC in America.

Or is it just that the government is too chickenshit, or too Republican, to apply RICO to this case?

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 09:07 AM:

X, they can't use RICO without upsetting a large part of the Catholic voter base, a significant part of which they count on for support. Remember, the Catholic church is the largest religious denomination in the country. Too many voters there to alienate.

Besides, although a serious part of the Catholic hierarchy is involved in this, invoking RICO would include not only the villains, but also a number of others who weren't involved.

Please don't read this as support for the Catholic church's position on this subject. IMHO, the first step they need to take is this statement: "Any church member, in the hierarchy or otherwise, involved in any way with the molesting of a child, sexually or otherwise, will immediately be turned over to the police for prosecution as applicable under the law. No exceptions, and we will not pay for legal defense costs".

That isn't all that needs to be done, but it's the correct starting point.

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 10:30 AM:

I saw a book by Jack Newfield in B&N yesterday that proposes to be a corrective to Giuliani hagiography as it's sprung up since 9/11/01. Didn't get it then, but probably will soon, and I'll review it when I do.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 10:37 AM:

Chuck -- who would it involve who wasn't involved? I guess I don't understand how RICO works. But also, the Church is undeniably a criminal organization, whatever else it does.

So it would be justified (as justified as RICO ever is; I personally think it's a pretty bad law), but the Church is too big to take on. That's pretty much what I thought.

Justice for all...ha. Nice idea; sure hope somebody tries it someday.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 11:19 AM:

"Chuck -- who would it involve who wasn't involved? "

I 'm assuming that there exist those in the church who oppose what the hierarchy has done. (Fr. Andrew Greeley, for one). I don't understand RICO all that well either, but if it results in those who think the policies are wrong also being included in the prosecution, then it's gone too far.

I'm with you on the need for justice, however. There's no way what the molesters did can be condoned, and those in the hierarchy who aided and abetted this, and dumped on the victims, deserve to be tried right alongside them. My vote is prosecute each and every one to the max.

I just think RICO, as I undertand it, is too broad a brush for this task.

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 02:56 PM:

I share your disdain for the Catholic Church's tactics in the sex abuse scandals. But isn't Giuliani possibly entitled to the benefit of the doubt here? "My friend and employee is innocent until proven guilty" etc?

Granted, bad choice of friends, given the legal tactics described, but I don't know what to expect Giuliani knew about the specifics of Placa's actions on the job, let alone his alleged abuses.

Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2003, 06:05 PM:

The problem with RICO, in this case, is that it would strip away assets that the decent people desperately need to run schools and other good works.

I think what's needed here are lots of individual prosecutions--and if the church won't do it under canon law, the secular courts can and should.

Newsday has had some good commentary on the different approaches of the Nassau and Suffolk DAs to all this. The Nassau DA seems to believe that he's never met a well-to-do or powerful person he'll prosecute; Suffolk's DA is doing what we pay him for.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2003, 11:31 AM:

I guess you're right about RICO. Grumble. While I'd like nothing better than to see the Church's assets frozen, it would harm a lot of people who don't deserve it...once again the Church heirarchy hides behind people they have shown they have no interest in protecting...the term "human shields" pops unbidden into my brain, but I suppose it's an exaggeration.

The secular authorities should be prosecuting no matter whether the Church conducts its own investigation or not! They can NOT be trusted, as everyone should now be aware. In fact, I'd like to see an investigation of why the secular authorities haven't been looking into this long since.

I want the bishops who knowingly transferred pedophile priests to other places where they could continue their child-rape -- I want those bishops (and archbishops!) to go to PRISON. Not likely to happen; but they deserve to be there as much as the perps themselves.

mark ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 06:57 AM:

Xopher, what do you mean the Church heirarchy hides behind people they have... no interest in protecting?

Those members of the heirarchy out doing good works because they believe it's the right thing to do, have they no interest? Those members doing good works because they believe it's their duty as Christians, have they no interest? Those members doing good work because, if they can get community or Church interest, they can do a great deal of good with the sort of money they can weild? What about the Bishops, Archbishops (Romero is a great example, but he isn't the only one), Cardinals, and Popes who believe in the doctrine of social justice? Or even just those who're in favour of the resolutions of Vatican II? Have they no interest?

I believe the Church is -- at least, historically -- a rotten, evil institution. And I'm speaking as a former Catholic. But not every part of it has rusted over; for every child molester, profit-follower and arrogant shithead in the clergy is a human being (clergy or lay), out there doing their best to make life a little brighter for less fortunate people, without asking for anything in return.

We should be careful not to tar them with the same brush as the evil people inside the Church. And I don't just mean with RICO.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 01:07 PM:

Mark, I should have said "that it has no interest in protecting." I meant the heirarchy as a whole. This is not the same as saying "that not one single member of the heirarchy has any interest in protecting." The US part of the heirarchy, in the form of the bishops, tried to put in place some measures to fix the problem (years late and thousands of dollars short, but they tried) and the worldwide heirarchy, in the form of the Pope (to whom all members of the RC clergy are required to be obedient IIRC) vetoed their reforms.

The Pope has put the interests of the clergy ahead of the interest of protecting children. IMO that makes him a bad leader, and in fact a bad person. (Well, not only for that; good people sometimes do evil things. But JPII has done many, many evil things, therefore I've concluded that he's a bad man.)

Someone I respect a lot once wrote that "if any institution...required the continuing systematized oppression of some group for its continued survival, then it ought to be brought down with no regrets." I agree; and I think the same can be said of an institution that condones vicious abuses within itself; that protects its members who violate the law from just prosecution; that in fact places those individuals in positions where they can continue their crimes.

Yes, what you say is true. Many, many members of the Church have done much more good than harm in their lives. To tar Mother Teresa with the same brush as John Paul II would be not only unjust but absurd.

But something must be done. The Church has shown itself to be institutionally incapable of reforming on its own. The Cardinals appoint, and are appointed by, the Pope; this closed circle is immune to pressure for reform except at the most glacial pace. (And btw this is also why IMO Dubya must not be allowed to appoint a Justice to the same court that appointed him.)

I believe the time has come for the Roman Catholic Church to be brought down. No, we can't use RICO for that; I've been convinced by those arguments. We can and should prosecute anyone who has committed a serious crime, whether of the cloth or not (and I'd include obstruction of justice on the list of "serious crimes"); this alone will greatly reduce the power of the Church, which has had a completely unjustifiable privilege of "self-policing" for far too long. I also believe that parents who conceal (or even fail to report to the authorities) the fact that their child has been abused by a priest (or anyone) should be prosecuted as the criminals they are.

Ultimately, I hope that schism breaks the Church into a large number of smaller bodies which will have much less political power, but still have the ability to provide important services, and to do "God's work" as they see it. I'd like to see it happen in JPII's lifetime, because he deserves it, though that seems unlikely at this point. But I'm not a Catholic, and only Catholics have the right to decide whether their Church will stay together or not.