I try to steer clear of commenting on the actions of William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League. I would tell you why, but that’s another post in itself.
But I can’t stay silent on this: Today, Donohue issued a press release called St. Paul & Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt Deserves Justice. I have no disagreement with the title: everyone deserves justice. But the press release goes on to call for vigilante justice against a boy who disclosed alleged abuse to an employee of the largest Minnesota Archdiocese. And that’s a HUGE problem.
He says in the release:
The Catholic League is asking those who were there to share with us any information they have. Specifically, we are interested in obtaining a tape recording, or set of photos, of any Confirmation ceremony in 2009 where Archbishop Nienstedt was present; presumably, the alleged victim was standing next to the archbishop. Also, we are asking anyone who knows anything about the accuser (someone knows who he is) to come forward.
Let’s talk about the problems with his argument.
There is the obvious: he is trying to bully an alleged sex abuse survivor. Not only that, but he is drawing a line in the sand, saying that he is going to go after anyone PERSONALLY who comes forward to disclose abuse. I don’t have words to describe my rage and disgust at his actions.
But he’s also DEAD WRONG. According to the statement by the Archdiocese released yesterday:
Upon learning of the allegation last week, the archdiocese instructed the mandated reporter to make the matter known to the police. The archbishop and the archdiocese stand ready to cooperate fully with the St. Paul Police.
So here is what we know (according to the Archdiocese’s own statement): an EMPLOYEE made the report to the police at the behest of the Archdiocese. (The mandated reporter should have reported FIRST, but that’s another issue).
NOTE: The alleged victim did not go to the cops, did not hold a press conference, did not do ANYTHING to try and get attention to himself, except disclose to a mandated reporter. The victim may have NEVER wanted the abuse to be disclosed at all.
We don’t even know how the kid disclosed. He could have said something casually in passing to a friend that the reporter overheard; he could have said something in a counseling session; he could have been suicidal. And now, Donohue wants to put this kid through the ringer—a kid who possibly wanted to stay quiet, be left alone and didn’t even call the cops himself.
In fact, isn’t it Donahue who says that the Catholic church is a safe place? Isn’t he the one who says that every employee is “very well-trained” to adhere to the law? And now, when one of those “well-trained” employees adheres to the law and to the bishops’ own policies, Donohue wants to publicly expose, shame and vilify the victim.
Even if the allegations are deemed “unfounded,” we have to remember: the kid wasn’t the one who filed the police report. A church employee did, because s/he suspected abuse. That’s why we have mandated reporters – so that if abuse is suspected, the police can investigate. Is Donohue going to demand that the mandated reporter be fired if the allegation is unfounded? What about the people at the Archdiocese who told the mandated reporter to go to the cops? Will he demand they be fired, too?
Donohue says he wants “justice” for Nienstedt. Well, since the police are investigating, why is Donohue asking for people to send HIM evidence that the police need? Why not encourage everyone to go to the police with any and all information they have? Oh wait, that’s right, the St. Paul police had a “closed door” meeting today with church officials to discuss the fact that the Archdiocese is not being cooperative in sex abuse investigations. Last time I checked, Donohue wasn’t a detective. If he truly wanted justice, he’d let the police do their job.
Why does he need to know the identity of the victim? The police, the mandated reporter and a number of Archdiocese officials know who the victim is. That’s all that is necessary for the investigation.
Hopefully, Donohue will not succeed in getting any personal information about the victim. Unfortunately he did succeed in some pretty terrible things: scaring the crap out of victims who are thinking of coming forward, intimidating and silencing church employees (who were only following the law and church policies), and stymying any police investigation that could have cleared this matter up.
Shame on you, Donohue.