Almost exactly two years ago, during the heat of the health reform debate, I wrote an article asking why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has so much power in the halls of Congress, especially when it comes to pushing for policies that deny women their rights.
Today, I ask again: Why?
On Friday, October 14th, 2011, the day after the USCCB succeeded in achieving its long-held goal of getting the House of Representatives to pass the Let Women Die Act of 2011, one of their own, Bishop Robert W. Finn, was indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse.
This is, according to the New York Times, “the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.”
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.
According to the Times, the bishops pledged a decade ago to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities. And “Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.”
Instead he continued to cover up this abuse.
Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.
Taking lewd photographs of young girls and covering it up. Raping young boys and girls and covering it up. Getting women pregnant and covering it up.
There is a sustained pattern of institutionalized corruption and immorality by any measure and these men are allowed to declare themselves the moral arbiters of the most private decisions made by women and their families?
In another article in Rolling Stone last month, Sabrina Rubin Erdeley wrote about the Bishop’s secret sex crime files, a long pattern of abuse and cover-up that left serial abusers to roam among parish children and continue to rape and abuse them.
In the New Yorker, in April of last year, Hendrik Hertzberg wrote that the church’s “institutional indulgence… of the sexual exploitation of children by priests” has resulted in both civil and criminal cases “involving many thousands of children and leading to legal settlements that have amounted to more than two billion dollars and have driven several dioceses into bankruptcy.”
In 1992, Richard Sipe, a Catholic psychotherapist and researcher who served for eighteen years as a priest and Benedictine monk, told a conference of victims that “the current revelations of abuse are the tip of an iceberg, and if the problem is traced to its foundations the path will lead to the highest halls of the Vatican.”
This is not about religion. This is not about morality according to any definition I understand it.
This is about systemic abuse covered up and excused. This is about abuse of the public trust and the trust of children. This is about the gross manipulation and abuse of power. This is about institutionalized misogyny. This is about the USCCB and others covering themselves by sending abusive priests to new parishes here and abroad to perpetrate more abuses on unsuspecting children and parents. Patterns of abuse that make your hair stand on end. Countless lives ruined.
And these men walk the halls of Congress making laws about our bodies and lecturing to us about “life?”
I simply want to know why it is that this institution is allowed to lobby, with fully tax-exempt status. Why is it given legitimacy–as no such organization should–as a supposed moral arbiter of the rights of women and girls, and of gay, lesbian and transgender persons, of social mores, when clearly it is so deeply morally corrupted.
Enough is enough.
Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter:@jljacobson