Catholic Church Had a “Playbook for Concealing the Truth”

Shortly after I posted my last article, news broke concerning a Pennsylvania grand jury’s findings on the Catholic dioceses in that state. According to the report, the Catholic Church had an established policy of covering up the sexual abuse of thousands of children. This was not merely shifting abusers for one parish to another, but also using deceptive language to obscure the nature of what happened. From the New York Times:

Special agents from the F.B.I.’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime reviewed evidence collected by the grand jury, the report says, and identified a series of practices that were regularly used by the six dioceses to cover up reports of abuse.

“While each church district had its idiosyncrasies, the pattern was pretty much the same,” the report says. “The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal.’ That is not our word, but theirs; it appears over and over again in the documents we recovered.”

That the Church kept detailed records like this is astounding on its own. Yet the scale of the nature, the language used, and the clear lack of concern for the victims is unreal. I will post section from the report used in the NYT article in full:

First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.”

Second, don’t conduct genuine investigations with properly trained personnel. Instead, assign fellow clergy members to ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations about the colleagues with whom they live and work.

Third, for an appearance of integrity, send priests for “evaluation” at church-run psychiatric treatment centers. Allow these experts to “diagnose” whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest’s “self-reports,” and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child.

Fourth, when a priest does have to be removed, don’t say why. Tell his parishioners that he is on “sick leave,” or suffering from “nervous exhaustion.” Or say nothing at all.

Fifth, even if a priest is raping children, keep providing him housing and living expenses, although he may be using these resources to facilitate more sexual assaults.

Sixth, if a predator’s conduct becomes known to the community, don’t remove him from the priesthood to ensure that no more children will be victimized. Instead, transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.

Finally and above all, don’t tell the police. Child sexual abuse, even short of actual penetration, is and has for all relevant times been a crime. But don’t treat it that way; handle it like a personnel matter, “in house.”

People have suspected this is the Church’s policy regarding abuse, but never before has it been laid out in such detail. The most disturbing aspect is the instruction to avoid a legitimate investigation and to allow the priests to diagnose themselves. This shows that there was no real attempt to help any of the children. The sole concern was protecting the abusive priests. Another NYT article lists seven other examples from the report.

In one instance, a group of priests forced a boy to stand naked as if being crucified while the priests took pictures of him. In another instance, a boy was forced to perform oral sex and then had his mouth washed out with holy water. Some priests were so brazen about the abuse that they gave their victims gold crosses, as if to signal to other abusers that these were boys who had already been abused and would be easy targets.

Another article details the extent of the cover-up. Unfortunately, since most of these reported incidents happened decades ago, they are well outside of the statute of limitations. Even if the state wanted to prosecute, many of the accused priests are dead. This leaves only one option: prosecute the still living officials who covered up the abuse. It is possible that this too is outside the statute of limitations, however, one would think that this documented trail of cover ups would get around the potential limitation.

I have not read the full report yet (it is almost 1400 pages long), although I intend to. I suspect that the actual findings, despite their redactions, are worse than what the media reported. It is terrible that so many children suffered while those who should have protected them instead protected their abusers.

It is good, however, that the Church is finally exposed as a bureaucratic cesspool. Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with “patriarchy,” masculinity, or male privilege. This is 100% the result of an organization having too much power, control, and social status. I suspect that if the same attention were turned to nuns one would find similar results.

When any group has this level of power and prestige, it is inevitable that they will abuse it. What is most curious and damning about the Catholic Church is that it has 2,000 years of documented abuse of power, and yet still faces little repercussions. How many thefts, beatings, rapes, murders, and wars does it take for an organization this debauched to fall?

The Catholic Church proves the adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

3 thoughts on “Catholic Church Had a “Playbook for Concealing the Truth”

  1. I’ve been reading the grand jury report directly, you can find it here:

    First an important factual clarification:

    There is NO literal playbook or written guidance from the church on how to conceal predatory behavior from the police. The words you have quoted in this article were written by the grand jury to describe the pattern of behavior they observed (or more precisely, police investigators claim to have observed), it is not a church policy or verbiage.

    Here is how the grand jury prefaced the quoted text that appears in your article:

    “Special agents testified before us that they had identified a series of practices
    that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files they had analyzed. It’s *like*
    a playbook for concealing the truth:
    First, make sure to use euphemisms…”

    And perhaps just as critically, here is the paragraph immediately following the quoted lines:

    “To be sure, we did come across some cases in which members of law enforcement, despite
    what may have been the dioceses’ best efforts, learned of clergy sex abuse allegations. Some of
    these were many decades ago, and police or prosecutors at the time simply deferred to church

    Grand juries ONLY hear from prosecutors in closed hearings- there is no judge present, no cross-examination permitted by the defense, no outside testimony. As such, they often have a strong pro-police bias in their finding.

    In the case of child molestation by priests, both the church authorities AND the police have failed to protect children.

    Have you ever heard of the Kowloon walled city? It was a tiny area in Hong Kong that technically belonged to mainland China. The Chinese police weren’t going to travel into the heart of Hong Kong to police the neighborhood, and the Hong Kong police weren’t going to police mainland China. So, the Triad moved in turned it into the world’s most dilapidated, overpopulated slum filled with all sorts of crime (although most residents were not criminals). This continued for decades as Hong Kong and China pointed fingers at each other. Eventually they had to bulldoze the whole thing.

    I think that’s what’s happened here; the police ignore reports of pedophile priests figuring if it happened in a Church, it is the Church’es problem, and the Church authorities figure that their authority is limited to doling out hail Mary’s if anyone cares to confess. If there was any actual criminal issue the police would need to take care of it.

    This leaves the pedophile Priests to create a Kowloon walled city of perversion. Now we’re in the finger-pointing stage.

  2. The fact these documents were turned over willingly is questionable. Was it part of a plea deal? Betrayal? Could the church actually be changing face and coming clean?

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