Mark White Unrepentant Syndicate
This is the first of the two posts I promised, proving that the current ecclesiastical hierarchy continues to operate according to this long-debunked, wrong-headed principle:
Sexual abuse is a shameful private matter that should be kept from the public eye. If people know that clergymen have committed this crime, they will lose the faith. Therefore, it should be hushed up, at any cost.
Anyone who sexually abuses a minor commits a crime. The victim of the crime suffers a grave injury. One significant dimension of that injury: Crippling shame, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with others about what happened.
Indeed, there may be even more to this than many of us have thought. I spoke recently with a sex-abuse survivor who recounted how he had no memories whatsoever about being abused in his childhood, until the summer of 2018. Then the headlines about priest six-abuse shook loose in his mind an avalanche of memories. He thinks that his abuser knew how to cause the suppression of the memories. Some abusers may have that twisted psychological-manipulative skill.
Back to justice under law: The problem here is, criminal investigations and prosecutions generally rely on “warm” evidence. Investigating crimes committed in the distant past poses huge challenges.
Hence, we have “statutes of limitations” or “prescription periods.” (The latter is the term used in ecclesiastical law.) You can’t open a criminal investigation into a crime that happened decades ago.
A civil suit, on the other hand, differs in some important respects from a criminal case. The injured party sues the wrongdoer for damages. In such a case, the plaintiff does not seek a guilty verdict per se; the community itself is not mounting the case for the sake of preserving public peace. Rather, the injured party asks the judge to find the malefactor liable for the damage caused, which would require restitution.
Again, however, the passage of time makes the whole thing more difficult. It is harder for the court to establish facts. So there are statutes of limitations on civil cases, too.
All of this seems to leave sex-abuse survivors in a Catch-22.