27 Oct Omerta Dismantled: Lifting the Veil of Shameful Clerical Silence
“…federal investigators are throwing a very wide net. The abuse scandal, long fueled by the shocking details in the church’s own personnel documents, may now grow like an uncontrolled wildfire.”
— The New York Times
Hear that? It’s the sound of silence – also known in some circles as ‘omerta’.
Since June, what we call ‘The Great Sex Abuse Enabling Scandal’ has cracked open like a ruined altar.
State Attorneys General? Many investigations announced, including DC and California last week.
Federal Investigations? Justice is in all Pennsylvania dioceses plus Buffalo. The FBI is in Michigan.
Aaand what do we hear from US bishops?
“Oh we are terribly sorry. We must protect minors — and now let’s heal”. (A laughable attempt to ‘move on’ which is being met by donations being withheld.)
“Oh, here’s a list of ‘credibly accused’ priests which our law firm has vetted”. (Because they told us we can be sued for harboring a public nuisance, which has already happened to all the Illinois dioceses.)
What law enforcement is looking at
Let’s be clear. We are not talking about an occasional predator, swiftly identified and dealt with. We are not talking about decades-old cases.
What US law enforcement is investigating is very current – sex and drug trafficking using the Catholic Church as ‘cover’. The implications almost certainly extend beyond US borders.
How law enforcement works
We have been discussing the situation with law enforcement, human resources and criminal psychology professionals in an attempt to understand what may be happening behind the veil.
They say that the standard operating procedure when investigating criminal networks – and for law enforcement purposes that’s exactly how the Church is being treated — is to work their way up and across chains of command, obtaining information in exchange for immunity or in some cases even witness protection.
This is because, we’re told, almost all perpetrators — even when confronted with evidence — will continue to deny wrongdoing unless they are given a ‘way out'. In the case of priests, whose entire financial and psychological wellbeing lies in the hands of their bishops, this would seem to be even more critically important to obtaining their cooperation. Protection for cooperating priests may be even more necessary in some truly dangerously corrupted dioceses.
What’s really going on?
Behind the silence, it’s likely that law enforcement is working to create network maps, similar to those which identified the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Although these Church networks are famous for their ruthless focus on self-protection (and feared by good priests for this very reason) as law enforcement closes in, such group discipline will fade, our sources say.
Basically, there is no honor among thieves, particularly those facing jail terms. And once one source cracks, it’s only a matter of time before lots of people start talking.
From an individual person’s point of view, it’s better to talk promptly to law enforcement. Why? Because as a friendly cooperator, any criminal or civil liability will likely be looked upon more genially than if they have to come back to you after you have been named by others.
Is my diocese safe?
One of the most horrific aspects of this corruption is how adept these criminals have become at lulling ordinary Catholics into a state of almost child-like trust. In one diocese, a senior Church official charged with the grooming and sexual assault of multiple teen boys still receives home-baked treats from his dedicated parishioners, who refuse to believe that ‘Father’ could be guilty. Here’s what one expert has to say on this:
“Every diocese should assume that it is potentially under investigation,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor and founder of CHILD USA, a think tank at the University of Pennsylvania that studies child sexual abuse and prevention. “Given the crisscrossing paths of priests sent from one diocese to another across the United States, I can understand why someone in Washington would say, ‘O.K., everybody needs to hold onto their evidence right now because we’re just starting to sketch out where the pedophiles have been sent by the hierarchy.’”
How long will this last?
It depends on funding. Dioceses without funding cannot pay lawyers.
We have anecdotal evidence that more and more Catholics are withholding or diverting donations from dioceses.
- An informal REGINA poll taken October 27, 2018 shows 51% of devout Catholics have stopped giving entirely and 49% have diverted their donations. Our conversations with wealthy individuals – who make up the lion’s share of giving – echo this, with many having ceased donating or diverted their donations to trustworthy Catholic clerics & apostolates.
- In Atlanta, recent scandalous actions by the ordinary there have resulted in an 87% drop in donation pledges.
- Our sources say that one Midwestern diocese has had to scrap their diocesan fund-raising due to lack of participation by volunteer fund-raisers.
- Several have raised the specter of federal funding being denied the Church under criminal investigation. Some dioceses rely very heavily on these funds.
How can we tell things are proceeding quickly?
Given the perfect storm of mounting investigations and plummeting funding, it’s perhaps inevitable that charging certain individuals will trigger sudden departures.
Some have pointed out that priests who are not US citizens have little or no reason to remain in the States if they feel that they may be charged, justly or unjustly. Law enforcement tells us that almost certainly some well-off prelates have already planned their escapes from the US, to offshore houses they have secured under false names. For these reasons we may see visas and passports abruptly revoked.
If Catholics see this happening in their Dioceses, we advise you to cease any donations that could be grabbed by fleeing criminals. (What to do? Click here for how responsible Catholics are dealing with this question.)
What should I do?
At REGINA, we have taken a three-pronged approach to this Crisis, which may be helpful to consider:
- Learn how to spot the bad guys: In general, if clerics dish out the ‘I’m Okay, You’re Okay’ brand of Catholicism, be suspicious. If they are not clearly men of prayer, watch out. We’re also distrustful of an opulent lifestyle – especially a concern with shopping for the latest consumer goods and/or vacations. Lastly, if they use guilt or peer pressure to extract money from you, they are not the real deal.
- Stop supporting the bad guys: We have made it a point to only support aspects of the Church which we know are above suspicion. These are those we know personally – and and here's our advice on this.
- Let your voice be heard: Getting solicitations for donations from the Church? Return them with a short note that states that until this Crisis is cleaned up, you will not be contributing. Want to let the bishops hear your voice? Come to Baltimore on November 13 & 14, or if you can’t make it, donate to help defray expenses. (See thebishopsknew.com for details).