Treat politicians the same as priests in sexual misconduct allegations

Why should we treat politicians differently than priests? In a Biden-Reade scenario, what do we gain by regarding allegations against priests more seriously than those against politicians?

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Oct. 26, 2019, at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. (CNS photo/Sam Wolfe, Reuters)

Yesterday, I published an op-ed in The Washington Times online edition, asking Democrats not to repeat the mistakes of the Catholic Church with Tara Reade. It appeared in the newspaper’s print edition this morning.

Many good people have asked me: Why not Republicans? Why not Donald Trump? But while I used the Democrats as an example, I was not arguing against either political party.

As a Jesuit priest, I was arguing against the double standard by which our society now treats sexual misconduct allegations against politicians and priests differently, and was merely using Reade’s harassment and assault accusations against Joe Biden as an illustration.

My argument is that we should treat Biden the same way we would treat a Catholic priest accused of using his position in an analogous way to sexually assault an adult subordinate, lest we risk sending the message that such allegations matter more when they involve clergy than when they involve politicians.

Although I compared the way some Democrats and media have responded to Reade with the way many Catholic bishops responded for decades to clergy sexual abuse allegations, I was not primarily interested in addressing the double standards of Democrats and Republicans who only take such allegations seriously when they involve members of the other party.

While the Catholic Church in the United States has increasingly erred on the side of transparency and believing victims in sexual misconduct cases which involve adults as well as minors, our two political parties continue to get away with keeping their confidential files sealed and with throwing accusers into a trial by media to be devoured.

In Reade’s case, Biden has called for investigation while refusing to open his personal senate files at the University of Delaware to an independent search just for her name, and his campaign has urged the media to “vet” her.

The simple truth is that the American Catholic Church would not be able to get away with any of these things today, had Reade accused a priest or Catholic lay leader of abusing his office to do what she says Biden did to her.

Reade has made an allegation, produced people who corroborate that she told them about what happened at or around the time of the incident, confirmed court documents in her own domestic marriage disputes that mention the incident, and identified a video of her mother calling Larry King Live around the time of the incident to mention something had happened. Her story has inconsistencies, but so do many stories of survivors.

Based on that, my Washington Times op-ed argued that Democrats should treat Biden the way our U.S. Catholic bishops increasingly treat priests in this same scenario: suspend him temporarily from his public duties for an independent investigation in collaboration with appropriate civil authorities. Without presumption of guilt, many bishops would now make the pastoral judgment of suspending him to err on the side of protecting the vulnerable, and then reinstate or remove him permanently after consulting a review board comprised of psychologists and other professionals.

Since Biden is already confined to his home, broadcasting campaign appearances from his basement in coronavirus lockdown, that could mean shutting down his public platform and suspending his campaign if the Democrats took Reade as seriously as many U.S. bishops would now take her in an analogous clergy case. The same standard would apply to Republicans with their own leaders in similar accusations.

Since 2002, this kind of zero tolerance has been the policy of the American Church for all clergy and Catholic lay leaders accused of sexual abuse of a minor. But since the Catholic Church’s #MeToo moment revealed in 2019 that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually harassed and assaulted his adult male seminarians for years, U.S. bishops have increasingly treated priests accused of any non-consensual sexual misconduct with adults in the same way.

That’s why several American clergymen like Opus Dei priest C. John McCloskey and Jesuit bishop Gordon Bennett found themselves removed from their public roles in the past year. They had received no allegations of abuse against minors, only allegations involving legal adults they exploited in their public roles.

In arguing that we should treat politicians just as we treat Catholic priests in #MeToo scenarios, I obviously think the same standards should also apply to substantial allegations involving Donald Trump, as I believe both major political parties need to set up similar structures of accountability to relocate sexual misconduct investigations from the politicized media into a more formalized independent process that will be fairer to both the accused and the accusers.

I focused on Reade as the current example of what “media vetting” an allegation does: It creates competing politicized narratives, destroys the public lives of the accuser and potentially of the accused as well, and possibly silences other victims by sending the message that the same will happen to them if they speak up against a politician in the press.

While the media makes an excellent servant in exposing sexual assault allegations, it makes a terrible master when it tries to render a definitive verdict. That’s because they have no legal authority to compel a Biden to turn over documents for examination. As such, it remains easy for powerful politicians in a Biden scenario to turn the media loose on their accusers and refuse to open their records for investigation.

The U.S. Catholic Church no longer behaves in this way. In an effort to be more transparent, Pope Francis has even abolished the confidentiality of the “papal secret” that some bishops may have once used to keep their files closed to outside investigators, and U.S. dioceses have become more transparent about publishing the names of all Catholic clergy accused of sexual misconduct with adults as well as with minors.

It was in this spirit of transparency that L’Arche, an ecumenical ministry to the intellectually disabled, revealed in March 2020 that its late founder Jean Vanier had exploited his charismatic authority in spiritual direction to force several of his young female assistants into long-term sexual affairs with him. Vanier, often compared to Mother Teresa for his work, had received the Templeton Prize in 2015.

Our American bishops have made firm decisions in recent years to err on the side of victims of all ages. Even in cases involving alleged assault against adult subordinates, scenarios where psychologists have made no clear recommendation to remove the accused priests from ministry either temporarily or permanently, many bishops now make the pastoral judgment to take them out of their public roles to await the outcome of an investigation.

Despite seeming harsh, taking priests out of public sight in this way helps resolve the outrage of media and victims at these men continuing to work in plain sight, and relieves these priests of needing to defend themselves whenever they appear publicly during the ordeal. At the end of each investigation, the results of any relevant civil or criminal process weigh strongly on the bishop’s decision about whether to reinstate the priest or remove him permanently.

In a just society that treats all adult victims of alleged #MeToo abuse the same way, I believe we must treat all substantial allegations of sexually predatory behavior consistently, regardless of whether they involved a politician or a priest.

Pointing out that Reade’s allegation would be sufficient to get a U.S. Catholic priest suspended from his ministry and investigated, I argued in my op-ed that treating allegations in church and state with this same seriousness will help our society better protect people from the sexual exploitation and public retaliation of those above them.

But for those who disagree, I invite them to answer these questions: Why should we treat politicians differently than priests? In a Reade scenario, what do we gain by regarding allegations against priests more seriously than those against politicians?

Perhaps the most common answer remains that we have this double standard because most priests take a vow of celibacy to give up physical intimacy, making us expect more of them. They are ipso facto moral leaders who should be held to higher standards than politicians, sports figures, and entertainers.

But I’m not sure we can so neatly separate treating accused priests and politicians differently from treating the alleged victims differently based on who they accuse. If we jump to suspend and independently investigate a priest accused of sexually abusing a seminarian or lay client, but allow non-priests to “discredit” alleged victims in the press without an outside investigation into the relevant files, aren’t we exhibiting a tendency to disbelieve anyone who accuses a popular or politically powerful person in a non-church setting?

And why shouldn’t we expect the same public accountability of leaders in marriage vows, considering that the vast majority of politicians and celebrities accused of #MeToo sexual misconduct with younger subordinates tend to be already committed to a spouse? Furthermore, when a young adult subordinate accuses an unmarried or divorced non-clergy authority figure of sexual harassment and assault, should they be less entitled to action simply because they work in a non-religious setting?

While some Catholics may object that the growing trend of bishops to “suspend and investigate” has made priests look guilty in advance of due process, the Catholic hierarchy’s mistakes have shown the wisdom of acting out of an abundance of caution to protect victims from abusers using their public platforms and reputation to retaliate against allegations, for example by encouraging ideological allies to discredit accusers in the media. We may recall that Catholic conservatives once defended Legion of Christ founder Rev. Marcial Maciel as the victim of a progressive smear campaign, just as Catholic progressives once defended Bishop Juan Barros as the victim of a conservative smear, but both men proved guilty.

Reade’s case shows the need for Republicans and Democrats to set up structures of accountability similar to what the Catholic Church has done, establishing independent review procedures to hold their own people accountable for substantial allegations, rather than continuing to throw accusers into the media circus to be destroyed. In short, we desperately need a way to remove politically inconvenient accusations from politics, collaborating with civil authorities on fair and independent investigations which tune out the media noise.

We have finally made progress in doing that with the Catholic Church in the United States. Why should we not do it in all of our private and civic institutions as well?

Practically, having a double standard for priests and politicians accused of sexual misconduct with adults suggests the uncomfortable idea that being sexually violated matters more when a priest does it than when a politician does it, implying that both the alleged perpetrator and victim will be likelier to receive justice in the church than in the state.

Theologically, it perpetuates the clericalism of elevating priests above mere mortals, holding us to higher standards than everyone else. In the old days, we treated priests as more credible than ordinary people in abuse cases. Today we treat them as less credible than politicians. Both attitudes do a disservice to victims.

Democrats who believe only Biden can defeat Trump worry that suspending his campaign would ruin their chances for the White House along with his public reputation. Catholics have expressed the same concern about priests, pointing out that a suspended cleric may never be able to return to public ministry even after being acquitted in a court of law — a limit case now being tested by media treatment of Australian Cardinal George Pell’s emergence from prison on an appeal that overturned his conviction for sexual abuse of minors.

But if a powerful figure has really harassed or assaulted a younger person sexually, can we afford to leave him in public during an open investigation? The U.S. Catholic bishops have increasingly said “no” in allegations of adult as well as minor abuse.

Some have pointed out that, based on media accounts, Reade “seems not to be” credible. But if she accused a priest with even the imperfect level of corroboration she has provided of her allegation against Biden, do they really think the Catholic Church could get away with saying “the media has discredited her” without further independent investigation?

So my op-ed was not about politics per se, but about the need Reade shows us for a fairer mechanism of public accountability in sexual misconduct allegations against politicians. Perhaps it might involve an independent review board process, similar to that of the U.S. Church, which the two major political parties run separately for their own people or as a bipartisan effort. While I cite Reade and Biden to illustrate what’s not working right now in this conversation, I do not see them as targets to attack the Democrats in a way that exculpates Republicans.

We need a better #MeToo conversation about public accountability at all levels of society. Currently we seem to accept a double standard that treats #MeToo allegations as inherently more actionable when they involve priests rather than politicians. But if we want to treat all victims consistently, then allegations of young adults being violated sexually by those above them should invoke the same “suspend and investigate” procedure for politicians that they increasingly do for priests. With due respect to the sadness and rage many of us still feel about the tragic blindness of Catholic leaders, does anyone sincerely believe upholding this double standard is a good thing for victims? Dear God, let it not be so.


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About Sean Salai, S.J. 8 Articles
Rev. Sean M. Salai, S.J., writes as a special contributor for America Media. He is a doctoral candidate in evangelization and media at The Catholic University of America, an author of multiple books on Pope Francis and Ignatian spirituality, and a former newspaper metro reporter.

51 Comments

  1. I think that the argument fails because the analogy is not correct.

    A nationally known politician is NOT like a priest, he (or she) is more like a bishop. Bishops get very special deference and secret treatment in the Catholic Church, as the McCarrick affair has amply revealed.

    Likewise, Biden gets very special deference and secret treatment in the Democrat Party (and likewise happens in the Republican Party).

    Priests are pawns, when it comes to Church politics. They get pushed around. Bishops who fail to imitate the Good Shepherd, like the sociopath McCarrick, wrote the Dallas Charter to protect Bishops, at the expense of pushing priests around.

    Our “contemporary” Catholic Church is now no more just than a political party.

    • Chris, thanks for sharing these good thoughts on my article. I would just respond by pointing out that a bishop is a type of priest just as a nationally known politician is still a politician. So I meant what I wrote about “priests” to apply to “bishops” as well. Regarding the difference of degree, I’d say that the higher an allegation goes with great possibilities of political motivation, the more deeply we need a fair independent process of deciding — which civil lawsuits do not do, since they rarely yield a verdict and never imprison people — whether to suspend or remove someone from their public role over a #MeToo allegation. Only employers or supervising agencies remove public school teachers, priests, and caregivers accused of abuse. Furthermore, I would just underline one key difference between McCarrick and accused politicians: the new review board process in New York, for all the well-documented flaws of this approach, provided a mechanism for Cardinal Dolan to finally have McCarrick removed from his public duties as a cardinal and laicized (made no longer a priest) in rapid time once the board received a substantial allegation, without waiting for a drawn-out legal process that might never have convicted him. Even now, the courts have failed to send him to prison. So the Church, after many years of tragic blindness, is now taking steps in the direction to remove the accused from their public roles that our political parties have yet to take with political leaders. I just want to see a better conversation and mechanism for this kind of public accountability in the political sphere as well. I do appreciate your thoughts!

      • Father Salai –

        First – all good wishes and thanks for replying.

        I share your interest in a more just and transparent justice system for investigating matters in the Catholic Church.

        And I certainly agree that “the secular side of things” is no better model of justice or truth.

        As Lord Acton warmed his Bishop about the Catholic Church:
        (1) Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; and
        (2) There is no greater heresy than that of “The office sanctifies the office-holder.” (Jesus taught us that with Judas)

        The Church’s system of investing absolute, centralized governance of all executive, legislative and juridical matters in “the Bishop” is both brittle and paralyzing…it must end. We need Bishops thst are governing the Gospel and th deposit of faith and morality…administration and justice and finance can and must be done by separated powers, or else we get the paralyzing (and frankly anti-episcopal) bureaucracy we are now mired in…forever.

        Such bureaucracy is not from the mind of Christ…it is the mind of McCarrick…the sociopath.

        The Church only did what it could get away with on McCarrick, throwing him under the bus, after it tried under the Pontiff Francis to restore him. Our Church leaders enabled McCarrick to wage total devastating war inside the Church. .The occult corrupters inside of our Church leadership ignored when people warned of him, and protected McCarrick so that JP2 made him a Cardinal.

        Our Church leaders refused to control McCarrick even though they all knew that Pope B16 had sanctioned him. McCarrick knew he could ignore B16, whom he despised, and he knew he would be restored by his friend Cardinal Bergoglio, when he won his 2nd try at getting elected Pontiff.

        The Pontiff Francis is part of the occult problem, which is why Marie Collins et al resigned from his “abuse commission.” It is the very same reason and pattern of why Gov. Keating resigned as head of the Review Board in 2003-4.

        When a man or woman with any guts seeks justice in our corrupted Church, he or she becomes “the enemy.”

        The current Pontiff and most Bishops are not following The Good Shepherd…they are what Our Lord Jesus contrasted himself with.

        We as a Catholic people must stop lying to ourselves, because as Shakespeare was telling us through Polonius (the liar): We must be truthful about ourselves, or else we cannot but be false to all other men.

        But Christ is in the boat, and He has conquered, so…in time…perhaps long after we are gone…I know that “all will be well.”

        Your friend in Christ…and God’s blessings for you and all of his holy priests.

      • Fr. Salai,

        I must agree with and focus on Chris in Maryland’s comment: “The Church’s system of investing absolute, centralized governance of all executive, legislative and juridical matters in “the Bishop” is both brittle and paralyzing…it must end.”

        Review boards work when you have a well functioning diocese and at least functional leadership from the bishop. However, they do not work when either of those are lacking because, as Chris in Maryland observed, all power is vested in the bishop. That’s a recipe for disaster because any prosecutorial, legislative, or judicial action is concentrated in one person’s hands. There is a lack of independence, checks and balances, transparency, and functional law and order. In the Archdiocese of New York the review board, or for that matter Pope Bergogolio’s “metropolitan model, may be fine, but not in Buffalo, West Virginia, or McCarrick’s former dioceses.

        I want to focus on another related aspect; the perversion of a priest’s vow of obedience when it comes to the reporting of sexual abuse of misbehavior. Ordinary priests have no practical rights, and this has been seen in myriad instances when priests or seminarians have attempted to be whistleblowers (again, look at Buffalo). Look at the diocese of Springfield under the deceased Bishop Ryan, who sexually assaulted other priests, cruised for quite young male prostitutes, and was a known alcoholic among the clergy. Yet–he was promoted to bishop, and it took heaven and earth (read: public exposure) to get Cardinals George or Bernardin or JP II’s Vatican to move against this guy. I also want to bring up another topic that greatly disturbs me: out of all of the cases of assault against priests or seminarians that I have read, in not a single case have I read about these men retaliating physically against their attacker. Now–this is contextual, and some are not able. But, the fact that I have *never* heard of any instance of a priest or seminarian fighting back suggests to me that there is a very dark and problematic (even toxic) effect of the clerical culture: spiritual castration. Note that I am not victim blaming, but suggesting that perhaps the culture in which these men are formed is victimizing them twice.

        I want to end with this, Fr. Salai. While I don’t per se disagree with any of your points, I want to suggest that your article is of limited utility. It deflects from some real foundational problems (some of which I’ve tried to highlight here) that are being discussed far to little in much of the mainstream Catholic discourse I’ve read on this topic. For what it’s worth, my view is that #MeToo has become a rancid and largely political movement, as its proponents only “believe” victims when those accusations have political utility; in that sense, I don’t feel strongly about Biden’s guilt, though I despise how the same people who defend him wanted Kavanaugh hanging from the rafters. That’s why we need law and order, independence, transparency, and checks and balances in these matters (and that means lay expert involvement): it protects the innocent and the victims.

        Peace.

        • Mr. Altobello, thanks for the thoughtful comments. On the topic of decentralized authority, I also want to affirm Chris’s reference to Lord Acton, the great British Catholic historian who dissented from the definition of papal infallibility at Vatican I as a danger to liberty. A very fine and underrated thinker!

          I do concede that my article idealized the Catholic review board process, a tool that continues to have well-documented flaws and limitations as you point out. However, the point of my article is not to convince the political parties to adopt exactly the same accountability structures, but to argue that they must move in the direction of something similar through a conversation about public accountability that isn’t happening right now.

          Saying the review board system has flaws does not refute the necessity of having a more independent system of public accountability for the vast majority of abuse cases, like McCarrick, where the law even now would allow them to continue in public roles while years of legal procedures unfold often in civil courts which rarely yield a clear verdict of guilt or innocence before being settled financially. I for one do not think “guilty” in a criminal trial is the only criterion by which McCarrick should have been removed from his job, but that’s the only tool by which law would remove him, and so it was the review board process that allowed Dolan to laicize him short of a guilty verdict.

          Right now the U.S. Church at least has something rather than nothing to help decide when someone must leave his public role over an allegation; politicians like Al Franken and others are currently left to the whims of trial by media and popular opinion, whose influence we’ve seen in the Cardinal George Pell case doesn’t always render a decisive verdict even in a criminal trial. So while I acknowledge your points and would welcome another article pointing out the flaws in the Catholic response that I did not acknowledge here, I did not in fact reject any of your critiques in my article. I merely pointed out that the Reade case would elicit a much stronger response if it involved a priest, which illustrates for me that the current vast grey area between not guilty and criminally convicted that includes the vast majority of sexual misconduct cases requires a better mechanism to determine whether a McCarrick should keep his job than media and civil lawsuits. The U.S. Church is at least moving in that direction, albeit imperfectly, in a way that our politicians are not even attempting. That’s my primary concern and it certainly was not intended to deflect any of the good critiques you raise. I do appreciate them!

    • Joe Biden has LONG been regarded as a ‘CINO’ – Catholic In Name Only.

      2 reasons (among many)

      1) He was overheard saying to then President Obama just as the prez was about to sign Obamacare into law “This is a big f…..g deal”.

      2) He was recently refused Communion by a Priest in South Carolina because of his longstanding support of abortion.

      At some point during his campaign he will undoubtedly refer to himself as a Catholic – don’t be fooled.

      Not to mention that he’s just flat-out old, as in senile. If he is the best the democrats can produce, what does it say about them?

      • Think right now somewhere between 95% and 99% of Democrat politicians who call themselves Catholic are CINOs. They only retain a pseudo Catholic identify to get votes from marginally informed Catholics or other CINOs.

    • So right. There is still much cover up from our weak kneed Bishops, who voted to handle the problem themselves rather than allow qualified outsiders to investigate. How serious is that?

  2. I object to comparing Joe Biden to Catholic priests who abused children. This woman is not a minor child who waited until Mr. Biden was running for President. Secondly, what about Donald Trump who is an adulterer, has bragged about his exploits with women but because he “claims” to be pro-life he is loved by Catholics. He is also not an honorable or righteous man. Where is his criticism? In his past life he supported Planned Parenthood and bragged about his exploits with women.

    • Spot. on! Thank you. Christian hypocrisy knows no bounds in the shadow of political demagoguery. Better to worship alone in a cloud of unknowing than to stand shoulder to shoulder with the morally blind.

    • You probably have real problems with St. Paul, Marilyn. After all, “in his past life” he persecuted Christians.

      “He is also not an honorable or righteous man.”

      Could you send me a copy the memo? I didn’t get it. I mean the one that appointed you the arbiter of who is honorable or righteous.

    • You are defending the indefensible and protecting someone because they’re a Democrat. No one is calling Trump a righteous person. That’s an ignorant and manipulative statement that clearly indicates you haven’t read the article carefully. The author is calling for an end to the double standard applied to Democrats, who have a long history of sexually inappropriate and exploitative behavior.

  3. This is what the liberal left really means when they babble on about the division of Church & State.One set of laws for fallen Christians Another set of laws for the pagan secular political class.

  4. Kavanaugh (a conservative Catholic man) was automatically guilty because he was conservative. His accuser appeared to me, as a liar and a pawn for the Democrat party. Turned out I was right. Why is Biden not being treated like Kavanaugh (because he’s a FAKE Catholic and a Democrat). Simple. If you are conservative or Republican, you are automatically guilty as the media is in bed with the liberal Democrat party. Ms Reade should be believed and the #Metoo movement should be standing alongside her as they were with Kavanaugh’s accuser. All of a sudden, it’s like Ms Reade’s story has all but disappeared. And, we all know that whoever Biden selects as his running mate….is who the Democrat party believes will actually be President. Thank God I’m a true Catholic and conservative.

      • He may be a “proud” Catholic, but he’s one who ignores the teachings of the Church regarding abortion and the mockery that is “homosexual marriage.”

  5. Agreed. Even if a sex tape of Biden and his accuser was to appear, corroborating her story, Biden would, at best, get the McCarrick treatment and get to retire in a nice place rather than rot in jail for what he did.

    In that, I agree with Chris’s comment.

    I strongly disagree with the author’s idea that priests should not be held to a higher standard. They should. Why? Well, for starters, politicians don’t take a vow of chastity. Priests do. Vows are, or at least ought to be, meant to be kept.

    Where they should be treated equally is the courtroom. Neither should go to jail unless proven guilty in the court of law, but both should be severely punished and forever removed from respective vocations when guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

    • Thank you, Wojtek, for sharing these good thoughts. As I suggested to Chris, the grey area in our legal system means that most sexual abuse allegations — especially #MeToo cases of adults, who receive less legal protection than minors — never make it to the stage of a criminal prosecution that yields a guilty or not guilty verdict with jail time. Even when accusers had the courage to speak up many years ago, they often lacked the mechanisms in those days to document their experiences in a way that could prove a criminal verdict today.

      So most accusations (think of many Trump cases) end up in civil lawsuits, get settled out of court with NDAs to prevent anyone knowing publicly about them, and never yield a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict. This is why many priests could glide through multiple lawsuits and keep returning to their public roles without anyone knowing they’d been accused. So the courtroom has this grey area that potentially allows someone like McCarrick to keep abusing minors and adult subordinates, but never end up in jail. Does that mean we should have left McCarrick in his public role as a cardinal and priest until he was proven guilty in a criminal case? I don’t think so; I think the number and plausibility of allegations against him provided more than enough cause to laicize him as the Church did. But our political parties have no such mechanism to remove their own people; they seem content to let the media and civil courts send “he said, she said” signals while the accused continues onward.

      While I respect your opinion that a politician should be allowed this free pass, but priests should not, I do worry about the message it sends to survivors. And I’d like to see a bigger conversation about public accountability in both church and state. I don’t think anyone feels the media has handled the Reade allegation well; that suggests to me that we need a better structure for deciding these things than trial by media.

    • A point of clarification here:
      It’s true that priests “take a vow of chastity,” but homosexual-lifestyle activists then appeal to their bubble-world mindset according to which “chastity” governs only (heterosexual) activity between men and women, and not side-plate (homosexual) adventures—e.g., the grooming and exploitation of post-childhood recruits, or later diversions between consulting adults (also a void in canon law).

      And, now today, we have the poster-child James Martin, (SJ, of course), peddling the conveniently opposite (!) notion that sodomy is categorically no different than heterosexually deviant actions—just another option within the great spectrum of post-modern, post-reality and non-binary self-definition. (All to the specious point that the Church in its employment contracts should not discriminate.)

      Perhaps the reason the McCarrick report is so delayed is that the drafters are having difficulty coming up with a double-speak glossary that both denounces the misnomer “clericalism” and, at the same time, leaves the developmental door open to “polyvalent” sexuality for a polygonal Church (the parallel magisterium of Germania!)? The surely inclusive ghost-writer team can’t find unanimity on terminology and an operative footnote? The long-exploited misnomer “pedophilia” is no longer marketable.

  6. Why the op-ed now? You can say after the fact that you meant all politicians, but forgive my ignorance, have you published any op-ed articles previously calling Trump to be treated as priests are treated?

    • No need. The article is addressing the hypocritical double standard applied to indiscretions by Democrats, who have not and are not held accountable for their inappropriate behavior.

      • Athanasius… how interesting your compartmentalization of whom should be held accountable! Democrats are raats and Republicans are angels. The only issue is tha1t mt GOP has been morphed into the DJT party. How can you and the Catholic Church not recognize our GOP demise by a man who lies, cons, obstructs, cavorts, defies the Constitution and hoodwinked our GOP congress who remain moot. Pales by comparison.

  7. I am a South African, thought that the Jesuit is right. Surely abuse of power albeit political, wealth, religious, academic, is an evil thing to attain sexual favors.

    Ted Kennedy got away with manslaughter. Epstein, escaped punishment completely. Clinton abused a young intern. Harvey Weinstein went to some sort of justice. However the truth is they are all leftest and democrats, it is quite possible that those abusive priest follow the same leftest ideology. They certainly did not follow a priestly vocation.

  8. I strive to use the same standard for everyone. Is there physical evidence? Is there credible corroborating testimony. Is the accuser’s story consistent? If not, then the accused may be guilty but they should not be deemed/found guilty. Priest, Republican, Democrat, jurist, teacher, etc…everyone. This means some who may be guilty aren’t held to account (in this life anyway) but better this than accusing/convicting innocent people for political, personal, or ideological reasons, as routinely happens in much of the world.

  9. One major fly in the ointment with whataboutism comparing priests with others in society is that the priests have the sacrament of Holy Orders. They undergo an ontological change as part of their ordinations. The abusive clergy defiled their ordinations by their actions. And before someone brings up Donatism, I would point out that the teaching about Donatism is malpractice insurance that only indemnifies the parishioner beneficiary from receiving defective sacraments. In contrast, James 3:1 says:
    *
    Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.
    *
    Also in Matthew 18:6:
    *
    6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
    *
    These verses suggest that the abusive clergy themselves have no similar malpractice insurance indemnification to cover their misconduct.
    *
    To me the real crisis in the Church is a crisis of covenant. Remember, covenants are the way that we establish the bonds of kinship with God. Do we Catholics treat our covenants with God seriously, or do we blow them off as being rigid legalisms?

    • Theodore McCarrick should have been excommunicated. Just just kicked him out of the “club” and we are still footing the bill. If I had acted the way he did, would the Church be paying my room and board?

  10. While I agree that politicians should also be held to a high standard (not necessarily quite as high as a priest, but high nonetheless), I don’t believe that the solution is “guilty until proven innocent.” That’s what sent Cardinal Pell to jail for over a year. If one is guilty until proven innocent, we are all in grave danger.

  11. There is a significant difference between priest pedophilia and a wayward politician is priests atrocities, in many ways, have been covered up by the Popes and Bishops, while Politicians are exposed to mass scrutiny. Most know that President Trump and former President Clinton have committed and been exposed for their sexual exploits. Ex VP Biden’s case is still in the discovery stage. Using Biden as a target pales in comparison. Clinton, who was impeached, apologized for his lying to the people. Trump was also was impeached and has never apologized for anything when much is known about his sexual history. Based on the stark differences Biden should not have been pictured as the example of as the sexual predator. Biden may have been the marque figure of sexual aggression because of his perceived stance on abortion. If today we analyze Biden’s true view of abortion we see that he is, like many Catholics, object to frivolous abortion on demand. We have labelled Biden as a pro-choice candidate. I wonder who is using the “BULLY PULPIT”?

    • Morgan,
      I doubt it matters much to the child who perishes whether his life was taken in the womb frivolously or not. The results are the same.

    • Yes, you’re right. The Clintons and Biden can serve as pillars of morality for all of us! They’re really good people! Looks like your TDS is acting up again. Just curious, do you actually believe the things you write? Your moral compass doesn’t seem to be working very well.

  12. Every time someone accuses a person of abuse, even if it happened thirty years ago and in no way can be proven, we should suspend the accused? Sounds very much like overreach. And nothing can really make up for the fact the Church has handled abused cases shamefully in the past. Especially not applying its new protocol, partially motivated by a guilty conscience, to the larger public square. Priests should be held to the highest standards. Policies need to look out for victims’ rights. And people need to realize there are good reasons behind statutes of limitations. In Biden’s case, there is simply no way to remotely shore up what if anything happened years ago. If a woman is too traumatized to come forward, in most cases the opportunity to get temporal justice will be lost. That’s the way it has to be for a sane court system to function.

  13. Marilyn Costanzo:
    “… In his past life he supported Planned Parenthood and bragged about his exploits with women”

    ****
    Goodness Marilyn, what have any of us done in our past lives that we’re not proud of? Christianity is about redemption & forgiveness.

    How many saints were sinners? Some folks like Oskar Schindler never stopped chasing women & sinning, but in spite of that he still achieved much good & saved many lives. God uses broken vessels for His purpose.

  14. How I wish it were true and that Catholic Church Bishops were dealing with sexual misconduct of clergy and lay leaders with adult congregants with immediate suspension and possibly permanent removal after consulting a review board. In the last 20 years we certainly seem to be doing much better when the accusation is the sexual assault of a minor, but I believe we are very far from addressing the problems of sexual assault or misconduct by clergy/lay leaders with adult men or women (congregants, staff, those seeking counseling or spiritual direction). I was involved with a case as a mental health counselor receiving referrals from Victim’s Assistance in my diocese. The family of the adult woman seeking marital counseling from her pastor who molested her during counseling were devastated. Their faith was deeply shaken. The priest was moved to another parish in the diocese and continues to be actively pastoring. Fr. Salai points to those high profile cases (McCarrick, McCloskey, Bennett, Vanier) where there is swift (although sometimes not so swift) action once it hits the media, but by in large, misconduct with adults in the Church goes unaddressed. A study done in the last 20 years of clergyman found 67% said they knew a colleague who engaged in sexual misconduct with a congregant. That study was done in the Church of England where celibacy is not a vow so we can only hope the percentage is not that high in the CC but I don’t thing we should presume we don’t have a serious problem.

    Fr. Salai certainly goes after Joe Biden in his article. Sadly we have never held political leaders accountable in the arena of sexual misconduct from Washington and Jefferson who fathered children with their slaves to Roosevelt who carried on a long affair with his wife’s secretary to Kennedy, Clinton and Trump (recent enough for you and I to know about). So what to do? Fr. Salai says we should treat them just like we treat Catholic priests. Sadly that’s exactly what we do – we look the other way and go on not expecting much change in behavior. Maybe we all know just how very sinful the human person is (whether sexual or the myriad of other sins) and if we
    (the righteous) held them all accountable as he suggests, we would be looking for two new presidential candidates this election year and need many more seminarians to fill the vacancies left in the Church. How does God deal with all of His sinful creatures? He calls us to repentance and receives us with abounding mercy and forgiveness. I believe we should do no less.
    Unfortunately I think Fr. Salai is being political and not pastoral.

    • Washington never fathered children with his slaves. There is no historical evidence that he did anything like that.

      • There isn’t any proof that Jefferson did, either. He might have been the father of Sally Hemings’ children; or he might not. The DNA shows that *a* Jefferson was the father of one of her children.

        • Yes, Leslie thank you. Ive read that about Jefferson also. We just don’t know.
          Jefferson was enormously creative and gifted but he’s not my favorite president. His comments on the French Revolution were disturbing. So was his edited version of the Gospels. But he was a product of his era for better or worse.
          I prefer to concentrate on the better.

          • Now, now, Mrs. Cracker, you must have missed the memo. If there’s even one thing about him that you dislike you must go out and deface and destroy his statues, and reject everything he ever did, said, or wrote.

            If you can injure someone who disagrees with you in the process, so much the better.

    • Ms. Fey, thanks for these good points, many of which I agree on. To make my point cleanly in the article, it’s true that I presented the ideal of current Catholic Church policies and did not mention the messy reality that implementation continues to lag even here in the U.S. Church where policies have become stronger. Sadly most rapes in both church and state never make it to the point of criminal prosecution and most do not even make it to the point of a civil lawsuit, even though 90 percent of allegations have a basis in truth. And I want to extend the ideal of what we’re working toward in the Church, albeit in a still-imperfect way, to include all sectors of American society precisely because I think we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to this issue to really change rape culture.

      Finally, please let me observe that I was writing about principles more than about politics per se. I think the response of many to the Reade allegation merely provides a current illustration of what’s not working in our discourse about public accountability for politicians. I also think it should be obvious to any reasonable reader who examines my work that I’m not a Fr. Frank Pavone stumping for Trump or a Sr. Simone Campbell appearing with Obama. So I respectfully disagree with your characterization of my article as politics rather than as a discussion about principles that deepens some of the points in my Washington Times op-ed. I would argue that those who attack Reade’s credibility and dismiss her as a politically motivated crank are the one who are politicizing her allegation, not people like me who (like you do here) are calling for greater consistency in both church and state with substantial #MeToo allegations.

  15. Fr. Salai, I appreciate your thoughtful response to my comments and the clarification of your intention to present the ideal of current Catholic Church policies. Maybe it’s just semantics but perhaps it is more accurate to say we should treat Biden the way we SHOULD treat a Catholic priest. WOULD indicates that is what is happening. I have yet to see clear and unequivocal policies or action with regard to the abuse of power by religious leaders with subordinate adults in our Church. It should be so and I do pray one day it will be so.

  16. Any statement or inference by the author that the Catholic Church did ANY of the following is not only untrue, but absurd:
    A-The Catholic Church did a responsible job responding to Clergy Abuse cases under the law (False)
    B-The Catholic Church did a responsible job responding to Clergy Abuse cases according to the teachings of Jesus (False – ever read Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, or Luke 17:2? Anything in all 3 Synoptic Gospels must be pretty important)
    C- The Catholic Church is on the forefront and vanguard of both protecting youths from sexual abuse, reporting sexual abuse when it happens, and removing dangerous priests from active ministry to prevent potential for more crimes (False)
    D- The Catholic Church has shown Christian Caring and compassion to victims; & facilitated avenues for healing (False)
    E- The Catholic Church has gone beyond the edge of Christian Caring, in implementing the two Motu Proprio issued by the Pope last year regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse victims — that being ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE issued March 26, 2019 and YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD [VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI] issued May 7, 2019. (False. I guarantee you that less than 1% of practicing Catholics ever heard of either of these Motu Proprio)

    I challenge any Catholic to tell me exactly WHAT the formal church has instructed them to do regarding Clergy Abuse victims; & then indeed specify further what they have actually done? Every revelation, discovery, and report of Catholic Clergy Child Sexual Abuse has come out DESPITE a bevy of super-lawyers being paid to help every Diocese. Jesus didn’t hide behind lawyers. He reportedly died.

    As a victim of Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse that began when I was 6 years old; & an advocate for transparency, justice, and healing for over 25 years… I can categorically state that ANY premise in this news piece the Catholic Church did a SINGLE THING RIGHT in the ongoing aftermath of the Greatest Cover-Up of All Time being slowly chiseled and ripped away… is a premise that is neither valid or relevant, and thus not of logical merit for any conclusion or comparison based on such an inaccurate premise.

    • I appreciate the anger and deep sense of betrayal of victims, one of the reasons I gathered Catholic scholars to study the topic. I recommend you read the book, however, as opposed to assuming what is contained with in it.

  17. Leslie,
    Yup, to be consistent with the spirit of our times I should keep that in mind on my next visit to Monticello.
    If the BLM crowd destroyed the slavery connections, Antifa mobs defaced the symbols of patriarchy & fundamentalists burned the gift shop with the edited New Testaments there wouldn’t be much left.
    🙁

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