The Coverup Within the Coverup

One aspect of the Catholic Priest Abuse Scandal that often gets glossed over is the active role church members themselves took in perpetuating the cover up.  Another example of that was provided by Green Bay Bishop David Ricken during a press conference last week addressing Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau’s resignation from active ministry.


Ricken explained that Morneau chose not to report allegations of molestation against former priest David Boyea to police back in 1979 and instead–and this sounds laughable today–arranged a meeting between the priest, his accuser and the accuser’s mother, where Boyea apologized for molesting the boy and the boy’s mother accepted that as a suitable settlement of the matter.  Imagine what it must have been like for that child to be the victim of a crime–to have your mother accept an apology from the offender as suitable punishment for him–and then to likely be told to never mention what had happened again to anyone.  Meanwhile, Boyea was able to continue his abuse of children–not being charged or convicted for another six years.


It reminded me of the two brothers that accused former priest John Patrick Feeney of molesting them at an Outagamie County church back in the 1970’s.  They testified that their own mother accused them of lying about the abuse and refused to take their allegations to either police or church officials.  Finally, enough families did come forward that Feeney was not reported to police–but rather sent to another state to become another diocese’s problem.


In prepping for this My Two Cents, I reviewed the case from the church that I attended as a child–Saint Mary’s in Clarks Mills–where Father John Conrad resigned suddenly in 2002 after admitting he had a sexual relationship with an underage student at Manitowoc Roncalli High School in the 1970’s.  The account from the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter notes that parishoners gave Conrad a standing ovation after his announcement as to why he was leaving the ministry effective immediately–and that members hugged Conrad and cried after the service.  “We love you, Father John” was the sign posted outside of the church the following day.  A couple of parishoners are quoted as saying Conrad should have been forgiven and allowed to continue as a priest.


This is why the Catholic Church became a haven for pedophiles.  Can you name another profession where an adult man would be given unfettered access to children, never be questioned for showing no sexual interest in adults, command immediate respect from others, be held above reproach, have accusers doubted by their own parents, have an employer that would take any and all steps to not have the police involved–even if a preponderance of evidence showed that a crime had been committed and have the victims believe that simple penance is a suitable punishment rather than incarceration?


Ultimately, it was the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that allowed the priest abuse scandal to fester and grow into a systemic cancer.  But it was the cover up inside the cover up perpetrated by the very members of the church that resulted in just as many predators to go unpunished for so long.


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