For my book, Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church, I interviewed Joe Maher, co-founder and president of Opus Bono Sacerdotii ("Work for the Good of the Priesthood"). Mr. Maher passed on a quote to me from a Chicago defense lawyer he knows:
"Priests are guilty until proven guiltier."
Those words came to mind upon seeing this article from the Boston Globe this week (9/9/10). "Priest, cleared of past sexual abuse claims, faces new accusations" is the headline plastered prominently all across the top of page B4 of the Globe with the accused cleric's picture.
Rev. Thomas M. Curran, from the Archdiocese of Boston, has already been exonerated of an abuse charge once before, after he faced an accusation originating from "some psychopath from a prison" (Curran's words, when he vehemently denied the charge). But Fr. Curran is now facing allegations "which date to the 1970s and '80s." (70's? 80's? Whatever, says the Globe.)
Yes, priests terribly abused minors. Bishops failed to forcefully stop the harm. The faith of countless individuals and families has been shattered. The entire abuse scandal is a dark and shameful episode that the Church will forever have to live with.
But how are we to know there is any credibility at all to these new allegations? Whatever happened to fairness and perspective?
Has the Globe ever considered that it is almost impossible to disprove such an emotional accusation? Would the Globe ever report a decades-old charge facing a teacher? a rabbi? a car mechanic? someone's uncle?
Joe Maher himself has appropriately said, "If you think it's tough proving an allegation from 30 years back, try disproving it."
Fairness and perspective have gone out the window.