Dealing with the "Poor Father" syndrome

Mark Silk at Religion News Service writes about clergy sexual abuse and misconduct in Dealing with the "Poor Father" Syndrome:

A decade ago, I heard a Catholic lawyer who’d made a career of representing religious institutions in sex abuse cases describe the difference between reporting a wayward clergyman to a Methodist or Episcopal bishop versus “one of ours.” In the former case, he’d sit down in the Protestant leader’s living room, with the photos of children and grandchildren on the mantle, and the man’s sympathy would at once go to the abused. In the latter, the meeting would take place in a chancery conference room and the first words out of His Excellency’s mouth would be, “Poor Father.”

This memory comes to mind after reading Grant Gallicho’s fine account over at dotCommonweal of the current mess in the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Thanks to brave whistleblowing by its former canon lawyer, it has become clear that over the past decade Archbishop John Nienstedt and his predecessor Harry Flynn both failed in their responsibility to report suspected abusers to the civil authorities.


Thought Silk is mainly discussing the Roman Catholic Church, this syndrome continues to operate in some places the Episcopal Church as well as others.

Comments (2)

Unfortunately Title IV, in its concern for victims, has stigmatized and eliminated protective rights for the accused. It reflects a guilty until proven innocent mentality. A basic principle of western law is that justice means protection against false accusation and protection for the rights of the accused who are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Title IV needs to restore protections for the accused.

Those RC Bishops saw sin and worried about Father's soul more than they saw crime and a victim. Their treatment centers diagnosed "Father" with 'sexual disorder' not sexual assault of a non-consenting victim. The whole system was designed to protect 'Father'.

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