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Peter Steinfels at Commonweal has a long article that needed to be written. It’s 11,700 words (none are wasted) on the sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — specifically, on the Pennsylvania grand-jury report released last summer. The heinousness of the sexual crimes and misconduct described therein has been amply noted by just about everyone who has commented on the report. It was noted by the authors of the report itself, and not just noted but drummed loudly, while they glossed over masses of detail that didn’t fit their story about Catholic bishops. The sum of the evidence in their 1,356-page document belies their broad-brush, monochromatic characterization of the problem, Steinfels contends:
I believe that the grand jury could have reached precise, accurate, informing, and hard-hitting findings about what different church leaders did and did not do, what was regularly done in some places and some decades and not in others. . . .
Report - Tack - Bumper-sticker - Environment - Imagine
Instead the report chose a tack more suited to our hyperbolic, bumper-sticker, post-truth environment. . . . Imagine, at least for a moment, that a declamation like “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all” came from one of our elected or televised demagogues. Would one really dismiss any fact-finding as uncalled for?
the report makes not one but two distinct charges. The first one concerns predator priests, their many victims, and their unspeakable acts. That charge is, as far as can be determined, dreadfully true. Appalling as is this first charge, it is in fact the second one that has had the greatest reverberations. “All” of these victims, the report declares, “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their...
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