I thought I would write about the takeaways that apply to any group that is facing a sex scandal or a potential one.

  • Do not be mislead by localizations (specific details that make the scandal appear unique).
  • Do not believe any expert that offers you a cure.
  • Don’t think statistics matter (I’ll explain this in depth).
  • Do not let institutional factors (the institution’s desire to protect its reputation or the value of the perpetrator to the institution) create short term mistakes.

Localizations are never relevant.

Some on the Catholic Church believed the problem was a result of specifics that were unique to the American Church.

It is no surprise that this caused them to make mistakes in responding to the problems.

Something similar happened to the Boy Scouts. Much of the litigation goes “ The Perp was obviously gay, therefore the Perp was obviously dangerous…”

Focusing on excluding gays did nothing to avoid abuse and completely sidetracked the institutional response.

Don’t believe experts

The Catholic Church believed experts that told them that the abusing Priests could be cured and rehabilitated. Often an institution will be tempted to believe that forgiveness and repentance will solve the problem, at least in an individual instance.

The truth is that no offender who is unwilling to fully disclose to the civil authorities and thereafter observe a strict quarantine that avoids past and potential victims is an offender who will do anything other than manipulate the system to offend again.

Statistics are irrelevant

The Catholic Church realized that there is a statistical number of perpetrators per thousand and that the number of priests offending was less.

No one cared. For contrast, in the normal world probably half of all marriages have infidelity (especially if you include what happens during a divorce).

If only 25% of the quorum of the 12 were committing adultery, no one would care that they were doing 50% better than the statistical average. We expect much more.

Especially when there are ways to reduce offenses.

Institutional factors can destroy an institution.

Attempting to cover things up to protect the reputation of an institution only hurts the institution’s reputation in the long run.

From a guideline

A good example is a matter where an ecclesiastical leader (not Catholic) threatened canon law sanctions if someone cooperated with the police.

Mandatory reporter. Obstruction of Justice. Accessory after the Fact. On the institutional letterhead and using his/her name.

The other factor is what happens when the perpetrator is protected in response to their value to the institution. Long service. Etc.

Kind of like what used to happen in federal court. Threaten one grandmother with a knife for money—get twenty years.

Belong to the country club and defraud a hundred grandmothers—get twenty months probation—because the perpetrator was “one of us.”

What that does is establish that the institution is “one with perpetrators.” Nothing harms an institution more.

For contrast think of what would happen if a bishop were killing and eating homeless people.


Those takeaways are important every time there is a scandal.