‘Knee-Jerk’ Changes Won’t Prevent Abuse In Church, Expert Says

By WGBH News

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Dec. 1, 2011

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US Cardinal Bernard Law celebrates Mass in Rome in August 2010. (Andrew Medichini/AP)


The Boston Catholic Archdiocese continues to deal with fallout from the 2002 child abuse scandal. On Nov. 21, Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, resigned from his most recent position at the Vatican. The announcement re-ignited passions in the Boston area, especially from those who say Law and the Church avoided addressing the cause of the abuse, and didn't adequately punish wrongdoers.
 
Psychologist Carlos Cuevas, a faculty member at Northeastern University, added to that criticism on “The Callie Crossley Show” on Dec. 1. Cuevas said the few policies the Catholic Church has agreed to change haven't done anything.
 
“The motivation isn't surrounding ‘How do we help people not be victimized.’ The motivation is ‘How do we not get busted for this again.’ And I think that's part of what I take issue with,” he said.
 
Cuevas, who works with sexual offenders as well as survivors of abuse, thought that the church had a knee-jerk reaction to the scandal that won't effectively prevent future victimization.
 
Journalist Walter Robinson oversaw the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s coverage of the abuse scandal. He agreed that the culture of the Catholic Church had driven the decisions during Law’s tenure and kept action from being taken at the necessary time.
 
An examination of the church personnel files shows that Law and his subordinates knew "pretty much everything that was going on with these priests and that their overriding concern in all of their correspondence was keeping the reputation of the church from being harmed,” Robinson said. “And that’s what allowed this to go on for so long.”
 
Robinson saw parallels to the abuse scandal at Penn State, where culture also seemed to play a role in keeping matters under cover. 
 



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