So, you’re undertaking an investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? Good for you. See what you can dig up. Our impression is that most of it is already out there, but who knows? Pro tip: we have it on good authority that going all the way back to Francis Cardinal Spellman might yield some much needed understanding of how “open secrets” came to be a Thing that shielded abusers and marginalized their victims for decades, since the 1930’s. If you go there you might even outdo the Pennsylvania AG, in the depth and breadth and scope departments.
New York should always outdo Pennsylvania, we figure.
Plus, if you don’t outdo Pennsylvania, there’s a Johnny come lately, hopping the bandwagon feel to the whole thing. We wouldn’t want that. We wouldn’t want this much heralded investigation to seem, well, unserious.
But then we have another suggestion, of course.
We appreciate that the New York AG has jurisdiction to supervise in some respects charities and churches, although of course in the latter case there would appear to be 1st amendment concerns. Or even without the 1st amendment. Do you know the story of Thomas Becket? That kind of thing.
We will not tarry or digress, however. Indeed, let us be blunt, and get right to the point. It’s our blog-letter, after all.
If sexual abuse tied to the abuse of power is an outrage worth investigating – and it is – then why be so selective? There are other institutions, institutions that conveniently raise no 1st amendment concerns, that deserve a look. Institutions like, say, police departments.
Oh, the stories we – and others – could tell.
Yet we have in mind a specific story. Namely, the Mount Morris Police Department, circa 2004-2006. Much more recent than most of the outrage you are likely to uncover in your Catholic Church investigation. So there’s that.
A little background. We endeavor to avoid being cryptic.
Things were so bad that the department went through three chiefs in about 18 months. The consensus in the generally reliable rumor mill was that police officers in the department had a long standing practice of receiving sexual favors (often from underage girls) in exchange for not charging them with crimes. And whether those girls were actually guilty of any crimes was irrelevant: police could make up charges, and police were always believed. Including of course then Mount Morris Police Officer William Rosica. Who appears to have learned a lot in his time there.
All “official” proceedings related to these long standing and ongoing issues with the Mount Morris Police Department took place in “executive session” by the Village Board, however. Meaning everything that was really going on in the department was kept – yes – secret. A few officers quietly moved to other departments. Sound familiar?
Nevertheless, after all that a very courageous member of the Village Board sought to disband the department. That had to be approved by a referendum. Guess how that turned out, given that the real problems with the department were never disclosed, among other things?
Does our outraged attorney general’s office have anything to say about all this? And while we’re at it, how is it that so many elected public officials in New York become fodder for federal prosecutors, yet no one seems to ask: whither the Attorney General, the State’s “highest” law enforcement official? Does the New York Attorney General have any responsibility to address malfeasance and criminal conduct by state and local officials or is this always the feds’ problem?
The AG gets all exercised over corruption only when there’s a politically agreeable angle, it seems. Investigating the Catholic Church is a politically safe play right now, but investigating corruption in police departments is never a safe play. They have powerful unions. And lobbies. And clout. And that’s putting it mildly.
The bottom line: sexual abuse of the powerless by the powerful is the outrage du jour? Fine, let’s be even handed about it. Let us, because we are responsible public officials with courage and integrity, investigate and if warranted by the evidence expose these monsters who have ruined lives by their perfidious acts, be they in the Catholic Church or in the Mount Morris Police Department. And let the chips fall where they may. Fiat justitia ruat coelum.
But let us – that is, us here at LoS – also be candid. We have been around a while. We do not believe that the New York Attorney General’s office has any integrity, or courage, or any genuine sense of responsibility, or any devotion to duty. In fact we doubt that its current “investigation” of the Catholic Church is anything more than a cynical and highly political ploy to reap some undeserved benefit from the suffering of others because it happens at the moment to be generating some headlines that are easy to capitalize on: the political calculus is entirely different, of course, if the target is a police department.
No, we don’t believe that the New York Attorney General’s office cares about sexual abuse victims in the slightest, unless they can be the occasion for a plaudit fix. We write this open letter now only because we harbor the exceedingly faint hope that in the wake of the astounding departure of the office’s most recent occupant there is, or at least could be – dare we even think it – a modicum of a sense of shame among those remaining. People who are, after all, lawyers.
Put another way: we are, as usual, disgusted.
Yet for that reason alone – because being regularly disgusted is decidedly unpleasant – we would be happy to be proven wrong. Do not doubt us on that point.
So we leave the matter with you, expecting nothing to come of our open letter, our plaintive pleas, our earnest importunings, other than the recklessly shallow and snobbish indifference to which we have grown so accustomed. Yet also prepared to be pleasantly surprised, even to render our assistance.
You see, unlike the New York Attorney General’s office, we are willing to move past cynicism. At least a little.