Three days after Archbishop Gomez was named the head of the largest, arguably most influential archdiocese in the largest state of the most powerful nation in the world he's been accused of trying to cover up a sex scandal. He has been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit that was just filed in court.
Coincidence? Yeah. . . I'm sure the timing is totally unrelated.
Obviously, if abuse happened outrage and feelings of betrayal are completely justified. But did Archbishop Gomez himself break the trust of his people? Are the claims that he covered-up something here justified? Again, no.
Making Responsible Accusations
Here once again we have a sweeping conspiracy theory: the Archbishop was involved in a cover-up. The problem here is the problem with most conspiracy theories: the details get in the way.
As I said, let's make sure the guilty are punished--and only the guilty. Let's make sure the right people are implicated--not simply the ones who will get the lawsuit the most press.
So here let's distinguish between two issues:
1) the actual criminal behavior, i.e., the abuse
2) the Archbishop's handling of the case
Clearly, criminal behavior is reprehensible. The victims deserve justice. But, as tragic as it is, it doesn't seem that the Archbishop himself acted irresponsibly. He deserves to be treated justly too.
Details, details, details. . .
In this case, all one has to do is read the article itself. Despite the cloud of suspicion it suggests the Archbishop is under, there are a few crucial points that must be observed. Reading the details I can guarantee you that in the end, whatever is determined about the priest in question, the Archbishop himself will be shown to have acted--once again!--completely responsibly. Look more carefully at the story.
1) As in the other cases mentioned above, this is not a diocesan priest but, once again, a member of a religious community. Recall what I explained in my earlier post: bishops run dioceses not religious orders. Members of religious communities are not simply under the jurisdiction of the bishop, they report to a superior (e.g., "the Superior General," "Mother Superior," etc.) and it is the superior who is responsible for the community's members. Certainly, the bishop has certain authority in his position--as we shall see, Archbishop Gomez did all he could in his capacity as the head of the diocese and properly responded when allegations were made.
2) While Archbishop Gomez was in San Antonio the man in question was under investigation but no charges had been filed against him. The accusations were being investigated by authorities, but so far the priest has not arrested or in any sense--by any standard of evidence--found guilty of a crime.
3) Even though no formal charges have been filed and there is no proof of his guilt the priest was removed from ministry once the charges were made known. Archbishop Gomez took the only action he could take against him as bishop of the diocese back in 2008: he saw to it that the priest in question was removed from ministry. He also reported the charges to the places where he had worked and informed his religious community. Again, all this on the basis of allegations whose veracity had not yet been confirmed by a investigation! Only now, 2 years later, are charges finally being presented before of a grand jury.
4) The police have nothing but nice things to say about Archbishop Gomez and his diocese. This is clear in the story:
[The County Sheriff Donald] Letsinger said he was contacted in 2008 by a family member of the teen with an initial claim of interference with child custody, but that it grew into an investigation of sexual abuse.Note that: "more than helpful". Not, "difficult". Not even simply "helpful". Does this sound like a cover-up?
He also said the archdiocese has been more than helpful in cooperating with his requests.
5) The charges originally had nothing to do with child abuse. This all started out in relation to a custody battle. The charges of child abuse against the priest only evolved out of that. Clearly, this raises suspicion about the veracity of the charges. That doesn't mean the charges are not true. It just means that the situation of the victim is very complicated. Under such circumstances one can understand why the investigation has taken so long.
6) The Archbishop has been named in a civil lawsuit and not in a case presented by the state. Again, the police don't seem to have any complaints about the way the Archdiocese have cooperated. So why is the Archbishop included in the suit just filed? Just filed right after his appointment to the largest see in the U.S.? Hmmmm . . .
So, once again, I'd say, despite the effectively provocative soundbite ("New Suit: Archbishop Accused of Mishandling Sex Abuse Case"), the actual details vindicate the Archbishop. There it is--those persistent little details that ruin the conspiracy theory.
But seriously, let's not slime a good man with accusations of a cover-up when, again, the evidence in no way supports such a charge. Remember: anybody can file a lawsuit. Let's see how well its charges against the Archbishop hold up. I wonder if we'll ever even hear. I doubt it.