Monday, July 16, 2007

Sexual Abuse in LA: Judi, we don't hold you personally responsible, so please come back to the blog

How wrong was I to think that men in show business had a lock on parlaying their power into personal sexual gains? The Catholic Diocese of L.A. has agreed to a $660 settlement to pay victims of sex offenders, men who, for years, have been harbored and shielded by the church. I'm shocked, not only by the extent of the abuse, but that priests may be more promiscuous than movie producers.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney and other cardinals should be turning cardinal red for their roles as enablers, refusing to confront an issue that had already been made public. Since 1950 the U.S. Catholic church has paid upwards of $2 billion to victims of sexual abuse. This should have been a heads up.

Mahoney issued an apology yesterday to the victims (though he was mum at mass), which many see as “too little, too late”. This heinous situation was not, of course, limited to LA. That there’s a national organization – Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests – speaks to the scope of the problem. And, once again, it’s the cover-up aspect that’s as upsetting as the acts themselves. Didn’t anyone recognize it was the youngsters in the parish, not the predators, who needed and deserved protection?

Some feel this raises the issue of whether celibacy is a contributing factor and should be abolished. Child abusers are attracted to churches and schools, environments where innocent children are in plentiful supply. Would an adult partner preclude their fulfilling the desire to abuse youngsters? The Hollywood producers known for their philandering all had wives.

There were instances of sexual abuse and harrasment when I was actively involved in show business. There was no formula or precedent defining it, so we laughed it off. A friend joked that we thought of it as a job perk. While I never imagined I’d be defending Hollywood players, an adult making an illicit offer to another adult seems almost honorable when contrasted to abusing a child, who has no protective mechanisms and whose psyche is permanently damaged. Moreover, aside from Oprah, nobody looks to movie or TV people as moral compasses, making the church’s participation yet more disturbing and serious.

Settlements and apologies are a band-aid, only a partial response to this widespread and inexcusable practice. Churches, guilty of closing their eyes and harboring criminals, can’t be trusted to eliminate child abuse. All too often an accused clergyman is sent into counseling, the effects of which are unverifiable, and then reassigned to another parish, where he has access to other young children

My proposal is that every institution where youngsters might be at risk be forced to hire independent advocates to serve as a moral protective force to insure the safety of the children.

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