Sunday, February 14, 2016

SPOTLIGHT: FLASHBACKS TO OUR OWN SCANDALS

If there is any one thing that angers me more than the Roman Catholic Churches cover-up of the sexual and physical abuse that occurred for decades in our province, it is the fact that plenty of "good" people kept it quiet, allowing the abusers to be moved from parish to parish victimizing more of us.  

From embarrassed victims to government officials to judges, the cone of silence virtually guaranteed the perpetration of nightmarish experiences for hundreds of boys over the decades.

Tonight, I watched "Spotlight", a drama which reenacts the Boston Globe’s exposé of clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston. It felt familiar - it could easily have been about the exposure of clergy sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in this province - disadvantaged and marginalized victims, written off by the media and the courts. The heavy hand of the institution of the powerful church shielding itself through a conspiracy to pervert justice. 

Boston, like St. John's and many Catholic outports, was bound by an eleventh commandment ,  “Thou Shalt Not Embarrass the Roman Catholic Church." 

This rule applied to clergy, government officials, reporters and the justice system. Investigating complaints of abuse was a career ender, as Royal Newfoundland Constabulary members learned in 1975 when they began an investigation into complaints at Mount Cashel - higher powers could shut you down.

The Boston Globe’s exposé led to criminal charges against hundreds of pedophile priests and the resignation of the powerful Cardinal Bernard Law who had protected them. Ironically, Law - was transferred to Rome where he embarked on comfortable second career at the Vatican. His reward for enabling and covering up the abuse against children in the Boston Archdiocese.

The parallels between Boston and Newfoundland are uncanny. It is disturbing to me that the events in the movie begin in 2002, ten full years after the final reports of clerical abuse in this province were published.

The conspiracy of silence ended in Newfoundland when a caller to a talk show in 1989 alleged that the government was engaged in the cover-up of dozens of cases of physical and sexual abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage.  A Justice of the Supreme Court discussed the allegations with the province's deputy-attorney general leading to the re-opening of cold police investigations. Shortly after, the Sunday Express began publishing exposes on the abuse faced by residents at the orphanage.

The dam broke. 

Government ordered the Hughes Inquiry to investigate the obstruction of justice that allowed this 40-year travesty to continue.  The Roman Catholic Church was forced to establish its own commission. The Winter Commission concluded with The report of the Archdiocesan Commission of Enquiry into the Sexual Abuse of Children by Members of the Clergy which resulted in the resignation of Arch-Bishop Penny. Unfortunately, he was never charged for his role in allowing the abuse to continue.

By 1992, both commissions had exposed the sins and crimes of the Christian Brothers and dozens of Roman Catholic Priests.  Had good men not started listening and doing something, this sad chapter may never have been exposed. 

Spotlight reminded me of All The President's Men. A story of good journalism. A team of investigative reporters that were not prepared to look away, who looked beyond the while collars and saw the monsters for whom they were.

They revealed that Law and other bishops before him had covered up crimes against children, then moved the pedophile priests to new parishes and, as it turned out, new victims. 

The truth came from a good investigative journalism, research, interviews, knocking on doors, sifting through archives trying to confirm what they knew was true.

The church and it's many collaborators had covered up the paper trails, hidden documents and had sealed cases. They prevented criminal trials with slush money and private settlements that were locked with non-disclosure statements.

Watching the movie reminded me of how disgusted I was, and remain, with those that protected pedophiles from prosecution and those who knowingly moved these monsters from one parish to another without an ounce of compassion for the child victims. 

These sick, sad people perverted justice. Instead of being sickened by the misuse of power and the hypocrisy of an institution committed to social justice, they became enablers. 

Their collective silence not only prevented/delayed these sick criminals from facing justice, their cowardice resulted in hundreds of new victims. They are just as guilty as the perverts who raped and molested.

Many of them, including church officials,  may have escaped justice on Earth but I truly believe that there is a special place in hell for each and every one of them.

One day soon, they will lay on their death beds waiting for release from their mortal coil knowing that their service to the dark elements of the church only ensured their eternal damnation.









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