I thought it was pretty bad when, last year, a Catholic Bishop testified under oath that he wasn’t sure if raping a child was a crime.
I just heard something worse.
In 2011, when Syracuse, New York Bishop Robert Cunningham (below) was testifying in a lawsuit against another priest in his diocese who was accused of sexually abusing a child, Cunningham was asked the simplest question in the world… and botched it in the worst possible way:
The man’s lawyer asked Cunningham whether, in the eyes of the church, a child molested by a priest has committed a sin.
“The boy is culpable,” Cunningham said Oct. 14, 2011, according to a transcript of the deposition.
Later in the deposition, Cunningham backed off the statement somewhat, saying he’d have to know the child’s role.
“Well, I mean, without knowing the circumstances completely, did the boy encourage, go along with (it) in any way?” Cunningham said.
The lawyer asked Cunningham if he could imagine any circumstance in which a 14- or 15-year-old boy could be held responsible in the eyes of the church when a priest asks him to engage in sex.
“I would not — obviously, what the priest did was wrong,” Cunningham said. “You’re asking me if the young man had any culpability, and I can’t judge that.”
To summarize, Cunningham was asked if a child bore any responsibility for getting raped by a priest… and he said yes. Even when he had the chance to correct himself, he said it depended on what the boy was doing.
If that isn’t the Catholic Church Sex Scandal in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.
(Let me help the Bishop out: The answer is no. Rape victims aren’t responsible for being rape victims.)
Since reporter John O’Brien posted this story at Syracuse.com yesterday morning, the Bishop has been in damage control mode, issuing a public statement saying what he should’ve said years ago:
“Victims of abuse are never at fault!” Cunningham wrote.
“I tried my best to answer questions and I must admit gave responses that I wish were different,” he wrote. “It saddens me to read the article and to realize that my words gave the wrong impression to victims, their families and the people of the diocese that I believe the victims of abuse are at fault. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Bottom line is I cannot go back and change my words but I can assure you that I did not believe the individual involved in the case was at fault,” Cunningham wrote.
Now he gets it. (Or at least that’s what he’s saying now that there are calls for his resignation.)
One other point: The whole line of questioning stemmed from a case in which Dennis Brennan accused Rev. Thomas Neary of sexually abusing him when he was 13. While the Diocese said the allegations against Neary were “credible,” what’s really appalling is that Neary told Brennan that the boy had to confess his sins.
Bishop Cunningham later said that was an improper request by Neary. Why? Because a priest “does not have the ability to absolve an accomplice in a sin.”
That’s how the Church viewed Brennan’s role in his own abuse.
Until yesterday, that is.
(Thanks to Clint for the link)