I Hate Franciscan!

I Hate Franciscan! April 26, 2018


Or at least, that’s what many people heard when they read an article last week in the National Catholic Reporter – whom many faithful consider the “wrong NCR” – about mismanagement of Title IX sexual misconduct complaints at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“You can’t trust that left-leaning, Soros-funded nonsense!” people cried.  “It’s a pack of lies.”

Which suddenly reminded me of another time I’d heard that line of reasoning.

Almost twenty years ago.

In Boston.

Spotlight on Boston

As I’ve written elsewhere, I was living and teaching theology to adolescents in the Boston diocese when the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight team broke the news of the priest scandals.  I know priests who were removed.  I worked for two of them.

When the story first broke, I denied it. As did most of the people I knew: fellow teachers, Catholics, parents, priests.  Good people.  Really good people.

I denied that anything so disgusting was happening.  Could happen.  I denied it for months, even after allegation after allegation came out.

I gave excuses: they were out for the money.  They were disgruntled ex-Catholics.  They were…well, they just couldn’t be right!

I denied it for months. It helped that I didn’t know a single victim personally.  Or perhaps I did, but I certainly wasn’t someone to confide in then.  Because all I could think of was:

Not my church. Not my priests. Not us. Not here.

In that time, I hated the Globe. I distrusted them – and I had cause. After all, the paper was notoriously left-leaning.  It was notoriously “gotcha” journalism, especially aimed at the Catholic Church.  And, in fact it’s fair to say that on the part of the Boston Globe, and that close to Salem, it was a witch hunt, and they did hate the Church, and they were out to get us

…AND they were also right.

Screaming Into the Void

What’s troubling about the lack of public response from Steubenville – and Christendom – and I daresay Ave Maria and TAC and every other Catholic college – is the deafening silence.


In Boston, as we slowly began to believe – too slowly began to believe – that our priests had a problem and it needed solving, one of the most scandalous parts of the whole episode was how the Church had continued, enabled a society of silence and secrecy.  Priests were reported, victims were pressured to take thirty pieces of proverbial silver, the priest maybe got a talking to and then was moved to another church.  Where he preyed on young men.  Again.

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

When I taught sacraments, including Holy Orders to understandably angry sophomores, this was one of the first things they brought up.  “How could they?  How could they keep putting us in danger?  How could they know this was happening and still keep silent?  How could they know someone was a criminal and put him in charge of our confessions?  How could they treat this like a mere venial sin, when it needed to be treated like the crime that it was?  How could they?”

Two of the great things that Pope Benedict XVI, the Cardinal Ratzinger, did when he took on the cases was:

  1. To apologize
  2. To remove the predators

Cardinal Sean O’Malley continued this model as he came in to help clean house:

Be transparent.  Own up to mistakes.  Treat crime like crime.  Work to do better.


Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Miles To Go Before We Sleep

Unfortunately, at the time of this publication, Steubenville has yet to directly address the charges of mismanagement.

I grant that they do not deny sexual assault as a problem on campus, for which I commend them.  But it’s also troubling, for example, that the university keeps on staff and continues to actively promote, Dr. Anne Hendershott, a professor active in FUS Title IX implementation, who wants to dismantle Title IX.  Just a little conflict of interests.

In the meantime, though, while the university considers whether they will acknowledge the complaints, I urge readers to remember the real story here…

Which is not who broke the news;

Which is not whether you’re right or left;

Which is not whether you like the journalists who printed this or that article…

But whether you believe the very real victims.  Even if, even when, their story is not your own.

I beg you not to silence them again, merely because only the “wrong paper” took on the story.

And I beg you, if you’re the “right paper” to get the story right.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

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