Monday, May 20, 2002

Cover-Up
It seems that I have no argument with Cardinal Law. I'm more than happy to defend him. More importantly, I'm beginning to feel that he needs no defending. I have read a great deal on the crisis in Boston. I don't see any signs of the alleged cover-up. The victim knew. The perpetrator knew. The parents knew. The Bishop knew. Ergo no cover-up.

'But it's a crime' you might argue and I would agree. It is a crime very much like rape. We owe the victims of this crime the same or even greater protection than we owe adult women who are victimized by rapists. We also owe them the same liberty and the same dignity.

As a woman, I have the right to report and I have an equal right not to report. It is my right to decide. My failure to report a rape may endanger other women who might be subsequently molested. My failure to report, however, is an option and not in itself a crime. To my knowledge, no victim of abuse has been charged with criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting or any of the other myriad criminal charges that might be applied.

Legally, adult victims of sexual crimes have the right not to report such crimes. We have the right to address rape in the manner most conducive to our self-healing. We have the right to interpret our experience and a limited right to define our response. If or when this right is denied, an additional injustice is committed and an added injury is imposed on the victim.

Our society denies children equal protection. Admittedly, children are not in a position to make these judgements which is why they have parents. If failure to report is a crime, the parents should be held criminally liable, not the Church.

I am sure that by now your blood is boiling. Stop for a minute though, and think about the assumptions and implications of laws that mandate the reporting of child abuse. All such laws require that the state be notified of abuse. To my knowledge, no law suggests that the appropriate authority to receive such notification is the parents of the child.

Yet it is the parents of the child that are responsible for that child's welfare. The state will never love 'my' child with the same particularity as a parent. I agree whole-heartedly with the concept of mandatory reporting. I disagree strongly with the designation of the appropriate authority.

The presumption of such laws is that the state has a greater interest in the child's welfare and a higher authority in determining the child's 'best interests'. I don't buy into that belief structure. Personally, I think that the family has a natural priority to which the state is subject.

The law should require that child abuse be reported to the parents and it should provide them with appropriate remedies in the pursuit of justice.

I recognize that there are cases where substantial and chronic abuse occurs within the home. Under these unique conditions, alternate reporting should be mandated. Once reported, however, the emphasis on corrective action should be family-centric.

The sanctity of the family is not a buzz word for me. It is a necessary structure in the fabric of Christendom. The role of the state is to protect the family and not to usurp it.

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