Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I sent this letter into our local paper, The Malone Telegram.  It was published today.
To the editor:
This letter is in response to Monday's editorial by Bill Press, “Why are footfall coaches just like Catholic bishops?” (11/14/11).  I’ve read a number of similar editorials in the last week--in print and online, in the secular and the religious press --drawing parallels between the recent accusations of child sexual abuse at Penn State and those which have come to light in the Catholic Church over the course of the last decade. 
What strikes me most is how “surprised” the authors appear to be about the similarities: abuse of power; leaders willing to look the other way in order to preserve the reputation of a revered institution; more concern about the damaging potential of scandal than preserving the innocence of children.  Such things are surely disturbing, wherever they’re found. 
I guess it’s the apparent “surprise” that troubles me most.  We’ve pretty much abandoned the notion that the only threat to our little ones is a stranger with candy…but have we substituted another boogeyman who’s lurking “out there,” somewhere else? 
The patterns of abuse and cover-up which have been pointed out in recent days are not limited to this church or that institution of higher learning--and the longer we think, speak, and write as if they were, the longer we leave our kids at great risk.  The tragedy of the sexual exploitation of children is an issue that pervades the whole of society.  Pointing an accusing finger toward “them” in no way can absolve “us” of our responsibility. 
Do we stand idly, silently by as culture and commerce hyper-sexualize just about everything--including the very young?  What are we doing to prevent abuse where it happens so frequently: within context of the family?  Do we think of this as a problem for somebody else to deal with?  And if so, aren’t we, too, just looking the other way in an effort to preserve our own false sense of security? 
Sadly, we can expect to continue to read headlines and op-eds about what’s wrong with the clergy and coaches and other people to whom we’ve entrusted the care of our youth.  But until our society as a whole does a little soul-searching, examining our collective conscience and confessing our shared sins of omission, we can also expect to be “surprised” that children suffer at the hands of adults because of this horrendous crime. 
Rev. Joseph W. Giroux
Malone Catholic Parishes