Standing accused

Protesters Speak Out About Priest Abuse In Wisconsin

Here – read this excerpt from an article in today’s Guardian newspaper and tell me what your immediate reaction is:

‘There is something deeply disturbing about the all-too-predictable manner with which one malicious accusation can destroy a priest’s reputation, career and ultimately his way of life…We live in a world where even informal hints of wrongdoing can spin out of control and destroy careers. The most flimsy of accusations are sufficient to incite a bishop to suspend a priest while the case is investigated. But even if the case is dismissed as having no foundation in reality, the accused priest still has to contend with the ‘no smoke without fire’ brigade. Moving to another parish is one option for the exonerated priest. Unfortunately some leave the priesthood altogether. False accusations against individual priests have a frightening impact on the profession as a whole. In a sense the status and reputation of the whole profession is on trial when one of their members stands accused. Time and again priests tell me of their concern about being accused of inappropriate behaviour or of sexual misconduct’.

I’m going to guess you felt indignant as you read this – why focus on the wrong done to the clergy rather than to their victims? You might even have been a bit surprised, that someone should have written in defence of the Catholic clergy. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of articles condemning the impact of clerical sexual abuse; virtually none on the impact false accusation may have on individual priests and Catholic clergy in general.

And the truth is, this article isn’t considering falsely accused priests either. It’s actually dealing with accusations against the teaching profession – I’ve simply substituted ‘priest’ for ‘teacher’, ‘bishop’ for ‘head-teacher’ and ‘parish’ for ‘school’.

So why don’t we see articles drawing attention to the equally damaging effect of false accusation on priests? Because an atmosphere verging on witch-hunt has been created. The great majority of journalists have run with it, listing the clerical sins of abuse and cover-up, joining in the cries of condemnation. None of them that I have read has had the courage to admit the possibility of false accusation, let alone explore its effect. Shame on those priests who’ve abused innocent children. Shame on those journalists who’ve been afraid to even whisper the words ‘False accusation’.

5 Responses to Standing accused

  1. Anonymous April 19, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    judging by the number of comments you get – a big fat zero everywhere – maybe it's time you thought of shutting up shop, jude – you've got nothing to say of any interest to anyone.

  2. Dickens April 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Anonymous/sdlp voter obviosuly reads JC's articles but is incorrect in stating as fact “a big fat zero everywhere”-although there are times when commments are not necessary as JC is mostly spot on in his analysis (in my humble opinion).
    Another issue on which I have commented before is that when posting a comment it is necessary to re-sign onto account in order to post comment which may deter some readers.
    Keep up the great work JC.

  3. Anonymous April 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    actually never read his stuff at all – no need to – came upon it entirely by accident – not an sdlp voter myself but i'll bet the mortgage that dickens is none other than jude collins!

  4. Jude Collins April 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I'll be happy to accept your mortgage, Anonymous (what an odd name…). Email me and I'll open a bank account especially for it…

  5. Anonymous April 19, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    I read this blog daily, just never feel the need to add anything. I think Jude Collins does a great job without my tuppence worth. P.S. obviously Anonymous find it interesting/annoying enough ha ha!!