By Kristen Ward and David Clohessy
February 26, 2014
One way to sometimes stop people from doing wrong is to punish them for doing wrong. History, psychology and common sense all suggest this approach often works.
But tragically, Catholic officials virtually never use this approach when shocking revelations of clergy sex abuse and cover-up surface.
It's an approach that St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic officials might consider as they try to save themselves and their archdiocese from a rapidly expanding scandal that has put dozens of accused clerics in the news over the last few months and several other church staff who reportedly kept quiet about or hid their alleged sexual misbehavior.
When we say "Catholic officials," we are largely referring to Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, who is now in charge of the Twin Cities archdiocese. Archbishop John Nienstedt has stepped aside while an allegation of child sexual abuse against him is investigated.
When it comes to wrongdoers who merit punishment, the St. Paul-Minneapolis church hierarchy has lots of choices.
There's Fr. Kevin McDonough. Instead of calling police about suspicions of child sex crimes, Fr. McDonough asked a priest who had lots of pornography to turn over his computer to a church staffer. Fr. McDonough should be punished for simply not calling the police.
There's Fr. Jonathan Shelley. After being asked to turn over his computer, Fr. Shelley reportedly destroyed it. He should be punished for insubordination.
There's Fr. Peter Laird, until recently Niensedt's vicar general. Fr. Laird told a concerned colleague to put computer discs with Fr. Shelley's pornography back in the chancery basement. Fr. Laird should be punished for not heeding his colleague's warnings that some of the images were child pornography and for not calling police.
Police asked church officials for a report on Fr. Shelley's porn that the archdiocese's investigator compiled but were rebuffed. Those church officials should be punished for refusing to help law enforcement.