Suggestion to Jack Dunn: Put up or shut up

Suggestion to Jack Dunn: Put up or shut up

By David Clohessy

I have some advice – and a request – for Jack Dunn, the Boston College PR guy who claims he’s unfairly portrayed in Spotlight. Show us the records.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/2015/11/24/jack-dunn-disagrees-with-how-was-portrayed-spotlight/VFireZZRSwAskGBodmw4kJ/story.html

I’m not unsympathetic to him. Like Dunn, I have kids. Like Dunn, I’d like them to know good things I’ve done. And like Dunn, I’m not keen on being misrepresented and misunderstood. So if a film portrayed me in a negative light, I’d certainly be upset.

But surely Dunn knows that Catholic church officials estimate more than 100,000 boys and girls in the US have been sexually violated by priests. Surely he knows that bishops have concealed and are concealing child sex crimes committed by hundreds or thousands of predatory priests, nuns, seminarians, brothers, teachers and fellow bishops.

So surely Dunn understands that many of us are skeptical of his claims that he urged school officials to “create a hotline so alums can call in and report anything they know; hire an independent child advocate to review each case; report any criminality to the police; and provide counseling and compensation for the victims.”

So why not show us the emails and memos about all of this? But first, let’s look at each of these four notions more closely.

--A hotline for abuse victims? Is that a good thing? It certainly is good PR. But maybe it’s yet another way for church officials to try to handle child sex crimes quietly and internally? (Why not urge victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call law enforcement with information or suspicions about abuse?)

--An internal review of each abuse case? Is that a good thing? It certainly is good PR. But maybe it’s yet another way for church officials to try to handle child sex crimes quietly and internally? (Why not urge victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call law enforcement with information or suspicions about abuse?)

--Report criminality to the police? Obviously, that’s a good thing. But it certainly is good PR too, especially because in a private institution and a secretive church hierarchy, there’s no way to ever really know if this suggestion was or is followed. (Again, why not just give school records about abuse reports to the experienced and unbiased professionals in law enforcement?)

--Counseling for victims? That’s gotta be a good thing, right? Well, it too is good PR. But maybe it’s yet another way for church officials to try to handle child sex crimes quietly and internally, by making victims dependent on them and coming to them for “help” and worry that this help will end if they speak up or take legal action? (Why not set up independent counseling programs, in which victims aren’t forced to report their betrayal to the very institution that betrayed them?)

When Dunn says he made these recommendations, I believe him. But I also believe that if we were able to see WHY he made them, and why some of them were implemented, I think we’d learn that they happened for largely self-serving reasons, to preserve and improve the image of the institution.

I’m sure Jack Dunn is a nice man. He may be right when he says “the dialogue assigned to me is completely fabricated.” I suspect he is not right when he says that dialogue “represents the opposite of what I did on behalf of victims.” But Dunn can prove me wrong, simply by sharing the emails and memos to and from BC High officials about the four steps he says he recommended to his supervisors. (I’m particularly interested in the replies to his suggestions from the Jesuits at the school and in the province.)

If Dunn thinks these ideas are worthy ones, not just for the sake of public relations, he could be doing a public service by sharing them publicly.

And one final thought: It’s especially disingenuous when Catholic officials are forced to address abuse and cover up, take actions that are self-serving, and then try to “spin” those steps as intending to help victims.

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