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by Peterr

Better Late Than Never for Archbishop Gomez on Handling Cardinal Mahony

7:22 am in accountability, child abuse, Religion, Uncategorized by Peterr

Roman Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez shook the Catholic world yesterday by imposing unheard-of sanctions against his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony for Mahony’s actions to shield predatory priests from accountability during his years as the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In most of the coverage, this was rightly hailed as a strong action to advance the cause of justice, and to provided at least a measure of accountability even though criminal liability is probably not possible because the statute of limitations has probably expired.  The coverage misses one very negative aspect of Gomez’ actions, however. Before we get to that, let me provide a little background.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (then headed by Mahony) settled a group of over 500 civil suits over clerical child abuse, and since then has been fighting the release of their files related those cases. When they lost the battle to keep the files themselves secret, they tried to argue that the names of not just victims but church officials should be redacted. Some records were released last week, and last Monday, they lost their redaction argument, and yesterday, rather than appeal the ruling, they released the rest of the files.

What emerged was not pretty. Not pretty at all:

Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.

The archdiocese’s failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

Ugly. The memos show Mahony and his staff shuttling some priests out of the country, and cherrypicking therapists for others, all in an effort to avoid accountability.

Mahony retired in 2011, and Archbishop José H. Gomez took over the archdiocese on March 1, 2011. Yesterday, in his letter accompanying the release of the unredacted files, Gomez described reading through them:

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.

Then came the bombshell:

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by Peterr

Penn State President Graham Spanier in His Own Words

1:00 am in accountability, Education by Peterr

Since last November, when the Jerry Sandusky saga propelled Penn State into the headlines, I’ve wondered about Penn State’s former president, Graham Spanier. After reading the Freeh Report in its nauseating detail, I did more than wonder — I started digging for Spanier’s own words on what it means to be a university president.

Let’s go back eleven months, when NCAA Division I presidents concluded a summit that called for “bold, sweeping changes” in intercollegiate athletics. In the NCAA’s own press release on the summit, Spanier had this to say about the need to reform the NCAA rulebook:

Some of these things our coaches and our boosters might not like, but we need to do what I think you are going to see happen in the next year. . . . [Violators] should be afraid now, if they are going to go out and break any rules – because people have had enough of that. . . . The folks that are trying to disrupt the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in this country are going to have to be held more accountable than has been the case in the past.

Somehow, I think what we’ve seen unfold at Penn State in this past year is NOT what Spanier had in mind. Holding people more accountable was clearly not part of the administrative ethos when talking about coaches and boosters at Penn State, as the Freeh Report made abundantly clear.

A few months before that summit of NCAA Division I presidents, Spanier was at the heart of the 2011 investigation of the Fiesta Bowl for financial irregularities and other major problems. At the time, Spanier was the chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, and chaired the BCS investigative task force that looked into the matter. From the task force’s report, page 1:

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by Peterr

The Freeh Report: The Cost of an Accountability-Free Climate Comes Home to Roost

9:53 am in accountability by Peterr

Louis Freeh documents the atrocities of Penn State’s culture of non-accountability [pdf, pp. 14-15]:

The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. . . .

Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University — President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley, and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno — failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. . . .

These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events . . .

By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President. The Board also failed in its duties to oversee the President and senior University officials in 1998 and 2001 by not inquiring about important University matters and by not creating an environment where senior University officials felt accountable.

Sounds a lot like what I wrote last November has been borne out by Freeh’s investigators:

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by Peterr

Petraeus to Afghans: Do as We Say, Not as We Do

7:04 am in Afghanistan, Countries in Conflict, Iraq, Military by Peterr

In an interview posted yesterday by Germany’s Der Spiegel ISAF Commander David Petraeus was asked about corruption:

SPIEGEL: The build-up of an Afghan security apparatus is a key element of the whole effort. How concerned are you about corruption in the ranks of police and the army?

Petraeus: Corruption has to be put into context. We have to recognize that the Afghan government has taken numerous steps against corruption. The border police chief for West Afghanistan is in jail, a number of provincial police chiefs have been fired or put into custody. Numerous commanders as well as provincial governors have been replaced. In the broader Afghan administration hundreds of judicial workers, including judges, have lost their jobs due to problems with their integrity. Having said that, President Karzai is the first to announce publicly that more needs to be done because corruption undermines the legitimacy of governance on all levels.

SPIEGEL: It might sound disrespectful, but one could also say that if President Karzai wanted to fight corruption he could start doing so within his own family …

Petraeus: There are plenty of locations in which corruption can be countered, there are plenty where it has been countered and there are plenty where it needs to be countered.

SPIEGEL: What steps are taken to counter corruption in a practical manner?

Petraeus: I have just issued a "counterinsurgency contracting guidance". You know the saying that in counterinsurgency missions "money is ammunition," but we have to be careful into whose hands we put that ammunition, that money. The new guidelines are issued to make sure that we supply people who support our policies and not those who oppose them. We also created a new agency to oversee and implement greater transparency within all the organizations that are involved in contracting issues. But again: I don’t think that anyone is under any illusion that we’re going to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland in five years or less. President Obama has said that our aspirations should be realistic. We are not going to turn one of the poorest countries in the world, that was plunged into 30 years of war, into an advanced, industrialized, Western-style democracy. What we want to achieve is Afghanistan’s capacity to secure and govern itself.

Spencer Ackerman described the counterinsurgency contracting guidance like this last week, noting a significant omission:

But “COIN Contracting” goes beyond knowing whose business to patronize. Get the community involved, Petraeus’s guidelines say, using “local shuras and Afghan government and private sector leaders” to sign off on projects and expose troops to a wide array of Afghan businesses. Look for relatively small-scale projects that Afghan companies can take on and sustain, like “agriculture, food processing, beverages, and construction.” Buy local goods and labor whenever possible. If you can’t use an Afghan business for a project, encourage the people you hire to use Afghan workers. And if you find out that a project you’re funding benefits “criminal networks” ­ insurgents, powerbrokers, random ne’er-do-wells ­ stop what you’re doing.

One conspicuous absence from Petraeus’s guidelines: there’s nothing in here about private security contractors. Granted, many of them work for the State Department, guarding diplomats, or for the CIA, doing… other things. But some also work for NATO troops, directly or indirectly, to the point that Karzai has made an issue of seeking their wholesale ouster from the country. Petraeus just doesn’t touch the issue.

The latter paragraph kind of makes a mockery of the former, don’t you think?

From the counterinsurgency contracting guidance itself:

Where our money goes is as important as the service provided or the product delivered. Establish systems and standard databases for vetting vendors and contractors to ensure that contracting does not empower the wrong people or allow the diversion of funds. . . . Hold prime contractors responsible for the behavior and performance of their sub-contractors.

Whether or not our private security contractors are reporting to State, CIA, DOD, or anyone else, they’re *our* contractors — and holding prime contractors accountable seems to be in short supply. (As Marcy notes, this is an ongoing problem, not anything new.)

The question this leads me to is quite simple: is "do as we say, not as we do" ever going to work as a military strategy in a COIN operation?

If the answer is "no," then the followup question is daunting: how much more must be spent and how many more people must die as we pursue a doomed strategy?

[Photo: DoctorWho via Flickr]