Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Bishop's Handbook For Clergy Sex Abuse Communication

ISSUED: April 2018

Effective Immediately

My Dear Brother Bishops,

We are about to endure a clergy sexual abuse crisis that will make the world mourn. Some among us will be named complicit, and even some, abusers.

I wish, for your sake, we could return to the innocence of two decades past when the grievous sins of many were summarily dumped on a few isolated priests and poorly-vetted laity, then casually forgotten.

Damn, I miss those days.

Unfortunately, my dearly-esteemed brothers, a real shit show is coming.

For the sake of our cherished unity and authority, please follow the guidelines outlined below for any future communication with media, civil authorities, and most importantly, the precious lay-sheep within your episcopacy.

1. It's really best to avoid communication altogether.

2. If at all possible, hole yourself up in your castle and only show up -- slightly late -- for Confirmations and building dedications.

3. Written correspondence, emails, and voicemails will be pretty easy to ignore. Please direct any undersecretaries or diocesan communications employees to do the same.

4. Regarding media: a) ignore all interview requests, b) do not answer questions. 

5. If unavoidably intercepted by a fast-paced reporter, emulate a facial expression of humility, then deny and defer repeatedly until the reporter tires of asking. Sample responses include, "That happened before my time." "Yes, somebody is guilty, but it isn't me." "I had no idea." "We are working with the Vatican on a solution." Intersperse many references to how sad the situation is and how you sympathize with victims. Whatever you do, don't invite more victims to come forward.

6. Only share information with parishioners after they've heard it from the media. Mention throughout the damage-control communication that your intent is transparency.

7. Should you receive negative coverage in the press, ignore it. Say nothing.

8. If you must respond, press releases should be contrite but not guilty, intentional but vague, welcoming but inaccessible, personal but heavily-filtered through at least two diocesan lawyers.

9. Remind your parish priests of their sacred vows of obedience to you, followed by a gag order to talk to no one -- including their own parishioners -- about any of this, unless they're following the exact talking points (provided in script below). 

10. A sample script.

LAITY: Did you know about this abuse?

BISHOPS: We had no idea.

LAITY: But some of you knew?

BISHOPS: Yes, but not anyone in particular that we could name.

LAITY: We want transparency and accountability for the hierarchy to prevent future abuse!

BISHOPS: Yes, transparency! Accountability!

LAITY: We think this should include lay oversight with complete financial transparency as well.

BISHOPS: We'll get back to you on that. Vatican-Canon-Law-Sacred-Tradition-Magisterium-Look-A-Squirrel!

LAITY: We want to talk about past clerical sexual abuse.

BISHOPS: Yes! Oh, the sins of the past! How our hearts break for the victims!

LAITY: We also want to talk about current clerical sexual abuse.

BISHOPS: There isn't any. We took care of all of that in 2004. Trust us.

LAITY: We trust you. But we also want to see the records.

BISHOPS: Oh, yes, the records. We will put together a nice list for you and give it to you in six months.

LAITY: Why not now?

BISHOPS: We need to... um... look it over first.

LAITY: We noticed there's a priest accused of sexual abuse who's not on your self-compiled list.

BISHOPS: Then it wasn't a credible allegation.

LAITY: But there's pretty clear evidence that this was a real problem. Could we see your records?

BISHOPS: No, it was all handled very well. Trust us. 

LAITY: We've asked some civil authorities to look into this. 

BISHOPS: Yes, yes, they're more than welcome to investigate anything they need to. ...But they can only contact us through our lawyers and information will only be provided if mandated by subpoena or search warrant.

LAITY: We have a few more questions we'd like to ask. 

BISHOPS: [silence]

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