A Comparison to Ponder

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2020 | Catholic Church

Compare these recent accounts of cover ups in two organizations.

In one, a top leader who abused vulnerable adults was tried last week in a courtroom and found guilty.

In another, a top leader who abused kids and adults was further exposed this week, not in court but in an internal organization report.

In the first group, the top leader walks free. In the second group, the top leader is now in prison.

Five women in the first group have pled guilty to felony charges of enabling the abuse.

Virtually no one in the second group has even been charged, much less convicted, of enabling the abuse.

The first group is very small and largely just in the US.

The second group is enormous and worldwide.

The first organization largely attracted wealthy and well-educated women who were abused as adults.

The second organization attracts rich and poor, the well-educated and the illiterate and millions and millions of families with children.

We could go on and on. Some of you have figured out that the first group is the Albany-based Nxivm. It’s leader is Keith Rainere.


The second group is the Catholic church. For years, one of its most prominent and influential leaders was Father, then Bishop, then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Nxivm has been called a cult. To be clear, we’re NOT calling the Catholic church a cult.

But a large part of what makes some groups less healthy than others is when the person or persons at the top do wrong and aren’t punished severely (or sometimes aren’t punished at all).

And to recap: One Nxivm official is locked up. Five more may be.

But McCarrick is not behind bars. None of the dozens of clerics who – by actions or inaction – helped him are going to jail. None have been charged by criminal authorities.

And none have been – or likely will ever be – defrocked, demoted, disciplined or even publicly chastised for turning a blind eye to rumors and reports of McCarrick’s decades of deceit and depravity.

In fact, perhaps the most obvious wrongdoer in the sad McCarrick saga, Pope John Paul II (who promoted McCarrick) has since been made a saint.

Pope John Paul II’s now-documented complicity has prompted a prominent Catholic columnist to recommend changing the names of schools named after the pontiff.


“Anyone who insists on calling him ‘John Paul the Great is a fool, his cult should be abandoned, and schools (especially schools) that bear his name should be renamed. The greatest self-inflicted wound in hundreds of years was the clergy sex abuse crisis and this report confirms the degree to which John Paul’s failure to confront that crisis was a failure of leadership of the highest and most consequential order.” writes Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter.

But to reiterate: none of the dozens of Catholic clerics faces even the slightest slap on the risk.

That’s something to ponder.