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Timing, Phrasing, and Ethics
12/03/2002

Some of the activities of priests in the Boston Archdiocese are deplorable from anybody, let alone a priest. Others, such as affairs, are merely inappropriate in a way in which neither the law nor the media need be concerned — in fact, of which they sometimes seem supportive. But I have questions about new reports of priestly wrongdoing.

The tilt is apparent with the first sentence: "Priests sexually abused teenage girls, used cocaine and other drugs, and one had an affair with a female parishioner, according to allegations contained in personnel files maintained by the Boston Archdiocese." Why keep the information that it was only eight priests until the second paragraph? The initial sentence begs, grammatically and content-wise, for an article or adjective of some kind.

I also find this more than a little questionable:

Last week, the lawyers said they would begin releasing the personnel records of 65 priests, which they have access to via a court order. The priests are not targeted in the abuse lawsuit from which the court order stems.

What's the purpose of publicizing accusations against priests who aren't involved in the suit? I suppose it could be argued that the lawyers are establishing a pattern of behavior on the hierarchy's part, but it seems to push the bounds of decency to forget that the priests are people, not merely pieces of evidence. Those who abused minors or broke laws ought to be prosecuted, but I question giving lawyers the license to release mere dirt culled from private records that only tangentially pertain to their cases. They risk their highfalutin claims to being integral components of the American justice system, deserving of access to sensitive information, if they become little more than tabloid reporters.

And, of course, I'm sure the release of this information has absolutely nothing to do with reports that the archdiocese might declare bankruptcy.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:54 PM EST