Elite Olympic gymnasts made it clear: It isn’t enough to put away the doctor who molested them. Those who enabled the molester need to be held accountable as well.
US senators and the FBI director agreed with this sentiment that is so obvious, you’d think it wouldn’t need to be stated.
Tragically, we cannot translate those sentiments in the Diocese of Buffalo led by a bishop who stubbornly refuses to hold a single individual accountable among many who botched the way they handled clergy sexual abuse reports over decades. Worse, our bishop promotes and protects some of these enablers!
Let’s take a look at what happened September 15 in a U.S. Senate hearing room–dialogue which shames any organization that fails to hold its wayward employees accountable for failing to properly handle reports of sexual abuse.
The gymnasts testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the reprehensible way FBI agents and officials of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to take seriously their reports of sexual abuse at the hands of USAG’s doctor, Larry Nassar. While he eventually was convicted in 2018, countless additional victims were sexually abused during the years the FBI and the athletic organizations languished in addressing the complaints. Sound familiar in the Diocese of Buffalo?
Simone Biles, who reported her abuse by Nassar to those agencies to no avail, couldn’t have put it more clearly. “Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
If only Bishop Michael Fisher could grasp this concept.
The point of accountability is to get people out of the system who enable the very abuse you’re trying to stop. Such enablers have demonstrated a propensity to not believe victims (even shame them), to value the institution over public safety, or to protect their careers. Such employees who have compromised their integrity are a danger to the organization. More importantly, these enablers live a dangerous message to others in the organization: you can get away with this type of dereliction of duty.
Who can place their trust in such an enterprise?
Because such enablers contribute to the life-long damage of vulnerable human beings, Biles said they should face legal consequences. “A message needs to be sent. If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe.”
The enablers not only make a living hell for victims, the gymnasts explained, they give the molester time and opportunity to continue molesting more victims.
FBI director, Christopher Wray, said he shared the gymnasts’ disgust at the FBI agents and emphasized he did make an attempt to hold them accountable. While he was able to fire one agent derelict in his duty, he said he couldn’t nab the agent’s supervisor who retired in time to escape FBI disciplinary action. This particularly irked gymnast Aly Raisman who testified:
“I’ve watched multiple high-ranking officials at USAG, USOPC and the FBI resign or retire without explanation of how they may have contributed to the problem. Some of whom were publicly thanked for their service and were rewarded with severance or bonus money.”
In the Diocese of Buffalo we see such examples as Bishops Richard Malone and Edward Grosz who evaded accountability in the clergy sex abuse crisis by retiring and collecting their anticipated pay. Only the State of New York is attempting to hold them accountable for the reckless execution of their duties in their official capacities while Bishop Mike sends out press releases about diocesan “renewal.”
Raisman defiantly challenged the hypocrisy of officials who hide behind public relations smoke screens saying, “My reports of abuse were not only buried by USAG, USOPC but they were also mishandled by federal law enforcement who failed to follow their most basic duties.”
Biles concurred. “What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take that report and bury it in a drawer?”
The Diocese of Buffalo’s own Rev. Ryszard Biernat has said the same thing about diocesan officials who effectively threw his 2004 clergy sexual molestation report into a veritable drawer, leaving the priest who allegedly molested him to continue in ministry another 14 years. The state attorney general offered damning evidence against a few diocesan officials who covered up Biernat’s report–a couple waltzed off into retirement, one died, while another leads the diocesan presbyteral council and diocesan “renewal” efforts while preaching to us on television each week. (No joke.)
It’s the kind of grotesque hypocrisy the gymnasts/survivors talked about in the recent Senate hearing. The three organizations that blew off the gymnasts’ complaints knew Nassar to be a molester long before it became public, Raisman said, “although you wouldn’t know that by reading their press releases which would have you and their corporate sponsors believe that athlete’s safety comes first… I and these women who sit before you know first hand that these organizations and their public statements are not to be trusted.”
Want to regain our trust, Bishop Mike? With all due respect, you might learn something from this exchange between Senator Grassley and the FBI director on the subject of ACCOUNTABILITY. This is how laypeople talk about it.