Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is Medicine in the same boat as the Catholic Church?

This post has nothing directly to do with scientific fraud, science or medicine.

It is about recent reports of corruption and terrible evils that have taken place within the confines of the leadership of the Catholic Church.

A few days ago a long-delayed investigation into Ireland’s Roman Catholic-run institutions was released. It chronicled how priests and nuns molested, abused and tortured thousands of boys and girls for decades. More importantly it documented how those in authority, government officials, and government inspectors failed to stop the beatings, rapes and abuse. The report concludes that church officials shielded their orders' pedophiles from arrest, amid a culture of self-serving secrecy. They turned a blind eye.

In the United Kingdom, we have medical "regulatory" bodies (such as the MHRA and the General Medical Council). We have individuals promoted to positions of professional leadership. These bodies and individuals are supposed to act as guardians of scientific and clinical integrity in medicine. They are supposed to protect the public against quackery, and to uphold the scientific ideals of our profession. Like the corrupt bodies within the Church, these institutions don't always fulfill their stated mission. Too often they act act as protectors of those who are guilty of scientific fraud, of abusing patients and of corruption. Particular individuals within those bodies act to conceal crimes and deception. Rules of conduct are meticulously created and revised, but disobeyed with impunity. The supposed mission of these organisations and the reputation of our profession is brought into disrepute through these actions.

These organisations hide their sins behind a barrrier of secrecy. Names and transparency are important however. The Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members unnamed in the report resulting in massive backfire and complete loss of any residual reputation. In medicine, bodies such as the General Medical Council demonstrate the same staggering incompetence when they try to get involved in tricky little exercises to protect their friends. Those, like the hilarious exercise to try to hide the scientific adventures of their friend Professor Richard Eastell and his "collaborations" with Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals tend to result in a similar outcome for the profession of medicine.

Read the full report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse report here, or a summary (Associated Press).

The corruption was articulated even more strongly in Milwaukee this week. It is said that retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland states that he "did not comprehend" the potential harm to victims in Milwaukee, nor did he understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime (see here and here)

Said Weakland:
"We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature."

I "accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it’."
Weakland stands accused of assisting in cover-up of the abuse. A 2003 report on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee revealed that allegations of sexual assaults on minors had been made against 58 ordained men, who were under the direct supervision of the Archbishop of Milwaukee. By early 2009, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had spent approximately $26.5 million in attorney fees and settlements to victims. Weakland retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 to a man who had accused him of date rape.

Why are these men and women not in prison?

See also:
  1. Cargo Cult Science : Large Groups of Humans
  2. Video Documentary : Deliver us from Evil
  3. The Freethinker: ‘We did not know that child abuse was a crime,’ says retired Catholic archbishop
  4. Report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse in Ireland

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Radagast said...

The "leader" of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor (whom I suspect to be an Irishman!), was investigated by the police some 20 years ago, or so. It seems that he was suspected of being involved in the cover-up of the activities of one Fr Michael Hill (I think I have the name right), who was busy fucking children in the parish of Brighton and Arundel (again, from memory), over which O'Connor had some sort of oversight. Hill was moved to another parish, or whatever the term is in the Catholic Church. O'Connor was never charged.

The Catholic Church and the Masons (generally known as Plod, or the Police): what a combination!


PS Is it too commonplace to point out that "ignorantium legum non excusat"? The Law's publicly available for scrutiny, so pretending that one was unaware of the legal impact of fucking children simply doesn't wash.

Anonymous said...

I think your reasoning on the Irish report is wrong. I suspect that the reason why names are not produced, is that the report does not establish guilt or innocence at the legal standard of proof. If X were to be accused of e.g. paedophilia, they would be entitled to a fair process in determining if that claim were true or not.

While it is undoubtedly true that some allegations have been proven in law, it would be reckless to imagine that all claims of child abuses are true. Take for example "Kathy's real story" by hermann kelly. ( Richard Webster's opus, and the story of Haut de la Garenne, are equally cautionary tales.

You should also be aware that there are substantial financial incentives for some false claims of child abuse, and you can see examples at:


Aubrey Blumsohn said...

The problem with "due process" and "legal standard of evidence" is that this is sometimes used to avoid basic transparency and public discussion. the one does not necessarily and always have anything to do with the other. A "legal standard of proof" is required to imprison someone. That does not mean that basic questions cannot be asked in public, and that the failure of answering should not be taken into account by that public.

It is highly likely that there are false accusations of abuse. However the argument that this can somehow only be resolved by the courts is undone to a large extent by the very websites to which you refer. The same website which discusses in great detail the fact that in court there was not sufficient standard of proof in one particular case, also discusses the inappropriateness of a GMC "investigation" that cleared the doctor involved (despite some compelling evidence).

Can't have your "due process" cake and eat it. The courts often obscure crimes and offenses, and the GMC regularly does so.

In any event there are two fundamentally different components of bad behaviour here:- The abuse itself and the coverup of allegations of abuse. What standard of proof is required for the latter? It is almost impossible to "prove" most sexual abuse without an impartial adult witness to that abuse (multiple independent accusations do create a strong case however). The cover-up is rather easier to demonstrate, and the hiding of names of those who perpetrated such cover-up is damning.

Only my view.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the legal system "is sometimes used to avoid basic transparency and public discussion"; but equally, sometimes it serves an essential function.

The question which is being asked in public is "did X commit a criminal act on Y ?". It must be obvious that if a government body finds that the answer is yes (be it paedophilia, beatings, etc), that there are severe consequences for the named individual. My suspicion is (and I am not party to the submission of the Christian Brothers) that it is entirely proper to stop people being named as criminals by a body which does not have the safeguards that are required in a criminal trial.

Having a state body take evidence from Y that "X buggered them", and then asking X if it is true, in what amounts to a kangaroo court, does not seem to me to be a fair way of asking questions.

For the record, I did not say that due process is a cure all. But you drew an adverse implication from the Christian Brothers legal action; I am not sure it is fully deserved, and I try to explain that in terms of what due process provedes.

multiple independent accusations do create a strong case howeverI think this exemplifies some of the abuse of process that can happen, and Richard Webster's website is illuminating. There are examples of printed requests going up in a prison, asking if anyone was sexually abused in facility Z, and pointing out that you can get compensation; which is as close as you can get to an invitation to complain. There is some evidence that the nature of questions asked by police in trawling operations ("were you buggered by X?") helps people complain, by providing information about who and when and what type of crime. And there is the question of witness collusion, where people get together and 'talk about their experiences'. Given the massive publicity that the Irish inquiry has generated, do you think that people have got together to talk about their experiences ?

Radagast said...

Anonymous wrote:
"...Having a state body take evidence from Y that "X buggered them", and then asking X if it is true, in what amounts to a kangaroo court, does not seem to me to be a fair way of asking questions..."

The fair way of asking questions being to isolate people and interrogate them, for the purpose of ascertaining whether their conduct constitutes a criminal offence, I take it? Criminal offences are not crimes against a person. They are crimes against the state (in theory), which is why the state prosecutes them. In this way, the state achieves its level of justice (retribution/punishment/deterrant is pretty low level justice, to be honest). I think we've lost sight of the objective, if there ever was one.

When a person complains, they generally believe that they have a grievance. Some are "trying to pull a fast one," for whatever reason that they might have, or just to get another person into trouble, but most people only complain when things have already gone too far, which is why they tend to complain aggressively, I think (it's called cumulative provation, in murder trials, although when I was reading Law the trend was away from accepting evidence of a build up of pressure on the defendant, such that one day, they snapped).

Anyway, the point is that when a person complains, it is not enough to say "well, tough shit, it's your word against theirs, and there's fuck all we can do," because when one does that, it is tantamount to saying "we don't believe you," or else "we don't believe you enough to make this right." In other words, one has taken the individual right back to the time and place of the abuse and left them there, friendless, again. There are other ways of making things right, which don't require the involvement of either the Law or the Church. And, frankly, neither ought to be involved, anyway.

Now, the analogy that Aubrey was making, as I perceive it, is that the leadership of both the Holy Roman Catholic faith and (British?) medicine have failed those that it purports to be in place to serve. And it has failed in this way: when there is a problem, it picks a side and that side is very rarely the "weaker" party's. I agree.


Anonymous said...

Radagast said...
The "leader" of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor (whom I suspect to be an Irishman!),

Your attention is drawn to Wikipedia -'Connor

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was born in Reading, Berkshire,

Radagast said...

Anonymous wrote:
"...Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was born in Reading, Berkshire"

Whoopy-doo. I seem to recall that his parents are/were Irish, which, unless my understanding of these things is completely awry, means that he can claim Irish citizenship. And, if you're going to be pissy (ie, pedantic), it's not "Murphy-O'Connor," it's "Murphy O'Connor". Something to do with a bet that his grandfather lost to a guy by the name of Murphy.

Did you have a comment to make about the failure of the Church leadership to do anything other than engage in a cover-up?