Bishop Accountability and the Priest Abuse Crisis

One might be tempted to think political science has nothing to do with the Catholic Church and the ongoing priest abuse crisis which has gripped the Church for nearly a decade now. If you read George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressivesyou’ll find what I believe is the key to understanding why the Catholic bishops have been relatively unaccountable for their role in the abuse scandal.
One of Lakoff’s main ideas concern the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of governing style and the role of government in the lives of ordinary individuals. Lakoff believes that the Republicans have been successful in framing the debate about social issues because they use positive imagery to express their ideas. Take for instance the following: pro-life, death tax, and tax relief. Secondly, Republicans believe in the “strict father” model of governance. They’ve adhered to a model that demonstrates their belief that ordinary citizens seek a strict father figure who is always right and serves as a compass for the entire populace.
If you look closely, the Catholic bishops in the United States have adopted a similar approach. They speak authoritatively on many moral issues while at the same time questioning the authority of those who would call into question their actions concerning the abuse crisis. They are very quick to remind Catholics of their duty to obey and listen to them for, after all, they are the appointed shepherds of Christ and that role demands an unquestioning fidelity, not an openness to consider diverse points of view or alternative methods of accountability.
Perhaps that’s how the bishops have escaped any real accountability for their role in the priest abuse crisis. Yes, of course, Cardinal Law was forced to resign. Yet, apart from that incident, how many other bishops have been forced to resign? How many have faced real criminal charges? How many have been called to account for their actions with real consequences hanging in the balance?
Maybe a few bishops have read Lakoff’s book. If they have, they’ve followed his prescription to a tee. It’s proven helpful to them in avoiding any real accountability.