Over the past several weeks, I’ve provided extensive coverage of the abuse scandal in the Catholic church in other media outlets and fora. As I’ve written about this topic, one thing has become increasingly clear to me, which is that the organizational and interpersonal dynamics underlying the Catholic church’s abusive behavior, and those behind abusive conduct at Grace Episcopal Church, are remarkably similar.
Before we go further, I want to be clear: To date, no credible source has accused Bob Malm or anyone else at St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Church, of sexual misconduct.
So what is the underlying goal of the Catholic church in cases where abuse has been alleged? Far too often, the objective has been the perpetuation of the institution. “We’re a church. Churches are good. Thus, it follows that we should do whatever we need to do to protect the church,” has been the argument. In this, the needs of victims either get dismissed out of hand, or dealt with in a minimal way. Yes, there have been some large cash settlements, but far too often the church pleads poverty, ponies up for a dozen sessions between the victim and a counselor, and that is the end of that.
Similarly, in the case of Grace church, both at the diocesan and the local level, the focus has been on protecting the parish. Even in conversations with Bishop Shannon, he’s talked about the importance of Grace as a “flagship” parish, with zero regard for the faith and ethics behind this particular standard-bearer. Just as the Catholic Church has for years refused to deal with abuse, instead preferring to silence critics, so too has Jeff Chiow’s whole goal been to silence my criticism. In both cases, the approach has been based on the notion that the ends justify the means. Lying in court is okay, even bullying the dying is okay, as long as the desired end result is that Grace Church and Dysfunctional Bob can go back to their usual antics.
In both cases, the behind-the-scenes is illustrative. Smear campaigns, innuendo, and political gamesmanship all come into play. And whether it’s Jean Reed bloviating about being a servant of Christ, all the while claiming that I am defaming the church, or Kemp Williams prattling on about his perceptions that I am mentally ill, the juxtaposition of Jesus-babble and really ugly commentary is strikingly similar to the antics of the Catholic church.
That ability to talk out both sides of the mouth is striking, both in the Catholic church and at Grace Church. In Pennsylvania, the bishops say they want to end abuse, but in the very same breath are trying to limit liability through creation of a “victim assistance fund.” Similarly, with no leg to stand on, Grace Church’s last “settlement proposal” was nothing more than an effort to find a way to silence me, proclaim an end to the conflict, and go right back to business. It’s interesting too: The proposal essentially wanted liquidated damages from me for a violation of the agreement, but referral to an ombudsman for “conciliation” if Grace violated its end of the agreement. And the space where Dysfunctional Bob does most of his nefarious work — behind the scenes, through innuendo and playing people against each other — was pointedly excluded from the agreement. All that begs the question: If Grace is a church in anything but name only, why wouldn’t it hold itself to the same standard to which it seeks to hold me?
Nor does either institution pay any attemption to what I will loosely term “collateral damage.” Mom and numerous other people, including Mike, remain deeply hurt by Bob Malm’s conduct, and indeed, Jeff Chiow’s spate of lies and misrepresentations has only exacerbated that situation. Yet the settlement proposal was silent on that issue. The same is true for the Catholic church, which has rarely done anything to resolve harm to family members and loved ones.
It’s interesting too: Both organizations pounce on issues they will think help their cause, instead of trying to fix the underlying problem. In the case of the Catholic church, folks already are cranking out the spin about how most of the abuse predates current policies, even as new accusations emerge. In Grace’s case, Dysfunctional Bob has been quick to point out that our earlier attempt at what he terms “reconciliation” included being added back to parish emails lists and — get this — being allowed to give money to the church.
I am bowled over by the generosity of Bob’s “reconciliation.”