Dueling Joe Catholics in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body And School of Dance:
In a 2002 column at Catholic Online, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) blames Beantown high livin' for the church sex abuse scandal:
It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) fires back a Boston defense:
Rick Santorum owes an immediate apology to the tragic, long-suffering victims of sexual abuse and their families in Boston, in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania and around this country. His outrageous and offensive comments—which he had the indecency to repeat yesterday—blamed the people of Boston for the depraved behavior of sick individuals who stole the innocence of children in the most horrible way imaginable… The people of Boston are to blame for the clergy sexual abuse? That statement is irresponsible, insensitive and inexcusable. Rick Santorum should join all Americans in celebrating the accomplishments of the people of Boston.
It's not entirely clear why the issue has bubbled up like so much Santorum three years later, but apparently John Baer of the Philly Daily News resurrected the old column, and it's silly season in D.C. Whether it was Santorum or Kennedy who assaulted a priest and drank all the holy water at a Georgia church law enforcement officials will have to sort out.
Santorum, who holds the mutually exclusive beliefs that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and that the Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, may not be the best man to look to for numerical scrupulousness, but Boston is almost certainly not the worst diocese in the country in terms of sexual abuse. The diocese of Covington, Kentucky is paying out the single largest settlement in the country for abuse claims—$120 million to an unknown number of claimants. That figure is roughly equal to all the settlements the much larger Boston archdiocese has paid out since 1950. Rock-ribbed Orange County, CA recently settled a class action suite for $100 million. Vice-ridden San Francisco, meanwhile, is on the lower end of the lawsuit scale.
Considering the amount of accident and opportunism involved in a class action suit, these numbers should be viewed with skepticism; and in one respect, Santorum's right: As I have argued again and again to no avail, the clergy sex abuse scandal has never been about the sexual abuse but about the mismanagement by the higher-ups. Boston is deservedly at the center of this scandal, not because it has more abusive priests but because the shameless ladder-climber Bernard Law ignored the problems in front of him. So in a sense, it is all about the culture of Boston—the culture of overweening apple-polishers and pushy meritocrats that Kennedy celebrates in his comments.