“Some journalists, sad to say, equate objectivity with neutrality. They let both sides of the warring fence say their version of the ‘truth,’ no matter how misleading, and let the people decide. For the years I have spent as editor of different publications, I have fought against this kind of practice, one mistakenly called “journalism.” To me, journalistic objectivity belongs in the manner by which evidence, statements and documentation are gathered. These proofs are then weighed for their integrity and credibility, and analyzed in light of their historical context. All this is done with the mind to arrive at the truth. That is the goal.  Journalists are called to be objective, yes, but never neutral. Neutrality is synonymous to inaction. Objectivity, however, is action, made stronger by the knowledge of how and where to get the right information based on context. Background information and context woven into the fabric of gathered documents and statements will eventually reveal the truth. Common sense tells you that asking the right questions gives you a better chance of arriving at the right answers. And what better time to ruffle some feathers than in our darkest hour.” – Joel Pablo Salud, July 25, 2018

We are usually conditioned to be objective, not to jump to any conclusion. Yet, when there is a pattern of wrong-doing, do we make an attempt to discover the truth? Or do we simply ignore and on blind faith, assume there is no credence to the allegations?

 When I heard a Catholic pastor in 2018 reveal that $1 billion has been paid out to settle sexual abuse cases done by priests and staffers, I wondered if that was a national figure? I was told $1 billion was paid out by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Shocking, right?

 Over a decade or so, the real estate assets of the Archdiocese in LA were being liquidated: the sale of Daniel Murphy school in Hancock Park, the sale of a prime 12-story Wilshire Blvd building, and from anyone’s observations, the allegations of sexual abuse were getting traction. Still, it was just personal observations.

 “On January 22, 2008, Tod Tamberg announced that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles had sold its 12-story Archdiocesan Catholic Center on Wilshire Boulevard to Jamison Properties of Los Angeles for $31 million to raise funds to pay for its $660 million 2007 settlement on sex abuse by clergy. The building had been donated in 1995 by Thrifty PayLess,” Wikipedia disclosed.

 But, relying on Wikipedia was not enough. I checked other sources for verification.

 “Cardinal Roger Mahony, the leader of Los Angeles’ Catholics, yesterday apologized to hundreds of victims of predatory priests after the archdiocese agreed to pay $660m to settle claims of sexual abuse. The settlement, agreed on Saturday, was the largest since the revelations about sexual abuse within the church surfaced in Boston in 2002, and comes amid allegations that church leaders had helped to shield predators for years. “There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims … I cannot,” Cardinal Mahony told reporters yesterday after presiding over morning mass. “I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened, and it will not,” as The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg wrote on July 16, 2007.

 It involved more than 500 folks, who were sexually abused by more than 220 priests, teachers and other church employees over several decades, according to Ms. Goldenberg. How did these criminal behaviors remain unrecognized?

 Recently, we came across an archbishop’s perspective of how it came about.

 America, The Jesuit Review’s John A. McCoy highlighted on July 23, 2018, that “The Seattle Times reported that from 1987 to 2010, the Seattle archdiocese paid about $42 million to 300 abuse victims. The Helena diocese, facing more than 360 abuse claims, filed for bankruptcy in January 2014 and offered a $15 million payout to victims. The archbishop conceded that he had been naïve about sexual abuse. Early on, he had been too slow to respond and too hopeful about treatment. By 1985, he got it. He had county prosecutors and the state attorney general’s office review all suspicious priest personnel files. He created an outside, independent review panel of legal, psychological and sexual assault experts to evaluate abuse allegations against clergy. Proven pedophiles were removed from the priesthood. Jason Berry, the journalist credited with sounding the alarm on the church’s sexual abuse scandal, described Archbishop Hunthausen as the first church leader to deal with the problem publicly.”

In 2007, the Guardian’s Goldenberg reported “The [$1 billion] settlement is far greater than those reached by jurisdictions in Boston, where authorities paid out $84m in 2003, and Portland, Oregon, where the archdiocese agreed this year to pay $52 million. It raises the total the Catholic church has had to pay out to settle claims of abuse to more than $2 billion. The demands for retribution led five dioceses to apply for bankruptcy protection, and forced church authorities to close churches and schools, and sell off property across the US.”

It took Archbishop Hunthausen to pioneer the right approach in 1985, yet, that approach eluded other archdioceses that 22 years later, Cardinal Mahony had to announce close to $1bn settlement of over 500 sexual abuse cases and 33 years later, Chile is still confronting that issue. The National Catholic Reporter’s Jack and Diane Ruhl reported on Nov. 2, 2015, “The U.S. Catholic church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR investigation of media reports, databases and church documents.”

So, did the Catholic pastor tell the truth from you, our dear Asian Journal’s readers’ points of view?  

In Jan. 15, 2018, Pope Francis went to Chile. There, he found the low credibility of the Catholic Church as Fernando Keradima, “the lord of hell” came to light as the most harmful sexual offender in Chile, alleged to be protected by Bishop Juan Barros, and whose proofs of his wrong-doings have not surfaced yet, according to Pope Francis.

Truth is the anchor of an institution’s existence

I am writing this piece to remind us all that human institutions are made up of fallible men and women who are subject to mistakes. Before we condemn, we must have proofs of wrong-doings. While mistakes and patterns of wrong-doings rise to become crimes against several persons, properties and institutions, it is important to remember that an institution’s existence is anchored on truth and truth must embody its daily practices, not just allegations.

Had there been training for the Catholic Church to recognize sexual abuse is a crime and that pedophiles are not legitimate stewards of the Church, and should be removed, I believe the institution would have responded by not giving these men of the cloth their institutional protection.

 These priests would likely remember that truth is not a garnish, where one sprinkles a dash to season their homilies and daily encounters with parishioners.

But, recall how the USCCB – the US Conference of Catholic Bishops incorrectly popularized that birth control pills induce abortion and inappropriately encouraged their flock to denounce Obamacare aka Affordable Health Care Act?

 I was attending mass in New Mexico when a Bishop in New Mexico angrily delivered his homily incorporating that false statement, contemporaneously disseminated and propagated by the CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines), using the same misinformation from a physician and reflected on their website for some time.

 Why was there an aversion to truth? Why did these two associations of bishops propagate a lie that women who wanted reproductive freedom and control over their bodies are labeled baby killers opting abortion? Why has the institution not evolved to support and affirm women to gain their rightful place in society, able to earn their living? That to do so, women would have to either postpone having children or to have children, they would need child support?

 That to delay having children does not mean they are baby killers? That false notion stuck to the Democratic Party’s front runner in 2016, that Hillary Clinton favored killing babies, a lie propagated by the Catholics and the Evangelicals, and made even worse when multiplied a thousand times, by what we now know as Russian hackers and trolls who took thousands of ads in social media repeating that lie and influenced the elections to favor Donald Trump.

 Lies have become a daily habit in the White House’s press conferences that reporters are questioning Sarah Huckabee Sanders of her periodic evasive answers and denials ad infinitum. It is doing damage to her credibility that at one point, a reporter stopped her and asked why she continues to lie to them? She responded with a scripted answer that daily, she does her best to answer their questions. She keeps forgetting that truth is the anchor of decency, rule of law and reliable public demeanor in America – it is not happenstance, it is not a “walkback” to it three times, much like the Helsinki summit that the President had with Putin, where the President had to essentially change his story three times to reveal what is true as he kept saying one lie after another.

 Truth is what we teach our children, grandchildren and it is what we expect in food labeling, in restaurant menus, in books, in news stories we read and in all that we encounter in America. When we make truth an optional condiment, a garnish, a seasoning to pepper our words, we develop a collective mistrust for one another and where our words are now parsed and scrutinized – are they true or not?

We may be in our darkest hour as far as truth being evasive in institutions, but here is our collective chance to make sure to ensure we convey only what is truthful in our daily encounters and that we are courageous enough to correct the falsehoods that we hear, as we all collectively pay for the diminished credibility of the institutions that we rely upon in our public lives. 

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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