The difficulty of reporting colleagues


Recent news about the cover up scandal by the CC in my home state has made me wonder more about this.
This happened in the CC. When I think of reports of misconduct with the police, it is a big challenge getting police to report other officers. I’m assuming this is a big challenge in other professions as well.

On a spiritual plane, I realize that this is an assault by the enemy. But what do you suppose makes people protective towards colleagues? Is it a misguided attempt to save face? Is it cowardice? i.e. the fear of causing a stir within the organization you work for.


I think they tell themselves “it’s all just a misunderstanding” so they can sleep at night.

We pile on victims to make the problem go away and to make them “not us.” In the CC you have the added complication of clericalism. Horrible people will prey on others’ trust.


First of all, the police and the military are special cases because they are taught to work as a team and protect each other’s very lives. They all go through a lot of hair-raising stuff together. So their situation is a little different. Let’s leave them out.

Second, there is a difference between “reporting your colleague” and “reporting your colleague for child sexual abuse.” The latter is so awful that in the past, before these sorts of stories became widespread, a lot of older people just could not believe somebody they knew and liked did such a thing. They figured it had to be a mistake or a really bad error of judgment or even that it was somehow the kid’s fault. I have seen this in senior citizens who just could not believe that somebody they knew for years would do anything so awful. As someone else said they dismiss it as a misunderstanding or a situation that just got out of control momentarily, etc.

Third, these priests probably did a lot of good things in the daytime - they baptized babies, administered the Sacraments, said Mass, visited dying people, performed weddings, counseled and helped people. It is really hard for most people to wrap their minds around the fact that somebody can be doing good things and being a nice person and yet have these dark sides and terrible secrets. I saw some priest giving an interview about the notorious sex abuser John Geoghan and this priest talking about him was calling him a “living saint” and all this other complimentary stuff. Good and evil can exist in the same person simultaneously. And before we all realized that pedophiles don’t somehow recover after a couple months of rehab, it was likely thought that the basically good priest could get over it and not do it again if he just prayed and exerted some willpower.

I am also sure there were priests who didn’t report because they just didn’t want to get involved in some big mess that might interfere with their continued career as a priest. The priests in the report who said, “Don’t tell me the name” when victims would come in with tales of abuse - those priests just didn’t want to be involved.


just to add to this, reporting someone for something like that, you want to be absolutely sure it is true.

I imagine it’s a lot harder in real life to actually be sure, if it isn’t true, then you completely rin an innocent person’s life essentially. and also, there is a general tendency to believe adults are teling the truth over believing children.


I’m not exactly asleep. I’ve worked on child abuse cases in the criminal justice system. I approach them from a legal and scholarly perspective. I realize your emotional reaction is not coming from a logical place, so I will dismiss it, but you aren’t contributing anything to the discussion when you do that, and this is a discussion - not a place for you to vent.


Yes, I think children and teens were less believed a few decades back. Abusers also tend to pick victims who are less likely to be believed, either because they have personal problems of their own or come from families that are dysfunctional or that are really looking up to the priest. Abusers don’t pick out the class valedictorian with a ton of credibility and a parent in a prominent position in town.


I think one of the main reasons people don’t report is that they don’t want to be wrong. If they are, and the accuse someone unjustly, there are horrible consequences for an innocent person.


Yes, and this error, though in good faith, had tragic consequences.

I think there was also an incapacity to conceive of such evil . . .



Unless one of us is guilty of this than we can’t really know for sure.


NO ONE wants to believe ANYBODY could do these things to the most innocent but especially people we know, love or who we work with or trust. And when it involves a certain profession it’s like a betrayal to turn a co-worker or colleague in . But saying nothing when we know is the same as those committing the sin because we are NOT being a solution to the abuse but an added problem to it. As hard as it is (and I PRAY I NEVER have to do so) but I would hope any of us if we are sure of the abuse that we would do the right thing and help the ones who can’t help themselves. AND if we are ignored to go higher up and report and keep reporting until something is done. I pray for each and every being involved in ANY abuse of ANY kind in this world by ANYBODY. If they have no voice may somebody step up and be able to be their voice for help and change.


The failure of many people to understand that men have a huge capacity to do evil always boggles me. When they are faced with indisputable evidence that some man did indeed commit huge evils, they immediately rush to dehumanize that man by calling him “evil monster” and “inhuman” and what not, rather than recognize that the criminal is a person who for whatever reason did really horrible things. And he probably did some good things too.

Maybe I spent too much time looking into the abyss, as they say.


I doubt it. I agree that people are far too quick to label an accused person as ‘monster’ or ‘demon’. I often wonder if the impulse to do so arises from a shrinking from the potential ‘monstrousness’ in one’s own character, and a sort of ‘magical-thinking’ logic that says putting distance between the accused and oneself, as in not even conceding that they are human, will somehow deflect one’s own potential to commit evil.


In our “Mandated Reporter Training” that we have to go through every year at school, we are told to report, regardless of whether or not we know the information to be true. If a child tells us something happened, WE are NOT the investigators.

Yes, an innocent person may go through the an emotional wringer while everything is sorted out. But if we fail to report, an innocent child might be left suffering unspeakable horror because we didn’t want to let the authorities do their job of getting to the truth.

On the two occasions (in 22 years) that a child reported to me, I turned around and immediately contacted authorities and let them handle it. One report was shown to be a false.

The other (sadly) was validated. I will never forget the face of that mother as she paced the hall, sobbing and afraid. She didn’t know that I was the one her daughter had told about the abuse. I didn’t tell her I even knew what was going on. I asked if she wanted to sit down, if she needed some water. The whole thing was heartbreaking.

I’m not qualified to investigate child abuse or neglect. But I am required both by the laws of man and the Law of God to protect the wee ones in my care.


I suspect some of it is down to culture and concerns about repercussions. If an organization is very small, there could be a risk that someone will learn that YOU were the one who reported them, and you could face formal or informal sanctions. If you’re understaffed you could risk becoming even more understaffed. Sadly, some organizations don’t have rules protecting whistleblowers.


If we’re talking about a small organization that, say, cleans restaurants at night, fine. They can worry about repercussions of blowing the whistle on someone who steals gallons of cleaning solution.

But if we’re talking about the welfare and safety of children, I don’t give a rat’s rear end what the repercussions are for the adults! If I had to resign my position, sell my house, and work as a waitress for the rest of my life, I’d do it to protect the children in my care. This is a no-brainer.

I get so sick of hearing about the poor adults being put into difficult positions regarding reporting their colleagues. Catholics (laity and clergy alike) are called to take up our cross to follow Christ. I don’t recall a clause that allows us to reject our cross because it might cause us problems, or we’re afraid, or our concerns are more important than the sufferings of another.

Jesus told us that we would be better off with a millstone around our necks than to lead one of His little ones astray. I don’t know that those who hide the crimes of others against children are any better off than those who commit them.


But even when the capacity is recognized, the sheer degree of evil can be incomprehensible.

I can think of a couple of cases in which I suspect that the persons who were told couldn’t fathom that such a thing could be true (and out of charity, I won’t name them, either).



In some ways, it’s easier to be a mandated reporter. It takes some of the personal responsibility off of our shoulders for possibly ruining an innocent person’s life. But for those who can’t say, “Sorry. I’m legally required to report this,” it’s a lot harder to decide what to do. I personally, think you should always err on the side of the helpless child who can’t defend themselves.


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