Five things Hollywood could learn from the Catholic Church after Harvey Weinstein

There are no problems like this without an enabling culture. Safeguards by themselves are like burying radioactive waste and hoping it goes away, a highly legalistic definition of “resolved” that ignores the bigger, essential question: What is it about our culture that needs to change? How do we disrupt once these cultures of dominance, secrecy and protecting the powerful? What have we learned not just about our past but about our future? I have yet to hear a single religious leader at any level attempt to address those questions or even ask them.  When you are dealing with decades of repressing the truth about acts of violence and a culture that has forced so many to live in fear and denial, resolution does not come via a policy change or an apology. It does not come quickly. And those organizations that were responsible for the crimes certainly do not get to dictate the terms of how and when a crisis ends.  “You reap you what you sow” is not just a threat. It is a fact. You are facing your own harvest now,  you can try to listen to those within your industry who are willing to speak the truth to you. Listen, learn and try to change.

By Jim McDermott, 11 Oct 2017, America Magazine

Living in Los Angeles and watching the cascade of horror that is the unraveling story of Hollywood uber-exec Harvey Weinstein and his abuses of women, I have had a strange sense of déjà vu. I was a seminarian studying for the priesthood in Boston in January 2002 when The Boston Globe began publishing its astonishing series of articles on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Those reports began a lot like the Weinstein story, with allegations surrounding one man, John Geoghan, who had been committing horrific acts of abuse for decades throughout the Archdiocese of Boston.

I suspect the Weinstein story, too, is just the beginning of a much larger set of revelations about abuse and power in the entertainment industry. And 15 years into the Catholic crisis, having witnessed the choices the institutional church has made (some of them disastrous), I suspect there are things that Hollywood could learn from that experience right now. Here are five that come immediately to mind.

  1. It’s all going to come out.

It’s just Harvey Weinstein—one horrible, sick person.  Except it isn’t. Just last week Andy Signore from Honest Trailers was fired for some of the same things. Two weeks ago it was Harry Knowles, forced to take a leave of absence from the blog he founded, “Ain’t It Cool News.” Last year it was Devin Faraci, deposed as editor-in-chief of the website “Birth. Movies. Death.”

And those guys are minor figures in the entertainment industry. Rumors of sexual misconduct have surfaced of late about perhaps the most popular white comedian on the planet right now. And let’s not even start with the well-trod tales of Woody Allen or Roman Polanski.

The studios, the networks, the talent agencies, production companies, TV shows, celebrities…come on. It was never just Father John Geoghan or Father Marcial Maciel Degollado or Gerald Ridsdale. And it is not just Mr. Weinstein.

As it should have a long time ago, it is all going to come out. It does not matter how deep it has been buried or how afraid the victims or others may still be right now. The press chases the story, and people will start to realize they, too, can be released from a piece of their own private hell.

It took years for the Catholic Church in the United States to stop trying to hide the facts. Even now, some insist it is still guilty of that. And the effects have been catastrophic. Look at our empty pews and our battered flocks.

Want to learn from the church, Hollywood? Don’t wait for the press to dig up the stories. They will find them. You know where the problems are. Act now.

You made “Spotlight.” Shoot, you gave it the Academy Award. It is all in there.

  1. There is an even bigger issue you have to face, and it is everyone else.

As each new accusation of child abuse has broken in the Catholic Church over the last 15 years, the first wave of horror has been in the sickening tales of brutality, the unthinkable trauma which these children suffered.

But that reaction was quickly followed by the necessary next question: Who else was involved? Who else knew?

There is no Harvey Weinstein without a culture that not only allows for but enables a Harvey Weinstein: the fellow executives and subordinates who turned a blind eye or even aided him in the astonishing things he was doing to women and the movie stars who did the same. The press, too, shares some responsibility for allowing these crimes to continue. Indeed, as with the church stories, we are already hearing that the very organization which broke the Harvey Weinstein story, The New York Times, may have buried a similar report 13 years ago, allegedly at the behest of Hollywood figures including the actors Matt Damon and Russell Crowe.

In the long run, the refusal of Catholic bishops, religious superiors and others to take full responsibility for the ways they covered up or at times aided abuse has hurt the church as much as the abuse did. That should be impossible, given the crimes we are dealing with. But people can understand that there are people who are sick or evil in the world. They cannot understand leaders who keep their jobs after allowing sick or evil acts to continue.

Every studio and network would be wise to announce an immediate review of its entire operation, past and present. The rot is in the vine, and it will only take a couple other revelations for everyone to realize it.

  1. When cultural expectations change, they change overnight and with no tolerance for the allowances of the past.

In his letter of apology, alongside referencing Jay-Z lyrics that do not exist and claiming he is going to use this moment to take the fight to the National Rifle Association, Mr. Weinstein explained, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

As ridiculous as that statement is—has he been living in a hermetically sealed time capsule for the last 40 years?—to Catholics it is also incredibly familiar. How many times have we been told, “We understood these things and how to deal with them differently then”?  The fact is, some of that is true. Moving clergy, allowing them to continue their work, was not just about covering things up; it was at times the proposed course of treatment. Catholic bishops dealing with abusers in the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, were woefully inadequate in their understanding of pedophilia and its effects on victims and so were the medical professionals who were often advising them.

And, yes, there was an era in which Mr. Weinstein’s gross behavior was tolerated as part of the business and the broader culture. Though some the era of the industry’s “casting couches” has ended, perhaps those attitudes were such a part of the fabric of things that versions of those behaviors have continued to be permitted. Consider the 2005 comments of a reality TV star-cum-presidential-candidate, revealed one year ago: “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Or again, consider the case of Woody Allen, who married one adopted daughter and has been accused repeatedly of sexually assaulting another. Yesterday the actress Kate Winslet, who won an Oscar in 2009 for a film produced by the Weinstein Company, spoke out against Mr. Weinstein. “I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumors,” she said. “Maybe we have all been naïve.”

Her next movie? “Wonder Wheel,” written and directed by Woody Allen.

If the experience of the Catholic Church is any indication, the days in which acts of harassment and abuse are just “boys being boys” or cases of “he said/she said” in Hollywood are well and truly over. Any attempt to give rape and assault “some historical context” will be understood as denial of responsibility and an act of further violence. Anyone who continues to work with these people will find themselves painted with the same brush.

  1. Changing the rules is not the same as changing the culture.

I was ordained a priest just one year after the abuse crisis was uncovered, having been a Jesuit already for 11 years. The entirety of my priesthood has been spent watching new procedures get put into place.

Many of those policies, especially as they protect children and other vulnerable groups, have been both necessary and enormously important. So, too, have been the ongoing seminars that have asked clergy and other church officials to consider the implications of their own status, the power they exert in any situation, whether they know it or not.

But I have also seen these new safeguards and procedures being offered as the final and full resolution of the problem: We are protecting children now. Issue resolved.

This is a highly legalistic definition of “resolved,” and it ignores the bigger, essential question: What is it about our culture that needs to change? How do we disrupt once and for all the culture of secrecy of the U.S. Catholic Church, indeed of the entire global church as it continues to address this problem? What have we learned not just about our past but about our future? I have yet to hear a single religious leader at any level attempt to address those questions or even ask them. I continue to find myself bumping up against elements of a culture of secrecy in the church.

There are many safeguards already in place in the entertainment industry. In the weeks and months to come, far more will be considered and implemented. And many of them will be valuable additions to workplace standards. But if that is as far as it goes, it is like burying the radioactive waste and hoping it will just go away.

  1. Reap the whirlwind.

An organization facing a crisis of the magnitude facing the Weinstein Company tries to put it to rest as quickly as it can. “Moving on” is the mantra.

Many Catholic leaders over the last decade have gotten to the point where they, too, have asked people to move on. The policies have been changed; the cases have been adjudicated. What more do you want?

When the press and the people do not go along, these leaders have called the objectors anti-Catholic and even cast themselves as victims.

When you are dealing with decades of repressing the truth about acts of violence and a culture that has forced so many to live in fear and denial, resolution does not come via a policy change or an apology. It does not come quickly. And those organizations that were responsible for the crimes certainly do not get to dictate the terms of how and when a crisis ends.

“You reap you what you sow” is not just a threat. It is a fact. You are facing your own harvest now, Hollywood. You can try to rush through it as fast as your lawyers and public-relations flacks can work the problem, cast women and others who come forward later as liars (Geraldo Rivera has already sounded that trumpet) and watch how much more damage that causes.

Or you can try to listen to those within your industry who are willing to speak the truth to you. Listen, learn and try to change.

As a priest, I highly recommend the latter.

Let me tell you, the former works not at all. And it hurts a lot more people.

Atlanta archbishop says clericalism continues to hinder sex abuse reforms

By Michael J. O’Loughlin, April 11, 2017

Wilton Gregory in 2012 (CNS photo/ Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the tumultuous years when the wide scope of the clergy sexual abuse scandal was brought to light, said in a new interview that clericalism is still hampering efforts to address the issue, even at the highest levels of the church.

“I would say there is a resistance to do the hard thing,” the Atlanta archbishop told NPR affiliate WABE in a March interview broadcast on April 10. “I think it’s culturally driven as much as it is ideologically driven.”

Archbishop Gregory addressed allegations by Marie Collins, an Irish laywoman and survivor of sexual abuse who resigned from the pope’s child protection commission. She complained that the Vatican refuses to implement recommendations from the group, even with the backing of Pope Francis himself. Ms. Collins, the archbishop said, “has touched on a truism.”

“It is the ugly face of clericalism that unfortunately still has too much influence in our church,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Marie Collins is a very brave woman, and she is a very determined woman, and I believe she’s a grace for the church.”

Archbishop Gregory was president of the U.S.C.C.B. in 2002 when bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy for priests accused of sexual abuse. At the time, victim advocates said the new charter lacked provisions to hold bishops accountable. Some members of Pope Francis’ commission have made recommendations to close that gap.

Archbishop Gregory said in the interview that he supports a tribunal to hold bishops accountable for failing to report priests suspected of abuse.

“Of course I do,” he said. “I think the Holy Father was on to a very helpful procedure.”

When asked why such a tribunal has not yet been created, Archbishop Gregory said that because he is not a member of the commission, which is headed by Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley, he does not know the specifics of such recommendations. Responding to complaints of continued stonewalling by the group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, the archbishop defended his decision not to release the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct, some of whom lived in the Archdiocese of Atlanta at one time but who did not minister in the archdiocese.  “My concern is this, that many of the names that might be released are dead and therefore we don’t know the full story,” he said. “Some of the people who have been on a list that was touted have never served in this diocese.

“In my time as the archbishop, any priest that has been removed has been identified. And I will keep doing that,” he continued. “I simply want to be able to be fair, just, to all parties, to those who have been harmed, certainly first and foremost, and those who may have been identified as perpetrators but without enough information to say that this event happened with any specificity.”

During the interview, Archbishop Gregory was also asked about the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood. He noted that the Catholic Church already permits this, in rare cases, but he said he welcomed the conversation about expanding the practice.

“It has to be balanced by several other factors,” he said.

“Are we simply looking at married priests because of the [priest] shortage? That’s one clear factor. Are we looking at married priests because we believe that marriage as a sacrament has a dignity and that a married man brings with him insights on the Christian life that a single man would not have?” he continued.

“But it also has to be balanced by the witness of celibacy. Celibacy is not simply an ecclesial obstacle. It is a chosen way of life that we believe has its foundation in the imitation of the way that Jesus lived in his own time and in his own nation. And it is a call to a witness that I believe in our hyper-sexualized world has not less importance but even more importance,” he said.

Either way, he said the conversation will take time and will not be easy.

“The discussion has to be much more complicated than simply saying on Monday we don’t have a married clergy, on Friday we do,” he said. “Somewhere in between all these questions have to be taken into consideration.”

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