Lessons from the priest scandal

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What did the House Republican leadership learn from the priest pedophilia scandal? Not much, apparently. Otherwise, Speaker Dennis Hastert et al. would have followed the most basic precepts of public relations: Be honest, be forthcoming, be quick. Otherwise, politicians lose credibility and sink fast.

This weekend it was revealed that not only did Republican leaders know last year that then Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, was sending sexually explicit electronic messages to a former teenage House page, but that a Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Foley, according to the head of the congressional page alumni association.

Now the question is: Who will fare worse from covering up? House Republican leaders or the Roman Catholic Church?

The Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a lawyer assigned to the Vatican Embassy, tried to warn the Vatican it was facing a potential meltdown over a scandal involving children and allegations of sexual abuse by priests–-not just recently but for the past two decades. Since then, the priest has worked with 2,000 victims of clerical sexual abuse and testified on behalf of victims in 200 court cases. In an eerily prescient report submitted to church leaders in the mid-'80s, Doyle informed them that the media were painting the church as "an organization preaching morality and providing sanctuary to perverts."

One could say the same today of Hastert and company. If only they read history! The main question now is whether Republicans will suffer as mightily at the voting booth in November as the church has on the altar of justice. "The eventual direct costs to the Catholic Church of the priest abuse litigation are predicted to range from $2 billion to $3 billion."