Author: Stephen Boehrer
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
It was in 2002 that we had the first indication that some Catholic priests had sexually assaulted children and some of these priests have been successfully prosecuted. Nonetheless, what about the bishops and other higher ups in the Catholic church who were complicit in the crimes in that they covered them up by transferring priests to new parishes rather than having turned them over to police? Why were these people never brought to justice? After all, these are people who broke criminal laws, childcare rules, the bond of trust and often in a most disgusting fashion.
Stephen Boehrer's work of fiction, The Purple Culture features three Catholic bishops who are put on trial in a federal court and charged with conspiracy for protecting pedophile priests. The three allegedly transferred priests known to them as pedophiles from parish to parish within their respective dioceses as well as interstate. In addition, they failed to report to the appropriate authorities the crimes committed by these repulsive priests as the law requires and to notify school as well as congregations that they had pedophiles among the children.
The principal question or theme of the novel is why and what motivated them to put the safety of children at risk when they fully knew that these men were sexual abusers? Was it to protect the church's patrimony? Why no apology except a grudging tsk, tsk out of them? Why did these bishops continue to get promotions while showing little sympathy for the victims?
The initial plea was not guilty and defence attorney had entered a motion for dismissal, which was dismissed. However, after an exhaustive study of the file and interviews with several experts concerning the culture of the church, the plea was changed to not guilty by reason of mental defect. The defence attorney decided to prepare a defence based on the “purple culture” which is a monarchical-type hierarchy which is decreed to be of divine origin. These bishops felt themselves to be special and being special to those above them.
Although the three bishops were aghast at accepting the plea of mental defect, they had little choice but to go along with it as it was there only chance. Pointing to the legal term “mens rea,” their attorney explained to them that generally in law, a person who does not perceive that a criminal act is morally wrong will not be charged or convicted of the crime. The prosecution's belief is that they did have “mens rea,” however, when questioned by the defence, the three bishops stated that they did not feel a criminal action had been committed. And furthermore, the defence attorney will prove that their lack of “mens rea” doesn't flow from either ignorance or from evil, but from a mental defect. When the prosecution was presented with this change of plea, their immediate reaction was that it was “disguised baloney,” and frankly I would have to agree.
The defence was steadfast and plowed on with presenting its case based on monarchy, addiction, cult, narcissism and power, all in trying to convince the jury that the bishops lacked “mens rea.” As pointed out to the jury, in order to sustain the charge of conspiracy, the prosecution must prove there was an agreement among the defendants to protect abusers. On the other hand, all the defence has to prove by convincing evidence was that the three bishops were insane at the time of their felonious actions.
I have to admit that it is an interesting argument, but then again I question how can you prove lack of “mens rea” when you shift the criminals from one parish to another. It would appear that you are fully aware of the crime and even though you may have been influenced by a particular culture, this does not mean you lacked the mental capacity to understand right from wrong. If you use this argument, you can also use the same reasoning when defending terrorists who are influenced by Hamas, ISIS and others. This is simply rationalizing criminal behavior and putting the blame on external forces. It reminds me of the the comedian Flip Wilson who would say, “the devil made me do it.” Give me a break!