The Church Of Harvey Weinstein’s Casting Couch
Dunham is one of the few actors taking a public stand here and being consistent. Make no mistake, ppl remain in fear of Weinstein. https://t.co/BtGFbfma5I
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 7, 2017
… made me think.
As many of you know, I was for a short time a film critic in New York City. As such, I ran into Harvey Weinstein from time to time. I had a lot of admiration for Miramax, his company. He always treated me in a friendly manner. But it was also common knowledge in New York film circles that he was an abusive boss. I never heard him described as a sexual predator, but more than a few women who had worked for him described him to me in private conversation as a monster of a boss. I haven’t thought about Harvey Weinstein for years, until the sex scandal broke the other day. The allegations have been shocking, but not surprising, if you follow me.
Jake Tapper’s retweet of Lena Dunham’s tweet reminded me of another story from that same period of my life involving a powerful bishop of the Catholic Church. It’s a story that back then was fairly well known within journalistic circles, but it was never reported — though not for lack of trying on my part. The story was that this bishop had a longtime habit of pressing himself sexually on seminarians. Never once did I hear that he had done this to minors, only to adult seminarians. Still, it was an egregious thing, because he demanded sexual favors from young men whose future in the priesthood he held in his hands. Some of this stuff was rough, from what I was told.
Here’s the problem: people were willing to talk about what they knew, but nobody was willing to go on the record, or provide documents to back up their claims. Even though I heard the same kinds of stories repeatedly from reputable sources — most of them priests — not a soul dared to put his name to the accusations. This man was too powerful. At least two prominent laymen who knew about this, but who weren’t under his authority (they did not work for him), would not go on the record about it. One of the men gave no reason; the other said it was to protect the church. This was 2002, if that tells you anything.
Remember, this not a story about the sexual abuse of minors. This is a story about a very powerful executive in an organization compelling those under his authority to do his sexual bidding. It so happened that the organization was a church.
A representative of the bishop intervened with my superiors, trying to suppress the story. My bosses refused — but then, there was ultimately no story to suppress. Unless people were willing to make their accusations public, or disclose court documents, my hands were tied. From a journalistic point of view, until and unless that happened, the stories were just gossip. This story burned me up, especially when I would see this old lecher on television pretending to be so heartbroken about the abuse of children. He was a fraud. Lots of people had personal knowledge of the kind of fraud he was. But nobody said a word publicly. The story was never told.
I have very strong reason to believe, though I can’t prove, that a decade after my failed investigation, a reporter for a major American newspaper got his hands on documents proving the stories to be true — and even got on the record interviews from victims. But the editor overseeing that reporter killed the story. I’m pretty sure I know why, but it’s only informed speculation. I can tell you that no one at that newspaper would have the slightest interest in protecting the Catholic Church. Something else was going on.
That bishop has retired, but he still lives. He has never been made to answer for his crimes. I hope before he dies, this will happen. It’s time for people who know what he did to speak out. It’s time for that newspaper to quit protecting this creep. Powerful men who use their authority to rape, molest, and sexually humiliate those under their authority deserve to be compelled to own up to what they’ve done.
UPDATE: The key factor here is not Catholicism, or religion, or lack of religion. It’s power. This bishop and Harvey Weinstein come from very different worlds, and they knew well how to manipulate those worlds and those who believe in the values of those worlds to protect themselves. Harvey went to the Women’s March earlier this year, to be seen publicly standing up for women in the face of the trollish Trump, even though Harvey may well have been even worse than Trump. We all suffer from confirmation bias, and are very reluctant to face the fact that people who share our values (publicly at least) can be monsters in private. I don’t know any way to fully protect ourselves from it. Nobody can live inside complete distrust of everybody, all the time.