As I read more about the sorry state of affairs with regards to the “Catholic priest scandals” it occurs to me that what most of the victims would have liked — and probably still would appreciate — is a simple, heartfelt apology.
Imagine if folks in the Catholic leadership would have said early on:
“You have been wronged and we are horrified at what has happened. Here is what we will do to prevent this from happening again…”
This same approach would be similarly the ‘right thing’ to do in many other circumstances as well, I believe.
“We found that two of our regional banks were overcharging approximately 4000 of our customers on their checking account monthly fees. We screwed up, plain and simple, and would like to offer our humble apologies… a credit for the overcharge… and additionally three months of waived fees for the inconvenience.”
But the problem is, many organizations are damned if they do and damned if they don’t come clean.
If they admit to wrongdoing, people (including greedy opportunists and their facilitating lawyers) are likely to take this admission of guilt as a ticket to sue them out of existence.
And of course, when these organizations do the ‘legally recommended’ thing and simply deny and often cover up guilt, we end up in situations whereby harm is multiplied and — when the truth is found out — the organizations are often skewered just as mercilessly (and by that time, often for good reason!).
Of course, it’s not just organizations that are put between a rock and a hard place. If I had a dime for every time an obviously guilty person pleaded innocent, I’d be a (very) wealthy man.
“Mr. Smith, you were found at the scene of the crime with blood on your hands, a knife in your jacket pocket… and you were screaming ‘die die die you yuppie scum!’ when the police came across you and the newly deceased man you were kneeling over. How do you plead?”
“Innocent, Your Honor.”
I wish there were some way we could promote a greater urgency of truth telling in our culture without creating such strong legal repercussions.
Saying “I’m sorry” should be a course of first resort, not the result of someone speaking without his lawyer’s permission.