Risky Business

by David Bloomberg

The title of this article has two meanings, both relating to abuse accusations leveled against Monsignor Norman Goodman, former pastor of the Holy Family Church in Lincoln, Illinois.

In response to a State Journal-Register article on the case saying that repressed memories had been involved in the charges (8/14), I wrote a letter to the editor. I noted that while I did not have any way of knowing for certain if Monsignor Goodman is innocent or guilty, it is risky and unscientific to base accusations on such an unreliable practice. I also wrote a similar letter to the Lincoln Courier (copies of both letters are available on www.reall.org). In response I received a number of calls and letters asking for more information.

Some of these calls thanked me for writing the letters while others were quite angry. But one of them, from an informed source who is familiar with the case,* said that I had it all wrong – this case has nothing to do with repressed memories, he said.

Here is the second part of risky business. Although I specifically stated that I didn’t know about the guilt or innocence of the accused, my statements on repressed memories certainly could be interpreted as supporting him. I took the risk, in writing, that Goodman wouldn’t turn out to be what he is accused of being – or that REALL wouldn’t get tarred if he did.

As it has turned out, while the person who called me insisted the case doesn’t involve "repressed memories," the claim filed against Goodman seems to tell a different story. It repeatedly uses the term, "recently recovered memory." I talked to the caller again and he couldn’t provide me with a better answer, saying it was a complicated legal and psychological issue.

The caller claimed it was not a case of somebody going to a psychologist and suddenly remembering abuse, but rather a case of the accusers knowing what had happened, but not realizing how it had affected their lives until they talked to somebody about those problems. To me, however, that is quite different from a "recently recovered memory," but I was unable to get any more details.

I intend to continue to follow this case. If it truly does not involve repressed memories, then that will be the end of it, as far as REALL is concerned. But because of the court filing’s use of the term "recently recovered memory," I continue to wonder exactly what is going on here.

I talked to other leaders of local skeptics groups about whether they had encountered similar situations. One told me that the first time he wrote a newspaper article about false accusations, the person he was using as an example ended up confessing to the crimes! It happens. We have to stick by the science. And the science says the use of repressed memories is an unsound and risky procedure.

* Note: I know the identity of the caller familiar with the case. However, he asked to remain anonymous for any articles on the subject.

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