Anne Frank & the Scandals of the Catholic Church

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Today the New York Times reports on the only known video of Anne Frank, which was recently posted on YouTube and has now been watched well over 1.7 million times.


The Times also included a brief video of Otto Frank, Anne’s father, talking about her legacy and what he learned from her diary.


(Otto refers to her as Anna, not Anne, which surprised me.) I expected him to say something about how her story puts a human face to the Holocaust, and that her words really resonate with young girls all over the world. In fact, he says that he was bewildered to read about how she was really feeling, and how different that was from how he perceived her. He says, “It was quite a different Anne I had known as a daughter. She had never really showed this kind of inner feeling…What really her feelings were I only could see from the diary…My conclusion is …that most parents don’t know really their children.”

Fascinating. Of course, Otto Frank didn’t need Anne’s diary to put a human face on the Holocaust—he lived it. Still, it’s amazing to think that for him, the lesson was that he knew so little about his own daughter, and how her mind worked. I wonder how many others take this kind of message from the diary.

Right after I read the story about Anne Frank I read this story about how the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport is trying to keep records sealed that are related to lawsuits filed against priests accused of child sex abuse.

Opening the records would finally allow victims of the abuse to see who was responsible for shuffling offending priests from parish to parish without warning parishioners about past incidents with children. That is the obvious benefit. But after watching the Otto Frank video I can’t help but wonder if there are other lessons that can be taken away from these situations. Perhaps unsealing the records will reveal how far back the problem goes and the ways that different church officials dealt with these kinds of problems. Perhaps when these records go public it will force clergy members of all kinds to take stock of their actions and really evaluate how much impact they can have on those—especially children—that they deal with every day.

Just as Frank read the diary and wondered how he could have missed Anne’s depth and insight, I hope Catholic clergy will take a close look at these records and consider how they could have let such abuse and horror go on under their noses.

Posted on October 5, 2009

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