Ordinarily the charities operating in the Third World are supervised by board of directors acting as the eyes and ears of the benefactors (institutional and individuals) that financed them. The PPT (Project Pierre Toussaint) which fed, schooled, and housed hundreds of homeless or abandoned Haitian boys at its compound in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city from 1997 to 2008, was structured along this line. Fittingly, when Douglas Perlitz, its program director, was fired by the organization’s board of directors following allegations of sexual abuses of young boys in August of 2008, the funding dried up. The benefactors, former alumni of Fairfield University and institutional foundations, did not want their good names to be associated with such evil deed and the Project temporarily closed its doors during the summer of 2008. The children, facing a bleak and uncertain future, are now back on the streets.
Indeed, the benefactors must never be blamed for the alleged immoral actions of Mr. Perlitz, which they would never condone. The contemptuous attitude of the PPT board of directors toward the victims, however, is perplexing and insensitive. In a letter to the benefactors, dated September 8 2008, the board not only defended Mr. Perlitz but also questioned the credibility of his victims, even though an independent investigative firm (hired by PPT) found the accusations to be credible. Turning the table on the victims, the board unflinchingly claimed that the children were bribed into making the accusations, without offering any proof whatsoever. Furthermore, it asserted in a condescending way that the Haitian authorities’ investigative method does not rise to the level of the U.S justice system and that Mr. Perlitz’ fundamental rights have been violated. Needless to say, the board’s seemingly pathological obsession with protecting Mr. Perlitz while ignoring the victims bears the hallmarks of a cover up.
Two points highlighted in the letter were deliberately inaccurate, misleading, or downright untruthful. Firstly, the claim that Mr. Perlitz has never received the allegations against him is disingenuous, because the accused (presently a fugitive) was put on administrative leave by the PPT board of directors and represented by Mr. Quigley, an attorney provided by the U.S Embassy, during his appearance before a Haitian magistrate. Secondly, the letter omitted the important fact that Rev. Paul E. Carrier, the PPT former executive committee chairman, did not voluntarily resign but was removed from its post on order of the Provincial of the New England Jesuits because of his handling of the matter. Not surprisingly, Rev. Carrier remains unrepentant in his defense of Mr. Perlitz.
Concluding its defense of Mr. Perlitz in the letter to the benefactors, the board surmised: “Haiti is a quagmire of poverty, corruption, violence and pain. Because of this, Doug’s “investigation” may never rise to our standard, America’s standard, of integrity… As a result, we want you to know that until such time as there is more credible than inference, innuendo, and paid for testimony, we will believe in Doug Perlitz’s innocence. He, after 11 years of devotion to the street children of Haiti, deserves no less”.
The fact remains that the application of justice varies throughout the world, and these well educated individuals know it. Their insistence of Haiti’s justice system not being up to par with that of the U.S is fortuitous and irrelevant to the case. Among the world’s great democracies, the U.S is the only one using capital punishment as a deterrent to certain crimes, which many consider abhorrent and a violation of human rights. Yet, it could be argued that the use of capital punishment is about rendering justice to victims, which is the foundation of any justice system, an important fact that eluded the signatories of the letter.
Ostensibly, the letter is a glowing endorsement of Perlitz’ character that is indicative of the signatories’ deliberate disregard for the truth. It also amounts to a gratuitous condemnation of the Haitian state and a merciless attack on the innocent victims, orchestrated with an insidious purpose. Because Mr. Perlitz cannot be tried in Haiti under the tacit understanding that precludes the Haitian state from prosecuting a U.S citizen, any criminal prosecution would have to proceed stateside. This could be a groundbreaking decision that may attract the glare of the media and the attention of the U.S Congress. Naturally, the anonymous individual donors, institutional foundations and Fairfield University, which financed the project, certainly do not want that to happen.
On the upside, the U.S Congress may pass legislations requiring U.S charities operating in the Third World to properly screen their volunteers and paid workers. This would reduce the likelihood of pedophiles infiltrating these well-meaning organizations with their nefarious purpose. The downside to such development is the possibility of many benefactors backing away from financing the good deeds that alleviate the sufferings of millions in the less developed nations. Therefore, is there an attempt at covering the alleged crimes of Mr. Perlitz?
In the wake of the many scandals involving pedophile Catholic priests, the signatories of the letter, most of them former alumni of Fairfield University, one of the premier Catholic institutions in this country, undoubtedly do not want another dark spot that could further tarnish the reputation of the Church and its mission. Be that as it may, integrity is a sacred duty for all Catholics. These pillars of the faith should stop shielding Mr. Perlitz and do the right thing.