Oddly, there is a comparison to be made here about the morals in the U.S. Congress and the Roman Catholic Church in America. It goes far beyond the separation of church and state, though both are involved.
Clearly, other members of Congress were aware of issues such as those involving Rep. Mark Foley and his interactions with young male pages. Leaders of the Catholic Church for years knew of sexual abuse by clerics. Yet everyone seemed to stand by and let the activity continue.
An observation during the Watergate hearings comes to mind. "What did they know, and when did they know it?" Sen. Howard Baker asked in reference to President Richard Nixon and his staff, but that same question applies to Congress and Catholic Church officials.
Then, what was done to deal with the problem and why did it take so long and require such dramatic revelations to do something significant?
The Republicans, justifiably, with Rep. Dennis Hastert on the hottest seat, are drawing heavy criticism for not taking care of "the Foley matter" when rumors first began. But now we are informed that a number of Democrats also were aware of Foley's activities and did nothing. They are supposed to be the "loyal opposition" with the aim of bettering the good of the order. Loyal to whom and what?
A surprising number of observers have suggested that the congressional page program be abolished because of the dangers to the youngsters from older and supposedly trusted people in the House and Senate. The problem here is not the pages; it is members of Congress who either misbehave or do not have the fortitude to step forth, condemn and take remedial action.
Consider "new" instructions for young people taking page jobs in the offices of their congress people: Work hard, learn, meet important and able people, ask questions, profit from experience - and, by the way, watch out for sexual predators who may be the leaders you are supposed to admire and respect.
After his activity with pages was revealed, Foley has come forth and declared that he was sexually abused as a child and that he is gay - but he is not offering all this as an excuse. You think? His attorney, with a straight face, yet, said: "Mark does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate (e-mails and instant messages). He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct." There is no excuse. If he is smart enough to enter "rehab" now, why didn't he have the courage and respect for his colleagues to do so long ago? Or why didn't colleagues force him to do that?
The publicized polling levels about the performance of President Bush have dropped and continue to be low, often in the 40 percent range. But get this: The public rating of Congress and how it is performing is about half of that, even under 20 percent in some surveys. And that was before the Foley scandal began to unfurl.
Again, what did members of Congress, regardless of party, know and when did they know it? And why wasn't something meaningful done before the further slide in public confidence occurred?
There are plenty of opportunities to criticize Congress and how it conducts its business. This latest and further loss of confidence will take a long time to overcome.