Survivors Defined CCR

As I see it Bishop Robert Finn needs clarification concerning the meaning of ‘surviving abuse”. A survivor, by definition, lives on; sometimes leading what appears as normal life. Young children abused as a seminal point do grow up, become educated, raise a family and often maintain ties to the church that protected and harbored the abuser.

That normal is a facade. The abused child does survive but normal becomes impossible. Trust is destroyed. The world can never again be safe. The abused child can never be whole, is always less-than, looses the ability to be secure in any moment of life. Memory is damaged because the breached trust requires constant vigilance even in the most mundane circumstances. Huge chunks of what should have been happy childhood memories are compromised. Friendships never reach the depth of strength because darkness and pain lurk just below the surface. Ever vigilant, the survivor cannot believe, cannot trust, cannot be whole.

If the abused child of generations ago did speak up, did try to get help from parents or from another priest the overwhelming odds are that the child was not believed, or, worse the child was blamed. “What did you do to entice Fr. So&So to do what you are lying about?” The breach widens. The child slips farther into becoming less-than, soiled, guilty.

In later years, some who have suffered abuse through the immense power of the Catholic Church may test the strength of family relationships. The abused child grown to damaged adult speaks through voice or pen, testing tenuous attempts to believe that family relationships will be loving and suportive. The result can be disastrous to the spirit; shunning, distancing, disbelief and even disgust that the abused has not been able to get-over-it. Clarity is absolute now. The institution that sanctioned and protected abusers is more important than the abused.

I have spent most of my 70 plus years as a member of the Catholic Church, passionate and devoted for much of that time. I believed in the person of Jesus and the message of the teachings attributed to him. True, I have struggled with the secondary position of women in the church and was not pacified by token of lector and server. My life experience taught that the nuns, teachers and nurses, did the real work of Jesus.

The Catholic Church is not alone in gross mishandling of abuse, using the funds of the faithful to defend the indefensible. Other institutions are guilty.

Does mutual guilt exonerate? Does diminished responsibility follow wholesale abuse of power? Speaking out for the victims, demanding an accounting of perpetrators and those who protected the perpetrators in not a condemnation of any good accomplished by organized religion.

Rather, the demand for accountability and justice is an acclamation in the belief of what Jesus is said to represent. The demand for accountability and justice is the only way to restore a belief that the Catholic church lives the message of Jesus and is a belief system organized in honor of that message.

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Equal Protection Under The Law (CCR)

Defining equal and defining protection are exercises for another blog. For the purposes of this blog accepting some measure of belief in the concept strains credulity when looking at the current situation in the Catholic Church. Bishop Finn and Msgr. Robert Murphy of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are embroiled in yet another cover-up of child abuse by ordained men of the church. Both men appeared before a Grand Jury investigating this latest local incident of sanctioned institutional use of children.

For years, the Catholic Church has defiled children both by actions of ordained men of the church and by concerted and ongoing efforts to keep the problem hidden and out of the legal system.

The Mantra, the song of enforced silence has many verses. We hear them over and over: “God’s Law governs these Holy Men. God’s law comes first. The Church, Our Shepard, know best. The Church offers the protection of these good and holy men. The Church has a process of protection. God protects His people through the men of the church. Civil protections have no place in the abuse situations.” A current favorite is the new/old standard of blaming the victims, labeling Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests as trouble makers looking for a chance to make noise. Somewhat reminiscent of inquisitions of torture for failing to adopt the party line.

Granted, a diocese bankrupted under the strain of legal costs defending the Church, the priests, the bishops, the cardinal involved in one situation. As punishment, the Cardinal left United States jurisdiction to a position as head of Mary Major Church in Rome complete with all the comforts and trappings of his position in the hierarchy.

Granted, victims received money for silence.
Granted, psychological treatment was offered to some victims.
Granted, the abuse of children and the institutional cover-up has cost the Catholic Church in both membership and in revenue.

However, we are looking at equal protection under the Civil Law for victims rather than the cost of abusing, denying, ignoring, hiding, covering up. The Catholic Church has used their arsenal to keep the protection of children out of Civil Court, to avoid the open and honest investigation of the corruption. Lawyers protect the Church while the church works to deny protection of the abused.

We are searching for equal and for protection under Civil Law as we look at photos of Bishop Finn and his lawyers entering the building for the Grand Jury investigation. We see Finn and Murphy enjoying their absolute right–the protection of legal counsel, the hearing before Civil Law, the constant advice of those expert in Civil Law, their day in a Civil Law setting. We see these men of the church availing themselves of the very rights and protections that the church has worked so hard to deny victims of abuse by ordained men of the church.

God’s law protects the children? Civil Law protests the priests? Equal protection?

Livin’ Large

A stranger’s furrowed brow, faltering voice, eyes locked on mine helped to make the message unvarnished. His partner silent, shaking her head in disbelief, a Sharpie style embellishment of clarity.

“Your place is beautiful, so many huge trees, private and beautiful, secluded but easy access, storage buildings… but your house! No dish washer, no garbage disposal, no walk-in closets, one TV and only one bathroom? Sorry, but this is just too primitive for us.”

Primitive? I live in primitive conditions?

Take another look.

My Halloween tree, craggy and huge, is home to an owl…night music for the velvet hours spend in the Sunday Room, a large sun room named by a three-year old just learning the days of the week. Sycamore shade keeps the room cool in summer protected in winter. Red-bud trees announce spring along with oak leaves that hold until those red-buds blossom.

A real barn, red and tin roofed, may now be emptied of lifetime collections but it is safe harbor to memories, to a karma of diverse talents and fierce determination to solve any problem.

We washed dishes together, he meticulous with scalding water and me with quick hands and ragged towels. What mechanical thing could replace that time?

Each room bustles with constant and sustaining memories. Family, children, their spouses, grandchildren, friends and neighbors push back against the walls of this house making a mansion where walk-in closets need not apply. Even that one bathroom proved to be a miracle of scheduling, taking turns, learning to G.I. shower during crowded holiday visits.

Among my Catholic friends, a particular practice involving St. Joseph is about 100% guaranteed success. When a home goes on the market, a statue of St. Joseph is buried in the yard to insure a quick sell. Several friends check weekly to see if I have handled that particular real estate boon, promising that it is more important than half empty rooms, bright lights, stashed family photos and a fresh cookie smell.

And still I resist, making little effort to acquire that stature of the saint, even if I knew where to buy it. The For Sale sign persists in advertising my primitive living conditions while I keep reliving volumes of sharing my life with Bob and our family–most definitely Living Large.

The Swill Thickens (CCR)

Kansas City Star, Thursday, June 9, 2011 Front page headline:
Once-accused priest now leads church inquiries
Opening sentence: “The Catholic official who oversees sex abuse complaints against priests in Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese has himself been accused of past sexual improprieties.”

With any due respect, with awareness that an accusation is not a conviction, with further awareness that I am not privy to the workings of the Catholic Church protocols when dealing with priests who sexually or physically abuse children I submit that an accused fox guarding the chicken house is not a good strategy for garnering credibility.

Opinion Page, A 17 Headline: ROME FIDDLES WHILE CHURCH BURNS, commentary by Maureen Dowd

Tell me again, please, that the Catholic Church believes their own propaganda that the incidents of abuse are isolated and definitely not handled through deceit and cover-up. In Dowd’s piece she recounts Ireland’s Archbishop Martin’s tearful account of an abusing Irish priest who built a swimming pool, allowing only boys of certain looks and age to enter the garden. Depraved…”and Dickensian treatment of children in the care of the Irish Catholic Church–a fifth circle of hell hidden for decades by church and police officials–the Irish are still angry and appalled.”

Martin, according to Dowd, has been ostracized by fellow bishops and snubbed by the Holy See. Martin’s crime? Speaking out against pedophiles, publishing his findings and begging forgiveness from God and from the victims while praising the victims for the courage to come forward. In Martin’s words: “Nobody could have read what I have read and not did what I did. If I didn’t react to the stories I heard, there would be something wrong.”

There is something so terribly wrong that the mind cannot comprehend the depth of this wrong. How can a church, spewing out its belief in the Jesus philosophy go so deep into the bowels of hell?

The Catholic Church is burning by its own actions, by the depravity of believing in the preservation of the institution, the safety and structure as created by the men of Rome, over any of the teachings of Jesus. It is a Jesus quote about vomiting that comes to mind..

Pass/Fail

Yesterday a young father spoke about the pass/fail system in his daughter’s school, replacing grades as a measure of learning.  He also spoke about what he perceived as a need for supporting home values in the school setting.

Later in the morning, I asked the daughter about school.  She talked about red, yellow and green days and how she didn’t get enough green days and how she might not get to first grade if she kept getting red days.  My mental visual was a car moving towards traffic lights and a red day was full stop.  The child’s perception was the punishment of repeating kindergarten because she didn’t ‘do good’  with the colors.

Recently, I toured a prospective kindergarten with my daughter-in-law as she made decisions about placement for the fall.  When I asked the teacher to talk about her philosophy of discipline, she responded:  “Oh, you must mean Class Room Management.”  Then she talked about charts, symbols to move for inappropriate behavior, a series of token rewards handed out after a week of non-disruptive behavior.  No.  I did not mean Class Room Management.  I meant Philosophy of Discipline.

Years ago, several colleagues and I stood against many of the self-esteem ‘innovations’ bombarding the classroom.   The idea of always  praising did not match our philosophy of discipline:  Teach a child to love doing what is right, rational, truthful and what matches the definition of good.  For the very young child, the classroom rules were:  Do Your Best,  Tell The Truth,   Be Kind.

At the continued behest of a friend I finally watched a weekly television program designed for high school students.  Whoa.   High school is not this granny’s high school any more.

A local NPR radio program scheduled for today will be a discussion of the media.  Is the media a Pied Piper (my concept) or is the media a mirror reflecting the reality of day-to-day life?

Tying this rant together takes a web, but there is a sticky connection.

The young father’s conservative values hold fast to a very basic conservative tenet–a flawed tenet–the assumption that everyone in the classroom shares a core of values.   He reads Bible stories to his children and that same Bible has no purchase in the lives of  other kids in the class.  Even if the teacher shares the same beliefs as the young father, the teacher can never overtly teach those values unless the setting is a private school based on shared beliefs.

Classroom Management evolved when punishment became a negative.  Punishment could no longer be a consequence of personal behavior.  Self esteem had to be saved at all cost.  No child could be made to feel bad, but still the classroom had to be managed.  Behavior charts ran rampant.

My classroom rules had the same fatal flaw.  Not everyone shared the idea that teaching kids to love doing right would keep them from doing wrong.  Not all family values matched the concept of respect for self and others.

The high school focused TV program bursts with beautiful and talented  actors pretending to be teens, singing and dancing in tune with thousands of dollars spent on years of lessons.  The wardrobe alone would break the bank of many families.   That being said, one of the clear and precise messages was acceptance of diversity.  Perhaps that message is well worth my discomfort at the vehicle of the message.

Pied Piper implies that the media is not a reflection but rather a shove, a lure, a force ever searching for more…more glitz, more sensation, more entertainment value to capture an audience for the advertisers.   Louder, longer, more outrageous, ratcheting against the boundaries, doing whatever it takes to get the viewer to buy the product while convincing the audience that the good life comes along with the product.

Pass/Fail?

Reasons? The Church Is Giving Reasons?

May 18, Kansas City Star story by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times.

Headline:

Reasons cited for priest sex abuse:  Study commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops blames sexual revolution of the 1960’s and ’70’s

The last 15 days have been work days, cleaning and clearing attic, basement, barn and sheds.   First light fills the bedroom and starts thoughts of blogging but the physical work needs doing and blogging has been back burner.  Now?  Now I am ready to rant.

Now it is time.

The five-year study commissioned by the Catholic bishops determines that abuse happened because:

1.  Priests had been poorly prepared.  By whom? The same church that is now excusing?  Where is the fault here?

2. Priests were poorly monitored.  Again,  by whom? Where is the responsibility/fault ?

3.  Priests were under stress and influenced by the turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s.

Lord.  Earlier abuse of children in the 1940’s and ’50’s will get another set of reasons, right?  One of these days I intend to blog a story of abuse that happened prior to the poor priests suffering stress and turmoil during those turbulent 1960’s and ’70’s.

Reading Ms. Goodstein’s well written article was difficult.  My stomach could not handle yet another justification of taking better care of perpetrators than of victims.  I want to rip it apart paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence.

Imagine saying this:  “..it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance.”  How does this ‘advance notice’ thing  have any relevance to covering up after the abuse took place?

Actually, Gentle Reader, I should not have started this.  My anger is off my chart.  Tomorrow I will try again for rational discourse.  This makes me sick.

If Ever I Would Leave You…

it would never be in springtime….

Bob rarely talked of favorite music but he listened with a practiced ear and knowledge of the beauty.  He even owned a bust of Beethoven, which I rudely relegated to the attic.  Shame on me.

Once, a very long time ago, he gave me a record—“If Ever I Would Leave You.”  The words are breaking my heart.  I miss him more in this moment than I have on any day since he did leave me–in autumn, our favorite season.

Every spring, we worked the place side by side, sometimes late into the evening.  I can hardly stand it right now, knowing that I have to handle it alone yet absolutely knowing that I cannot handle it without him.

Sam, age 4, is having a sleep-over and I have struggled with fighting the tears, hiding the emotional stuff.  About two hours ago, I saw Bob standing in the yard, dumb slouch farmer hat, hitching his jeans, and chugging water.  Talk about choked up.   About that moment, Sam asked me something about his water shooter and my answer stopped him short.

“What voice is that, Nana?  Where is your real voice?  That voice was crackly?”  This from a little boy who still believes that Papa will get away from those guys keeping him in heaven, that Papa will come back to us.

Maybe.  Maybe Sam knows something I need to learn.

…it would never be in springtime.  No, I could never leave in springtime…