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?


Never Lonely

The dead are never lonely.
Dead is gone. Maybe in an eternal bliss, no matter the name. Maybe in that down side of bliss. Maybe just gone, no more–dead. Universal destiny, the sure and certain agent of change.

Because death is, life surely must evolve out of pretense, of false pride, of ignorance. Surely we recognize the life requirement to face the mirror with honesty, with a grasp of the reality of death.

This was a drive-around-and-pretend-to-have-a-destination day, one of those days that can suck the good out of the best of work intentions. Air so sweet with autumn, colors random, filled with splash and zest. My favorite season of layered clothing, sun and shadow, wood fires to warm old memories.

Without warning the tears came, blinding me. I was driving. I was not the passenger in his big SUV. Was not reacting to his hand as he reached over, touched my cheek. Such a brief and private moment, one I perpetually took for granted.

My thought was so odd. “Please don’t be lonely. Be OK. I don’t want you to feel like this. Please don’t be lonely.”

So I am grateful. I am. He is dead but he is not lonely. That is a good thing.

With Any Due Respect (CCR)

On Sunday, October 2, 2011, The Kansas City Star published a letter by Mary Pat Miller of Overland Park, Kansas. In her letter, Miller shared her thoughts concerning those attending Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in downtown Kansas City, about protesters outside the Cathedral and about the prayers for “… healing…wholeness…in an environment befitting of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”. To further quote Miller’s letter: “Those faithful sitting in the pews don’t have their heads in the sand concerning the ongoing controversy. They just know that God will not abandon his church if they are faithful to his word.

God will not abandon those faithful to his word?

Are we now facing the devastatingly painful question about what act of faithlessness did thousands of children commit? What sin of childish innocence/obedience created their abuse and the subsequent institutional cover-up of that abuse? Were these children not abandoned by the church of Holy Men of God ordained to teach, protect and walk in the Jesus philosophy?

Healing and wholeness in an environment befitting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Healing cannot happen until the cancer is removed with deep and certain cuts to the core. The Catholic Church has failed to cleanse itself, to monitor, to punish and to excise
those who have abandoned the word of God through their obscene abuse of children. Wholeness may follow this depth of healing only if the Catholic Church abandons the culture of protectionism and accepts the help and the rules of civil authority.

Hard Rain

Every year a blessing falls, the nutritious fruit of the walnut trees, a free gift of nature. Besides the crop, the trees grow bigger each year becoming prime for wood harvest. Outstretched arms cannot circle the Halloween Tree and that girth tells the tale, example for all the other lesser walnut trees. Past years have produced enough to fill twenty plus fifty pound animal feed sacks. Some years we simply add to the quality of squirrel life creating mini-mountains of plenty.

Remember the concept ‘bumper crop’? Bumper to bumper is the new bar, helmet required.

With the appointment for an agent and clients to view the house confirmed, my shed painting schedule ended. First the drive-way and a heavy-duty broom to find the asphalt under the sea of green. (Walnuts fall with a green outer husk.) Dodge ball, the constant fall aided by the wind, the clear drive never happened. Fine. Call it good for now and move to the yard. Prospective buyers need to see actual grass under the pea green obstacle course.

Start the mower, hitch the trailer and think ‘3 hours to rake and load’. By now, I am lamenting another of my hasty decisions to sell our bikes. Hanging on each handle bar was a helmet and I needed a helmet now. Hard rain hurts.

Hey, maybe a quick pass with the lowered blade engaged would slice a few to minutia, saving some rake strokes. Unhitch the trailer and give it a go.

Wow. Loud and probably denting the blades. Then, of course, I heard Bob’s voice reminding that walnut oil and grass don’t work together. OK. Fine. Stop. Rake. Now you, Gentle Reader, can remember “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”

Clock ticking. Wind picking up. New objective. Never mind picking up, just get into piles clearing pathways through the beauty of this place. Mower and trailer back in the shed. Paint tools stowed. Rake with all the gusto that these old arms can muster.

Then came the crunch at the end of the long drive-way, a two car crunch. Quickly, move to the barn so the prospective buyers can have time and privacy to admire the home, the partially cleared harvest, the beauty that could be theirs. Right.

Fifteen minutes inside the house and gone. No walk. No nodding heads struck by the beauty. No admiration of the spotless decks recently cleaned and dressed. No head shake of wonder at the number of outbuildings, some just spiffed with new paint.

Oh well. By Saturday the gift of hard rain should be finished. By Sunday, the harvest up and gone. By Monday? I’m thinking early October blizzard.

Rough Draft

First thoughts. Scribble. Napkin notes. Stoplight scrawl. Jot and go, revise later.

I grow tired of being my own rough draft. At almost 73 shouldn’t I be pristine, polished, more than blurb? Not.

Every day is a do-over. Every day is a lesson learned. Words come out that bang against a sensibility known yet not really understood. More words choked back, lost in weakened courage. Ideals buried by a moment’s pragmatism. Beliefs constantly challenged by what actually looks like reality. Memories swallowed for fear of tarnishing the memory of loved ones.

If I kept a daily journal, it could be devastating showing me exactly how rough the draft, how little gets any polish. Maybe that is why I have about a zillion attempts at journaling and zero successes. Kind of like yoga–looks simple, stretches hard.

When I was a kid and into young adult, I did the recommended Catholic daily examination of conscience so I could really get a handle on that catalog of sins, chart my progress. So odd what passed for sin: skipped morning prayers, inattention at Mass, a stray thought, a question better left unasked.

Maybe this rough draft thing is carry-over, a way to catalog all the failures-to-communicate with self. Maybe it really is the gift of do-over, trying again to live it right. Reminds me of a nonsense from long ago: The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”


Disclaimer First: This is a ramble, a struggle to understand with no conclusion to the journey.

As much as we might believe it is possible to separate our logical selves from our emotional selves, the evidence is otherwise. Research continues to present evidence that emotion, and the unconscious parts of the mind, determine the values that serve our needs.

In pre-school, we learn to discern patterns in shape, number or color. Long before that mathematical kind of pattern search, we learn to discern patterns in very complex behaviors around us. From birth, we build our values based on emotional responses, sorting the structure of our values, not opposing reason, but melding.

Mr. Spock of Star Trek did the mind meld as if Vulcan’s alone had that ability. Not so. Again, from birth we enter the minds of those around us. We meet our needs and build our value system by staying tuned.

Equally important, as we mature,is the monitoring of our minds as we correct for prejudices and mistakes. We reconstruct our values, our emotional responses, our ability to live within a social group.

Finally, motivation completes our package, tying together what we have structured as our logical set of values and our emotional response to any given situation. In those times of exquisite moments, immersed in love of another person, caught up in a joy of challenge and even in our search for God, we taste the hunger. We know the motivation that goes so far beyond material success.

Recently a number of events have gifted me with the awareness that it is time for yet another restructuring. Recent church related blogs have skirted the issue of responsibility and expressed values opposing perceived values.

Continuing generosity of family, neighbors and friends are both amazing and comforting. My blessings are people who cover all the visible bases while understanding the more difficult needs.

Far too often we handle difficult issues by dumping at the gates of a higher power to which we have assigned attributes build on an emotional need to explain what has no satisfying explanation.

Attempting to comfort, standard expressions give God the credit and reserve the pain for those unwilling to accept God’s offering.
When God closes a door, he opens a window.
God never gives us more than we can handle.
God reached out and saved (a name) when others perished.
There are no atheists on the battlefield.
God is trying to tell us something by the destruction of nature.
God spoke to me and showed me the way.
Pray, and God will answer…maybe not the answer to the prayer, but God’s answer to the need.
Why me? God is trying to tell me something.
The church is God’s emissary on earth, leading us to eternal life.

For the sake of communication, let’s accept that God is…that God is in a place, in the lives of people.
Why is a tsunami allowed to destroy a huge section of a country? Why do earth quakes strike down life without regard? Why is one family’s child less valuable than other children and signaled for early death? Why do the deluge of prayers for peace seem impotent? Genocide? Aids? Cancer? Addiction? Prejudice? Governmental dishonesty? All the mistakes of humans and not correctable by the powers of God?

Of course I know that these are questions from my late teens and early twenties, years of searching followed by years of diligently toiling. (Thanks, Mark.) I know that these are the questions of depression, sadness and grief, questions that are very easily answered by blindly believing, by giving God the design manual.

Perhaps an equally important question is How. How do the beautiful, caring and generous men and women continue to live their values in a culture that mocks, satirizes and bullies? How do people, with no reliance on god-rules do that diligently toiling thing while giving up chunks of self to care for those around them?

Could it be that humans have taken characteristics of those beautiful, caring and generous men and women and designed a power in that image and likeness.

Out Of The Woodwork (CCR)

“You have become a Johnny One-Note. Are there no other topics? Move on. These people come out of the woodwork.”
That one got to me, salted the moral ache that festers. The meaning was clear. “These people come out of the woodwork.” Mistrust of motivation. Blaming the victims. Protecting the abusers by saying that the woodwork people worm out to join the bandwagon.

In defense of this person, there are no TVs, newspapers or news magazines in the home. Current events are the day-to-day drama of over fifty seniors, age 62 plus, living in an apartment building. The outside world is too filled with bad news to allow in–so ignore and pretend it doesn’t exist.

It does exist. It is real. The abuse tolerated, perhaps allowed in the belief that the church required that depth of protection. The cover-up hid the truth and gave permission for abuse to continue.

Mike Hunter of Kansas City is the volunteer director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. David Clohessy of St. Louis is the executive director of SNAPNetwork.org, the same organization. Hunter and Clohessy co-authored As I See It, an opinion piece for the Kansas city Star Newspaper. The final paragraph of their piece offers the only solution that holds promise.
“That’s why we’re desperately hoping police and prosecutors will step up. While our justice system isn’t perfect, it can often unearth the truth in such situations and punish the guilty, thus deterring recklessness, callousness and deceit in the future.”