A Tribute (CCR)

No matter the God image fitting into each belief system…
No matter the depth of belief or the strength of non-belief…
No matter the participation in tradition and ritual…
No matter the distance of desire to be part of organized church practice…
No matter the connection with community…
No matter the intensity of standing alone…

It is time.

We–former Catholics, struggling Catholics, stanch and dedicated Catholics, disgusted and achingly sad Catholics, forever Catholics— owe a debt. It is time to acknowledge the debt and participate in paying the debt.

On Friday, October 14, 2011 the Huffington Post article reported that Bishop Robert Finn and his diocese will face prosecution on charges stemming from child abuse allegations. No doubt the Kansas City Star newspaper will carry the story today. Perhaps this indictment is the gear opening the floodgates to flush the filth, to forcibly
cleanse what has festered beyond believing.

And that tribute we owe the Davids fighting the power and money of Goliath? The tribute to perseverance, to strength, to courage?

No matter the God fitting into each belief system, we owe tribute to an Irish Catholic priest willing to face the Vatican. We owe tribute to the very precious few women and men within the structure of the Catholic Church willing to push against the wall of denial, to fight the barricades set by the network.

No matter the God fitting into each belief system, we owe thanks and support to Survivors of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic priests. We owe the years, the decades, the centuries filled with little boys and little girls grown to hurt and haunted women and men. We owe the pain, the neglect, the life contaminated at the hands of shepherds charged with protection and guidance. We owe for dismissal by family and community. We owe for the ugliness of blaming the victims and covering for those ordained into a society of protection.

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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?

Yesterday’s Gone

Yesterday’s Gone. Song lyric? Think it is. Know it should be. Yesterday.

Everyone has a yesterday, one to touch with nostalgia. Even an unfulfilled yesterday is a respite from the newest today.

Yesterday’s blog was lame. It didn’t come close to what was waiting.
For weeks, this spot stood fallow, lost in the yesterdays of so many people who I love–family/friends, the church of my formation, the community both local and global.

When there is nothing to say, we don’t seem to know silence. We grasp at the inane rather than simply hold a hand or hold the phone. That is a good thing even though it shouts at our inadequacy to do much more than care.

Valiant has a tradition of matching with war, with swords and guns and horrible battles. That is not right.

Valiant is a word for keeping on keeping on, for men and women who step up when slipping away would be so easy. Valiant is day after day after day of staying because leaving would simply trade pain.

There are no words to sooth the deep depression of those we love. We try. We stumbled along, but there are no words. When distance means that words are all we have–and there are no words— we feel the depth of inadequacy. So we talk along, trusting that our love and support are felt, knowing that more is required.

The Space Between

There is a space betweenthe past as it was and the past as we remember it. This is a space of rescue, a space to temper the reactions of then with whatever adjustments we need. It is easy to allow the rescue to become more than the reality. It is difficult to trust memory knowing that the space between has time as dampener.

Cookies in the oven, sheets fresh from the line, chalk dust from clapping erasers, grass in the early morning, smoke from a campfire, all more vivid in the past than in the now.

A sense of long and empty afternoons, a stirring of forgotten passions, evenings lost in anger that can only be choked (but rarely hidden) head-to-head with undeniable facts–all wrapped in pain and all able to be survived in the space between.

Mistakes, selfish choices, times of going for the instant, going for the easy do not go away. Locked. Maybe that space between helps us live despite knowing that we own those choices. The consequences are just.

My Country Tis of Thee

Yesterday someone dear to me stated that I was not overly sentimental. This person reads me as more practical and dispassionate instead of overly demonstrative. Maybe. Maybe sentimental is a whisper no less felt than thunder.

Births, deaths, holidays, most milestones evoke sentiment. Each Wednesday and each Friday tears spill as family members start down the drive-way after a weekly visit. Family returning to either Colorado or South Carolina requires my face towards the ground, a plastic smile and a mighty stab at self-control. Good-bye is an avalanche of loneliness.

Today is July 4, Independence Day, a celebration of country and patriotism. My activities for the day include painting, stripping wax and buying paper products, laundry supplies and a favorite candy from the nearby Wal-Greens.

As I stood at the card aisle looking for the perfect birthday message (unsentimental but covering all the love and pride I feel for the person), the piped music was My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty…

My reaction caught me…sentimental, nostalgic, sad, and even angry. As a fairly liberal-minded old person, I tend to focus on the warts rather than white-wash over the problems. I absolutely know what a privilege it is to live in the United States even as I lament the excesses and the failures to honor the all-men-created-equal declaration.

Politics lacks integrity and diminishes our system as it pays for professional advice on how to exploit integrity and patriotism. The John Edwards and Sarah Palins of the scene push collective buttons and hide behind personae and rhetoric.

We did learn from Viet Nam and our military men and women are given all deserved honor. The branches of the Armed Services will be prominent in 4th of July celebrations.

People, American people, celebrate this day together. Patriotism waves with new unwrinkled flags, with yearly resurgence of hope that the best can make its way forward and that appreciation can resurrect the best of My Country Tis of Thee I Sing.

Deliver Us From (CCR)

We humans are a very mixed bag. Two of my sons have expressed a belief that, over-all, the human race is more disposed to ugliness than to civil discourse, compassion, and a genuine search for truth.

Pockets, they say. Pockets. Good people are simply pockets tucked in amidst the preponderance of ignorance and the disregard for justice.

The Kansas City Star has printed many letters regarding the Ratigan/Finn/Murphy situation in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph. Most of my recent blogs have focused of the physical and sexual abuse of children by ordained men of the Catholic Church and the overwhelming evidence of an institutional cover-up.

I have tried to read with an open mind, an understanding of the perspective of every letter writer. For many years I shared the concept that the Church knew best, could do no wrong and had the Jesus Philosophy dialed.

Obviously, that belief, and the required blind and silent obedience, is no longer a part of my life.

A letter to the editor, Kansas City Star, Thursday, June 30, 2011 taxes my ability to maintain an open-mind. In the letter, Laura Long of Pleasant Hill writes:

“All I see from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is a bunch of money-hungry, publicity-hungry folks jumping up and down creating havoc for the sake of havoc.”

Excuse me, but how does a mean-spirited remark like that fit into the Jesus philosophy? “…jumping up and down creating havoc for the sake of havoc.”

Really, Laura Long? Victims of abuse should quietly go away, perhaps being sheep to a flawed Shepard?

Men and women seeking justice following molestation by trusted priests are simply jumping up and down? Priests given honor, prestige and trust violated the victims, their families and the trust of their ordination.

Ordained men who professed the Jesus Philosophy fondled, raped, violated, tortured children and now the children are “…creating havoc for the sake of havoc”?

If the survivors manage to create some havoc in the name of justice I honor that havoc, not unlike chasing those money changers from the temple.

Eccentricity In Purple (CCR)

By accident, by my pilot error, one of my three decks is now purple. Caught up in one of my manic moments I brushed at dusk, finishing at dark, too tired to pay much attention to detail…like color.

I admit to early warning. Mark made one of his wonderful weekend runs from Colorado. He drives nine hours to do things like clean decks, drive when we look for a house and—-and make me feel both normal and young. He is my first-born son and he brings safety when he comes here.

Mark said the third deck was different wood and the stain would not look as it did on the other two decks. So even if I had a dusk-glimmer of curiosity as I painted, I just blew it off counting down to quitting time.

Maybe the stain label calls it Plum Island, but the eye knows purple. The other two decks are beautiful redwood stain that bead rain like champions. Under the deep shade, tucked back from the Sycamore, eccentricity has arrived. I love the color and I love the sense that something is different, that a threshold opened, that the purple isn’t a color to be worn but an attitude to be cherished.

No longer will there be a twinge of sadness when I write about the Catholic Church. No longer will I balance excuses with this new purple awareness.

For about two weeks, this blog faltered. I gave up facing the truth about the church I once called ‘my church’. Excuses are easy. My words have no power. Some members of my family push farther away with every blog. A drop in the ocean cannot ripple. I don’t have all the facts. Bob’s death has made me vulnerable to wrong thinking.

Weightless air puffs of excuses but they served my purpose, a need for time to grieve, to rage in anger. I have. And my anger is righteous and my church is wrong.

Since October I have grieved a physical death that ended a long chapter of my life. Today I walked into his space, a shed of memories, and it was October again. I wonder at my weakness. Grieving that loss will never end.

With the Ratigan/Finn/Murphy the grieving for ‘my church’ is over.

On Sunday, June 19 2011, the Kansas City Star had a front page photo of 75 Catholics marching in support of Bishop Robert Finn. At least ten of those in the photograph were children. The diocese has 134,000 families and 65 adults declared their support. My guess is that if a man named Jesus had seen the demonstration he might have said that the number supporting Bishop Finn was just about perfect.

On Friday, June 24, 2011 Kansas City Star front page headline:
Ex-monk admits sexual misconduct

Bede Parry is a former Benedictine from a northwest Missouri abbey. He has admitted sexual misconduct while leading the boys choir in the 1980s.

And the beat goes on…