Wheat From Chaff (CCR)

Fourteen of my 73 years were well served by the education received in Catholic schools. Nuns were amazing. Their knowledge of subject matter, their teaching skills and their dedication have rarely been matched. In high school and college, priests shared the teaching duties and they, as well as the nuns, imbued the Catholic concept of God into each day. I spent a number of years volunteering and teaching in Catholic Schools, often reviewing the attributes of God as presented by the priests and nuns.

An omnipotent and omniscient Being was the God of the “one true, holy, Catholic and apostolic church”. We were given Jesus as the human aspect of God so we could feel a connection with a part of the Being. We could identify with the human side of God through Jesus.

On Sunday, October 16, 2011, the Kansas City Star published a lengthy and detailed article on the recent indictment of Bishop Robert Finn in connection with the abuse charges against Sean Ratigan, a priest of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. The article quotes members of the Catholic Church, giving their reactions to the charges against Bishop Finn.

A member of the St. Louis Parish on Swope Parkway, Jim Dougherty, expresses his belief in the following quote: “I still believe in a God that relishes and redeems woundedness.” (page A10, fifth column)

A God that is omnipotent and omniscient, a God of one true, holy, Catholic and apostolic church relishes something labeled woundedness? This God relishes the wounds inflicted on children by the shepherds ordained to protect from harm? Or is the relish of God savored and saved for the perpetrators of the wounds? Equal relish for victim and criminal?

A God, a being Supreme and all-powerful, that relishes anything fails the test of credibility.

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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.

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?

Donnelly College Scholarship Dinner

Last week Donnelly College hosted the annual Scholarship Dinner. My volunteer duties included time at the reception table and a stint outside welcoming attendees. Actually, the time outside The Jack Reardon Center was disguised as a welcoming gesture while the main purpose was to guard the four reserved parking spots insuring that only certain folks used those spaces. Jazmin, a Block Scholar, and I were asked to identify (how?) those allowed in the front and center slots and to move others quickly on and out. A stretch limo was the no-brainer, but the other choices had embarrassing moments.

Jazmin shivered in the steady breeze, her bare arms shaking as the time dragged and the fourth VIP failed to show. She continued to smile as we welcomed each person in the wonderfully diverse crowd.

We talked of our history in Kansas City, Kansas, the changes along Minnesota Avenue, the scheduled EPA exodus to Johnson County. We talked of the immense value of Donnelly College as a beacon of not only education but a beacon of ethnic diversity and understanding. We talked about the life changing Block Scholar Program. Jazmin had her goal, Civil Engineer, that would be reached because the Block Family understands the value of protecting and nurturing young people determined to pursue a degree.

A small car whipped around the barricades taking one of the reserved spaces. That noisy engine could not belong to the tardy VIP, right?
As I prepared to give my “Sorry” speech, an order priest dressed in the long brown robe, rope belt and sandals jumped from the car, head down, and hurried towards the Center.

Not five minutes prior, The Archbishop of the diocese entered a bit breathless from his long walk. How could I ignore the blatant move by the little car, give priority to Father X when the Archbishop did not command a reserved spot? How could I do that?

In the name of equality, diversity, parity and multiplicity I did that. We were freezing and there was plenty of space if the late arriving VIP happened to show. Besides, Jazmin and I were hungry.

There is so much that could be written about the evening, about the program, about Mr. Block’s caring speech, about tremendous spirit of giving evident during the pledge drive, about the filmed interviews with Block Scholars, their lives opened to the audience, about the attentive and efficient wait staff, and about the hard work that preceded the event.

Rather than those important aspects, I believe that a glass raised to Steven and to Matthew—to their lives, their determination, their openness—is a glass raised to the purpose and order of that evening.

These young men represent the Mission of Donnelly and of the Block Scholar program. Steven and Matthew stand with pride, owning life mistakes and growing successes. They own it all. It is a privilege to know them.

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.

Price Tag On A Soul

Rudimentary to a price tag, of course, is that fundamental belief in the immortal soul, a soul that registers consequences backed up against a belief system.

Identifying the belief system is a balance of the famous walk and talk comparison. Stumble along with that murky bit for a while. Then try to sort those quietly held truths vs. so-called doctrines or universal truths. The stumble decreases to stalemate.

“This Great Country of the United States of American…The American People have spoken…The greater good demands…Mama Grizzly.”

Public officials have the research. Pick a word, pick a pair, pick a hot button of most compelling, most able to incite action, most conservative, most liberal, most blah. Name a prejudice and the handbook of electability will furnish the words to exploit. Identify a pork and you can bet a politician is slipping it under the radar.

Our shoulders should ache from carrying that burden. We elected them. We read the history and we turn the page allowing a rewrite; same ideas different names.

Part of the reason that this blog stayed quiet for some time is my inability to process the cover up of the abuse of children. The Church, that was my life anchor for well over six decades, covered for and protected the abusers. The abusing priests were more important that the anguish of the abused.

When recently asked why I thought that the Catholic Church got more press than other organizations who have abusers in their ranks, I didn’t hesitate to answer.

The Catholic Church set itself above all others, named itself as the one true, holy, catholic and apostolic church. From earliest memory, the Catholic Church set itself apart and above, the single pathway to God, the true keeper of the words of Jesus. No other denominations need apply.

Right there on top of the flag pole, waving the flag of a Pope speaking directly from God, unable to err on doctrines of faith or morals. Catholics first, all others diminished, setting a bar that demanded a higher standard. Sow and reap.

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.