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.

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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…

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.”

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?

Eyes Tight Shut, Part 1 (CCR)

In  The National Catholic Reporter, Janelle Lazzo of Roeland Park, Kansas wrote “…as St. Paul made clear, not only does it make no difference if the faithful are “slave or free”, it should not matter if they are “male or female either.”

I have read Ms. Lazzo and know her to be highly intelligent, wise and courageous, especially in matters of social justice.  Her line, “…slave or free…male or female…”, is so powerful, so indicative of my church’s position as anti-female.

Let me make an attempt to sort my observations and to explain why my church, the Catholic Church, operates with eyes tight shut.

St. Paul opens the church to those distanced opposites so easy to identify, slave or free–all are welcome here.  Free people owned slaves,  holding to life and death decisions over the chattel group.  Slaves were synonymous with poverty, owning nothing but an ironclad servitude to masters.  Slaves ate, slept, worked at the discretion of the master.  St. Paul welcomes both slave and free with no distinction, supposedly equal in the eyes of that church.

Something is very wrong here.  Slave and free equal in those eyes tight shut, but not so male and female?  Males make church policy.  Males hold all positions of power.    Males created and maintain the structure of the church, no exceptions.

The Catholic God plays favorites, right?  God decided that men are better than women.  God decided that women have a lesser place than slaves.  God decided that men alone could run the church following the teachings of a poor and ragged Jew named Jesus.  This Jesus, a gentle man who taught social justice, love, forgiveness and equality and thereby recognized that free and slave had equal place in this ministry.

Those words sound bitter and perhaps there is bitterness in the search for an equal place in the church.  Perhaps there is bitterness and disappointment that a community so loved by so many is stunningly exclusive to one half the membership.

A Man I Know

A Man I Know celebrated his birthday in a most unusual manner.

For A Man I Know, Wednesdays are usually spent driving 2 hours to help a particular senior citizen with what ever happens to be on the honey-do list that week.  Coffee and bagels at Einstein Brothers are the extent of the thanks A Man I Know will accept before doing the return 2 hours to his home.

This Wednesday was different, beautifully different.

The economy continues to be difficult and one of A Man’s friends was in the middle of the worst of times, down to wondering if there would be food for tomorrow.

On his birthday, A Man I Know gave rather than receive.   He filled a shopping cart with food, basic household essentials, and even a few special treats to ease the difficult time for his friend.  The drive to deliver was long, especially after spending the first of the day on the highway while knowing that the trip home was still to come.

I love A Man I Know, having held him for the first time 44 years ago when he started his life in Kansas City, Kansas….my privilege then and my privilege now.  Happy Everything, A Man I Know.