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?

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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.”

A Time to Sow And A Time To Reap (CCR)

A correction prompted by the May 27 issue of the Kansas City Star which I just read, the day after I viewed the Fox 4 newscast.  The principal of St Patrick’s School, Julie Hess, sent the letter in question to the Vicar General Robert Murphy.  Murphy, according to the newspaper article, met with Ratigan and outlined the parameters of Ratigan’s behavior.  At this point, I do not know what Murphy, Finn’s principal deputy,  communicated to Finn.  I suggest that this Kansas City Star story be read in its entirety.  Friday, May 27, 2011, front page,  Alan Bavley and Glenn E. Rice

 

Friday, May 27, 2011  Fox 4 News  6:00 PM

Bishop Finn, Spiritual Leader and so-called Shepherd of The People held a news conference.  Head down, eyes averted, Bishop Finn read a prepared statement.

I did not attend the news conference so am writing of what I observed on the Fox 4 news.  During this past week, I have written about the Ratigan situation that culminated in the May 27 statement by Finn.  My blogs are summary of articles in the Kansas City Star, The Leaven and my personal reactions to the stories.

In 2008, civil law suits filed against the diocese headed by Bishop Finn, hopefully raising the shepherd’s awareness of danger to the children of his flock.

In May, 2010, the principal of St. Patrick’s School, (where Ratigan had access to the children) wrote to Finn expressing her concerns over Ratigan’s behavior towards the children.  (Correction noted…the letter was sent to the Vicar General Robert Murphy–second in the chain of command.)

The principal worked the chain going to the man expected to take firm action.  Finn admitted to receiving the letter.  Ratigan was not removed at that time.

May 2011  Finn stands before television camera to admit that:

1.  A year earlier Finn had the principal’s letter.  (May 2010)

2.  Six months earlier Finn had the images from Ratigan’s computer.  The diocese returned that computer to Ratigan’s family.  (Dec. 2010)

3.  During those six months, Finn was aware that Ratigan was not adhering to the rules laid down by this shepherd’s monitoring of Ratigan’s behavior.

A reporter attending the news conference asked Finn if he planned to resign.  According to the news story, Finn responded that he was looking towards the future–and then Finn left the room.  (May, 2011)

Perhaps Archbishop Dolan can control that nausea thing and welcome Finn to  New York.  (May 26 blog referencing The Leaven, May 20, 2011)

Perhaps Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s concluding prayer gets tweaked a bit to “Pray for” the Catholic People “that they  not grow weary or discouraged” despite the horrors of the ongoing revelations of the abuse and cover-up scandal that allows sexual and physical harm to children to go unpunished. (The Leaven, May 20, 2011)

Perhaps Bernard Law has an opening at the  Church of  Mary Major in Rome.

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?

Now, Do It Now

There are many clichés to cover the idea of’ reading between the lines, of mindfulness  in awareness, of reaching out before a need is voiced.  This is a good day for that.

We all know people who struggle, short-term or in a sort of perpetual depressive state.  Some struggle with loud bumps and moans letting the world know that this is a bummer.  Some struggle with times of being overwhelmed, drowning in details and no life-preserver in sight.   Others struggle with a quiet, “Fine–I am fine” when we know fine does not cover the pain.

So in case anyone is listening, this is Now, Do It Now Day, a day to put our personal concerns under the stack and take an action that will surprise and soften the life of someone in our prism.  A note, a phone call, handling a task that isn’t getting done, anticipating, understanding with true compassion and taking action.