By Association (CCR)

The Leaven is the diocesan publication led by Archbishop Joseph R. Naumann.  The May 20, 2011 issue had Naumann’s article reprinting and commenting on a March 18 blog by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.  Dolan is the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thought I have met Archbishop Naumann numerous times, it is always the first introduction for him.  I am simply an entity to whom he nods and moves on so I claim no personal connection nor conversation with Naumann.  He is a busy man and I am another face in the current  crowd.

Archbishop Dolan’s blog retells his encounter with an outraged and courageous man, a baptized Catholic, who took advantage of the symbolic collar to confront the sexual abuse.  The man was not accusing Dolan of abuse but was expressing his contempt for the abuse scandal and the cover-up by the church.  In the second paragraph of Dolan’s blog he says, “..left me so shaken I was near nausea”.

Good.

It is good that Dolan was near nausea as are many of us each time we read another recounting of a priest physically and/or sexually abusing a child.  The nausea often gives way to vomit when we further read of Bishops and Archbishops covering for the pedophile.

And the victims?  If only they could vomit away the fire-brand scorching their being as they “…staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound…inflicted…”.   (Page 2 Column 1, May 20, 2011, The Leaven)

Memory preserved in stress is often skewed.  Fight or flight alters perception of a very public situation.  Dolan’s reaction was “What to respond?  Yell at him?  Cuss him out?  Apologize?  Deck him?…I staggered with shame from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.”   Flight or flight.

One of the surest and most effective techniques in advertising is the use of the expert, the famous person, the cultural icon as association to the product.  Spread the affirmations and heighten the acceptance.

Upside down displays that ugly underbelly concept.  Guilt shared is guilt diminished.  Teachers, Scout leaders, family members abuse, so abusing priest have companions thereby sharing the guilt.   Searching from earliest memory I have no recollection of confessional moments when a priest asked me if anyone else forgot morning prayer or took an extra cinnamon square from the confectionery on the corner.

In the third column of Archbishop Dolan’s blog, the The Leaven reprints the following:

“Notwithstanding the happy ending, I was still trembling…and almost felt like I needed an exorcism to expel my shattered soul, as I had to confront again the horror this whole mess has been to victims and their families, our Catholic people like the man I had just met…and to us priests.”

Dolan calls the ending ‘happy’ because the Denver airport scene ended with a handshake and a joke about exorcism.  Dolan’s words place the horror …to victims, families, Catholic people and priests…in the same bundle.  With all due respect,  Archbishop, you and your priests only stand at the edge of the hell lived by victims.  You only smell the smoke of the cover-up while much of the church is consumed by that stench.

Archbishop Naumann’s ending comments include a request for prayer for priests “…that we might strive to be shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ.  Pray that we have the courage and generosity to lay down our lives in love for the good of the people we are privileged to serve.”

The Jesus Philosophy is a thing of richness of spirit while dressed in physical poverty.  The story goes that the man, Jesus, did lay down his life for the good people.  He was laid down in blood and pain, stripped of the meager garment and rope sandals.

Perhaps the good people, the people clinging to hope in their Catholicism, don’t want the death of their priests as evidence of service.  Perhaps  being “troubled”  (Bishop Finn/Ratigan/Troubled? The Bishop Is Troubled? ) isn’t enough.  Perhaps excuses and justifications by associations are bogus enough to be left with the other baggage.

Perhaps privilege to serve demands opening the doors wide enough for good people to be privy to  records, to documentation, to  resources, to  information, to every incident of cover-up.  Perhaps the good people served do not want the death of their priests but rather want their priests to live the life of  the Jesus Philosophy.

Archbishop Naumann concludes:  “Pray for our priests that they not grow weary or discouraged despite the challenges of their ministry.”

How odd.  Once again, the focus is directed towards the priests–their weariness, their challenges, their discouragement.  How very odd.

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Celibate In Name; Abuse of Minors (ccr)

Well, Gentle Reader, I begin this ramble with only a vague idea of the end.  ‘Heartsick’ is not enough to describe where my reading has taken me.

Growing up with total belief in my church I was sad when my grandfather scoffed by telling stories of priests with girl friends.  Why bother with a church that vows celibacy and keeps women.  (Isn’t that an ugly expression–keeps women.)

About 30 years ago I knew a young man contemplating the priesthood.  We talked often as he sorted priorities.  During one particularly intense conversation, he was crying with pain I did not yet understand.  “I will be safe there”, he said.  “I will be safe with who I am and I will find a partner.”

As a senior in her 60’s, a woman revealed her story of  childhood abuse by a trusted family friend, a Catholic priest.  Her first confidant was her sister, trusted, loved and a life-sharing friend.    These sisters held hands and hearts through every chapter of their lives, except this one ugly secret.    Today, they rarely see one another and speak only on the most general topics, avoiding any degree of trust.  The abused sister betrayed the church by speaking out.

Five years ago, one of my grandson’s received the sacrament of Baptism in another country.  After the sacrament, the priest and his female companion returned to the home they were renovating together.

Small incidents?  Perhaps.  Personal and significant only to a few?  Maybe.

But they reveal a pattern of naiveté that partially explains my deep and compounding sadness  as I continue this horrible search.  My church, managed by a nominal celibate clergy, claiming  omnipotence in matters of faith and morals, has systematically hidden sexual abuse of minors.

Richard Sipe writes for The National Catholic Reporter.  On April 28, 2010, his article, Secret sex in the celibate system, gives an overview of the history of sexual violations from the year 315 through  a 2001 document and up to the depth of the current scandal.  Sipe reports wide-spread abuse of the mandated vow of celibacy and makes perfect sense as he leads the reader to understand why secrecy prevailed.   His writing is available at http://ncronline.org

Know what, Gentle Reader?  It is unbelievably tiring, this disassembling of a lifetime core.  Yet, rebuilding requires the destruction of the damaged, the unafraid ripping of that infested core, the gouging away of oozing sores.  Nothing less can forgive the sins.