Archive for April, 2010

Clean House

Pope Benedict XVI came out the other day and, with tears reportedly in his eyes, said that the Catholic Church will take action to protect young Catholics from abuse. The Vatican then released a statement, reported by the Associated Press, that “the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse, and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future.”

That is great news. And, as a Catholic, I applaud the statement. But, it isn’t enough. Given the Church’s history of protecting the accused and shuffling the deck to hide the abusers, the Pope needs to do much more than deliver carefully prepared statements. We live in a world of carefully prepared statements, and they are increasingly meaningless. The time has come for firm, committed, public action by organization that has an unfortunate track record of being more concerned about public relations than the welfare of its most vulnerable members.

The Pope should appoint an independent counsel – someone with a good reputation who cannot be influenced – from outside the Church. This person should be given carte blanche to build a team and investigate; with the goal of rooting out every single person involved in covering up the scandal.

The process should be made as public as possible. Show the people what is being done about the problem. I realize that such an investigation would likely air more dirty laundry than the Church wants to have aired, but there have been enough cover-ups. In fact, as horrible as the child molestation scandal has been, it has been the reportedly consistent pattern of covering up the problems – and in doing so, enabling the abusers to perpetuate them – that has really made my skin crawl.

This may sound a bit like a witch hunt, and I guess there are many who would see it that way. But the point is not to worry about the media frenzy – instead, the most important thing is to endure the process and clean out the corruption. Open the books. Identify those who abused, and then identify those who protected those who abused. Then go up the line and identify those who gave the marching orders to those protectors.

In such a large organization, it is not usually the low-level people who make the final decisions about such scandals – especially when the legal system is involved. The consistency of the behavior of reassigning abusive priests in several different areas makes me think that perhaps these orders came from someone a bit higher up on the food chain. These people, if they exist, need to be identified and ejected from the Church. In cases where criminal acts are discovered, then those people and the evidence against them should be handed over to the relevant civil authorities for further investigation and/or prosecution.

An argument against cleaning house might be that there are not enough priests, and to remove everyone who was involved in the scandal on any level would further exacerbate that problem. I think the priest shortage may have been a factor in the re-assignment of the abusers in the first place, and it is not a valid argument in my eyes. Besides, this scandal, and how it has been handled, has likely had a significant impact on the people deciding on a career in the priesthood.

If I were a prospective priest, I would be concerned about dedicating my life to an organization stained by such unresolved problems. I would want to be sure that those above me in the hierarchy were more concerned with the welfare of the flock than with the image of the Catholic Church or with a shortage of manpower.

Other people may think that a public investigation and cleansing is inconsistent with the idea that, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, people’s sins are privately forgiven. I have no problem with the forgiveness of sins. Those who have sinned in this case should be forgiven, but having proven their inability to work in a manner consistent with the ideals of the Church, they should be removed. To my mind, this is not unlike the priest who urges a confessed murderer to turn him or herself in to the authorities.

It is clear that the time has come for there to be an open, professional investigation into this matter. A report commissioned by the Church revealed more than 4,000 church officials, in the US alone, accused of abusing more than 10,000 children between 1950 and 2002. Those numbers are staggering, and people who might have been responsible for the original cover-up cannot be allowed to conduct the inquest.

The organization that results from such an investigation may be lean, and as such may need to develop new policies and methods to allow the Church to run successfully. But, that Church would be run by people with clean records and clear consciences, and the focus could return to the good works of a faithful and dedicated clergy. An open investigation would allow the dark times to be put firmly in the past, and allow us to once again place our faith in the Church as a pillar of the community.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 23 Apr 2010 No Comments

April Idiot

So, I’m at an age where I should probably give the whole April Fools thing a rest. It never quite works out the way you think it will. There was a time in college, when people put tape under the faucet in the sink, or the time that my friends and I went to the other floors in my dorm and stuffed hockey tape into the shower heads – preventing anyone else in the dorm from taking a shower – but those days are over. I know that now.

I didn’t know it this past April 1st, but I should have. I was sitting at dinner with my wife, trying to remember one of my great aunt’s names, and it occurred to me that I should pull an April Fools joke. I would use my wife’s cell phone (mine had a dead battery) to call my mother and tell her that our baby had been born early. Hilarious, right?

Ok, totally not hilarious. In fact, the whole thing just screams “Bad Idea Jeans.” But, despite the fact that I was only drinking iced tea, my head was clouded with visions of hilarity. I bounced the idea off of my wife, and she sort of smiled nervously, but didn’t tell me not to do it (I secretly think she knew this would blow up in my face, but thought it was important that I learn this lesson for myself).

There was no answer at my parents’ house. This was a sign, but I plowed forward. I called my mother’s cell phone. Someone answered, but disconnected right away. Hmm. I waited a while and called my mother’s house again (or perhaps as many times as Jon Favreau called that girl in “Swingers”) but there was still no answer. At this point, I feel that God was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t listening. I began to get frustrated. The need to pull this joke began to make my brain itch.

I looked at The Megger. “Should I pull this on your mother? Honestly, I’m a bit afraid to do that. She might destroy me.” Now, at this point, I feel that it was The Megger’s job, as my spouse, to tell me to cut it out. Wasn’t that in the vows? Apparently not, because she didn’t talk me out of it. I told her, “I have this fear that I’m going to call your mother, tell her that the baby was born, and then there is going to be no one there because she has dropped the phone, and in a few seconds I will hear her car roaring out of the driveway.”

The phone at my in-laws house rang and rang, but there was no answering machine. I assume that someone was on the phone and didn’t want to pick up, but they saw that it was The Megger’s cell and they would probably call back. It’s important for me to remember that in each situation, I had a chance to think better of it and throw in the towel. But, I’m an idiot. So there.

The Megger and I left the restaurant. When we got home, the phone rang and the caller ID told us that it was my mother in law. We didn’t answer, because, you know, we were “at the hospital.” I waited a few minutes, then walked out into the front yard with my wife’s cell phone (we don’t get cell service in my house), and called back.

“Hi, guess where I am?” I asked when my unsuspecting mother in law – Terry – answered the phone. “I’m at the hospital with your beautiful grandson.”

Terry said, “Oh my God!” just as two cars drove past me on the street. Then she began to say, “Tim? Tim? Hello?” I tried to talk back to her, but it was clear that she couldn’t hear me. I looked at the phone and, yes, the call was dropped. I looked around, but there was no cell phone pitchman in thick-framed glasses telling me I was “good.”

I raced into the house and called her back from the land line. Busy. I could just imagine her car roaring to life as I called back. She answered (thank God). What could I say? “April Fool’s! I was just kidding! It was a joke! I’m sorry!”

To her credit, she showed an amazingly good sense of humor about the whole thing. Sure, she called me a few names that I can’t print in a family newspaper, but since that time she has not introduced physical violence into our relationship, nor did she poison me on Easter.

So, since that went so well, naturally I had to immediately repeat the experience with my own mother. Why? Because I am really, really dumb. This cannot be overstated.

I ran back outside and called my parents’ house. My mother answered and immediately asked, “Did you call me earlier?” I admitted that yes, I had. “Oh,” she said, “because I was in church and had forgotten to shut off the ringer. That was embarrassing.”

Another sign from God. Do I listen? No. I plow forward.

“So, I’m at the hospital with your grandson,” I tell her.

“Joe?” She asks. To be fair, this is the name of her only grandson out of utero, and she is immediately concerned about why he might be at the hospital.

“No,” I try to explain, “the new baby.” Even I see at this point that this is falling apart and will in no way be funny.

“The new baby?! Is he ok? This is so early!”

Again, I need to just stop. Nope.

“He’s fine, everything is fine.” At this point, I hear my mother begin to fill up and she starts to cry. I pull the plug, way too late. “Mom? Mom, I’m just kidding, it was a bad April Fool’s joke. Everything is fine, we’re at home. I’m sorry.”

Because my mother is an inherently kind person (unlike her youngest son), she forgave me. Mostly. I think.

I do love me some April Fool’s Day. I can’t wait until next year. I’m sure I’ll think of something.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 09 Apr 2010 1 Comment