A New Year

It’s January 1, 2022 and so far it is a year without a Catholic abuse story in the news. Granted, the year is less than 24 hours old but, hey, having no bad news is good news!

I wish everybody a Blessed year. Be kind to yourself and others.

Religion vs. Spirituality

Religion is for people who are scared of going to hell; spirituality is for people who have already been there.”

A number of people are given credit for this quote on-line including Vine Deloria, a Sioux Indian author and activist, and singers David Bowie and Bonnie Raitt.

Following the logic of this quote, Catholic abuse survivors have been hurt by religion but may benefit from spirituality. There are lots of spiritual paths or practices available. In general I find meditation and mindfulness (which often go hand in hand), and Buddhist philosophy in the teachings of Pema Chodrin and the Dalai Lama to be very enriching.

https://pemachodronfoundation.org/

https://www.dalailama.com/

Wherever I travel it’s there in the press

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/2021/08/how-a-pittsfield-parishioner-exposed-a-molester-25-years-before-another-survivor-reported-her-clergy-abuse/

I’m traveling to the Berkshires for my son’s wedding next week. So I was researching the area and it’s weather. What I read in the Berkshire newspapers was a report of a clergy abuse investigation. Two quotes are below.

“The task force was initially led by retired Judge Daniel A. Ford of Pittsfield. He stepped down in early June citing a perceived conflict of interest over his role, due to his work with the law firm Egan Flanagan & Cohen, which has long represented the diocese, including on clergy abuse legal matters.” https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/local/task-force-handling-clergy-abuse-reports-springfield-diocese/article_d9df995e-0ff6-11ec-93e2-3b2786c13351.html

“The report found that, prior to a June 2019 leadership change at the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance (OSEVA), internal investigations were not conducted in accordance with best practices. Now, “four highly qualified professionals” run that process and report their findings to the review board.” https://www.gazettenet.com/Diocesan-sexual-abuse-task-force-issues-final-report-42373609

Conflicts of interest, failure to follow National Guidelines, pedophile bishops covering for pedophile priests.

I keep thinking things are getting better. I keep thinking that perhaps the church can actually grow and change. Then I remind myself of what happened in 2002 and the denial, obfuscation, deceit, and duplicity that followed. And I let go of my naive hope once again. And it hurts once again.

I don’t think it will ever stop hurting. But I can heal, even if the Catholic Church refuses to.

Doug Cole, center, a survivor of sexual abuse, speaks during a Wednesday news conference, flanked by Bishop William Byrne, left, and Jeffrey Trant, director of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance. Byrne and Trant announced that the Diocese of Springfield now will list 61 individuals as credibly accused of sexual abuse while associated with the diocese.  Danny Jin — The Berkshire Eagle
In June 2021 the diocese of Springfield added 41 new names to the list of credibly accused priests. But the list does not include the name of the priest from the first newspaper article at the top of this post. How many others are still missing.

Missing teaching

I have moved on from the Catholic Church. I no longer consider myself a member. I no longer attend services except for weddings and funerals – Covid has given me a reason to refuse communion without offending family or friends. But yesterday when I was having a cranial sacral massage ( light touch, fully clothed) I started talking about teaching religion in the Catholic school system and how I was proud of my accomplishments, and my massage therapist commented that as I got animated about teaching my neck muscles relaxed! And I realised that I do miss it.

I taught theology classes with an investigative approach not a dogmatic or doctrinal one. I approached scripture from an historical critical standpoint. Who wrote what, when, and where, and to whom. I compared and contrasted the Gospels and traced the development of christology. On the senior level I developed my own course integrating introductory philosophy and classical theology under themes like: Truth, God, Suffering, Evil. I did a good job, and I don’t say that easily. At least it was a good job in my estimation and that of my colleagues and even some students and their parents. But I didn’t teach about Eucharistic miracles or Marian apparitions, so in the opinion of the more conservative parents I wasn’t Catholic enough. And then there was the fact that when I talked about the Reformation I sided with Martin Luther! I mean, how could you not!? Leo was a hedonistic, unordained aristocrat who was made an abbot at 8 (so his family could collect income from the abbey properties) and a Cardinal at 13. But he was not actually ordained a priest until he was elected pope at age 38, thanks to the political and financial power of his family.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leo-X

But I digress. The Archdiocese of New Orleans, in their infinite wisdom, decided on the high school curriculum. My course was to be replaced by Church History. Moreover, the history text they selected for Church History was written thematically around the nature of the church (Ecclesiology) and not its historical development or behavior. The text didn’t have a chapter on the Reformation, and certainly not any reference to corruption in the papacy. How could you teach Church History without a significant piece on the Reformation and Counter-Reformation? Not to mention the Muslim holocaust known as the Crusades.

So, combine that development with the revelations in the church about bishops continuing to lie and protect their fellow child-abusing bishop friends and the writing was writ large on the wall. It was time to leave Catholic education and the Catholic Church. And I was broken-hearted about both.

I remain completely untrusting of the Catholic Church but I miss education. Maybe it’s time to put my course into a book.

National Review Board

National Review Board Urges Need to Broaden the Scope of the Charter to Include Bishops; Lay Panel Urges Reform to Improve Transparency and Enhance Accountability

November 13, 2018

BALTIMORE—On Tuesday, November 13, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ independent lay advisory panel on the protection of children and young people delivered a special report to the body of U.S. bishops regarding the abuse crisis in the Church. In an address to the bishops who have gathered in Baltimore for the annual fall general assembly, National Review Board Chairman Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., outlined key reforms and urged action. The report calls for broadening the scope of the Charter on the Protection of Children and Young People to include bishops; the publication of complete lists of credibly accused clergy in all dioceses; improving the audit process; and enhancing accountability for bishops regarding cases of abuse.

 

My thoughts:

If I report my neighbor for sexually assaulting my child, I don’t expect the decision to pursue the accusation to depend on the opinion of a group of his friends and co-workers. No one would deem that a reasonable, moral, appropriate way of pursuing justice, or caring for the victim.
Why is it then that Catholics blithely accept that bishops should be the ones to decide if accusations against their fellow bishops and their priests are credible and if any action should be taken.
Why is it that the news media don’t question this incredible procedural flaw/insanity?
  • It is time for good Catholics to stand up to their bishops.
  • It is time for good bishops to stand up to their peers.
  • It is time for District Attorneys to step up and demand that accusations be brought to them.
The Catholic Church should not wait until there are two “credible accusations” against an abuser. Do we wait for an accused non-clerical rapist to repeat his actions before we investigate his crimes? Separation of Church and State should not be a shield for clergy, enabling them to hide beneath the cassocks of their superiors and avoid criminal charges.
Yes, I am angry. Yes, I was a Catholic. Yes, I was sexually abused by two priests who were moved around and re-assigned. I even taught high school religion for 27 years, until the revelations of 2002-2006 highlighted a systemic dysfunction, dishonesty, and moral pollution in the church, and a cadre of bishops who continued to subvert the pursuit of truth and justice.
The above news item again describes a system of reporting to the bishops about the bishops. We have heard repeatedly over the last few years that the bishops have not been following their own Charter for the Protection of Children. What makes Catholics think their bishops have suddenly adopted a moral backbone?

See article here:

https://buffalonews.com/2018/11/13/catholic-bishops-who-ignored-sex-abuse-should-resign-adviser-tells-them/

Full National Review Board Special Report here:

http://www.usccb.org/about/child-and-youth-protection/upload/National-Review-Board-Special-Report-to-the-Body-of-Bishops-November-2018.pdf

Journal Entry, 9/6/2018

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The Shadow Man

There’s a shadow man

he lives in the shadows

appears; disappears

you don’t know where he is

then suddenly, silently, he’s there

and pulls you in.

 

You can’t get out

like in a nightmare when you try to wake up

you try really hard

but you can’t.

 

And no one comes to save you

because they haven’t noticed you’re gone.

No one misses you

you just disappear.

And when they think they see you

it’s not you at all

because you are gone and only a shadow remains.

 

 

 

 

PTSD the Return!

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I am being so triggered by the Philadelphia revelations.

Nightmares. Hyper-vigilance. Tremors. Dissociation. Intensified startle reflex. Insomnia. Anxiety. Irrational fears.

Not fun.

I write Letters to the Editor; I journal; I read newspapers, then wish I hadn’t. It feels strong to respond and challenge people, but it makes me more paranoid about the Church sending priests in black cars to “come and get me,” to kill me for telling their secrets.

I keep telling myself, “I am safe. I am safe.” But then I journal and don’t feel safe any more.

 

The Shepherd and the Sheepdogs

imageThere once was a sheep farmer with a very large flock. So large he had to use lots of sheepdogs. His sheepdogs were trained to guard his sheep, guide them in for branding and shearing, and protect them and their offspring from predators – especially wolves. The sheep had come to love and trust the farmer, and because of that they accepted the role of the sheepdogs and came to love and trust them also.

Yet, as hard as the farmer and his dogs tried to protect them, every month there was always one or two lambs found with their throats torn out, their mothers bleating noisily at their side, trying to lick away the blood and make their babies whole again.

One spring the farmer had a visitor who wanted to evaluate his farming methods. The visitor’s name was Tom. Tom spent days and nights watching, taking notes, compiling his report. When he was done Tom presented his report to the farmer. Tom had concluded that the lambs were not being killed by wolves at all, they were secretly being killed by sheepdogs. Well, the farmer got angry when he read this and just tore up the report. “That’s nonsense!” said the farmer, “I know my dogs; I trained them well. They wouldn’t hurt a lamb. Never!”

In his report Tom also revealed that the farmer had not only known these facts to be true but also had previously sold to other sheep farmers any sheepdog he found with evidence of bloodshed on his muzzle. And furthermore he had done so without revealing to the new farmer the danger the sheepdog posed.

The farmer sent a letter to Tom’s boss and Tom was fired.

Besides revealing the covert behavior of the sheepdogs, Tom also reported that after each lamb was found slaughtered by the “wolves” the carcass was cut up and the bones were fed to the sheepdogs, whose blood lust was thereby further aroused.

Black

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Why do they have to wear these long robes, the men in black? Why now, after decades without, are the young ones, the new priests, reverting to these garments? Does it give them a sense of greater dignity, greater separation from regular folks? Is the collar not enough these days?

I wish that they’d stop. I wish they’d just wear a suit. Would they stop if they knew? If they knew that was how he dressed, that was where he kept it, his secret that I had to kiss, soft and salty, peeking out from his black dress that smelled of smoke and drinking and something else I smell in my nightmares.