Your Apology? Insufficient. Penance Required.   Leave a comment

From the Associated Press, via Yahoo News:

A fiercely debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland‘s Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades — and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

The full 2600 page report can be found here.

The response of the Church?

The leader of Ireland’s 4 million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, and religious orders at the center of the scandal offered immediate apologies.

“I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ,” Brady said.

And the Rev. Edmund Garvey, spokesman for the Christian Brothers order that once ran dozens of boys’ schools, said that reading the report’s “presentation of the history of our institutions, it is hard to avoid feeling shame.”

Well, that’s understandable.  So how does one engage that feeling of shame?  How does one attempt to cleanse the wound and begin the healing process?

But its findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions — in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

Ah, no.  That’s not it.

I’m just flabbergasted that the Church still has not figured out what’s going on in the world.  The Church has no credibility.  The Church has no voice.  When the Pope speaks, only Catholics listen, and more and more of them are becoming disaffected with the inability of the Church to cope with this horrific internal problem.  Like *any* human organization (government, military, business, religion, whatever) oversight needs to come from outside the organization, not inside it.  If you’re too tightly coupled with another organization (like the Catholic reform institutions and the Irish government in the decades between the 1930s and the 1960s), you’re not going to get real oversight.  Screwing that up is bad enough, but covering it up is worse.

Right now, there’s several million Catholics in Ireland and the United States that don’t trust their clergy.  They don’t know which ones have a record of abuse.  They don’t understand why this information is being held secret.  Yes, some of those accused are innocent.  It will certainly hurt those who have been accused falsely to have their names bandied about in the same sentence as truly creepy child molesters.  That’s tough.  Your organization screwed up.  Your superiors protected those who were guilty.  Your silence about your own brothers aided and abetted their activities for years or decades.  Pick up your cross and bear it.  Your flock deserve to know which shepherds are wolves.

Irish church leaders and religious orders all declined to comment Wednesday, citing the need to read the massive document first. The Vatican also declined to comment.

What, you couldn’t think of anything to say in the last nine years?

Look, I went to a Catholic grade school.  I went to a Catholic high school.  I went to a Catholic college.  I learned a lot at all of those institutions, and for the most part the quality of the instruction and the environment was excellent.  I was never abused.  I know lots of priests; my uncle is a somewhat prominent one, and he always had friends come over to my grandmother’s house, so I met them in their “let’s have a drink and chew the fat” mode (btw, nothing adjusts your view of the priesthood quite like having three drunk Jesuits sing Irish songs with your grandmother).  I worked with a bunch of them, and found most of them to be absolutely fine human beings and upstanding people that anyone would do well to emulate.

I also went to high school when Angel Mariano was a Jesuit scholastic.  He seemed like a pretty good guy, very sociable with his students.  He never made any untoward advances towards me.  Imagine my surprise when I start looking around for him on the Internet 10 years ago and I find out he’s a sex offender.  He had opportunities to molest me, as a student.  After he was convicted, nobody in the Church ever contacted me to find out if he had done anything creepy when he was working at Bellarmine.  Why not?  Did he molest any of my classmates?  How would anyone know, if nobody ever bothered to ask?  Surfing around trying to find out what happened to other priests I’ve lost contact with brings all sorts of information regarding one of them.

How can you tell if it’s true?  I knew Jerry Linder, I co-moderated the role-playing game club with him the first year I worked at Loyola.  He was weird, but most gamers are in one way or another.  Weird does not equal creepy… he certainly didn’t seem to be a molester.  From the LA Times article:

In a sworn deposition, Lindner denied ever abusing anyone. In a statement to The Times, he said: “I have devoted my life to helping people, and I insist that the accusations against me are not true.” He said the Catholic sex-abuse crisis has “created an atmosphere where people like me are presumed guilty until proven innocent.”

That’s a fair point.  But the sex-abuse crisis is the fault of the Church.  People jump to conclusions, because for decades the Church systematically buried these incidents when they actually did occur.  If this is to be corrected, you can’t just draw a line in the sand and say, “After this point, we’re going to be extra careful not to let this happen again”.  That means you need to tell your congregation and the public who was accused of what, when it supposedly happened, and the specific conclusions of the investigation.  Without that, you’re going to wind up with middle aged Catholics having huge faith crisis moments when they start surfing around on the Internet and find this sort of thing.  One of the brothers who taught me at Loyola Marymount was arrested at one point for having child porn on his computer.  He was cleared and went back to work, but trying to find information about the case was like trying to explore a cave when you don’t have a flashlight and your arms have been cut off.  Now, being in the techie business, I can imagine exactly how child porn winds up on anybody’s computer (undoubtedly the box was hacked and turned into a webserver for creepizoids).  I can picture in my head a forensic analysis of what his computer probably looked like right after he was arrested.  None of that information ever was made public.  There was never a well informed statement from the university.  Google results still show the arrest report.  The LA Times article reports:

The investigation began in October, when a technician repairing Smulders’ university office computer discovered images of apparent child pornography, LAPD Det. Jim Brown said.


At Smulders’ Ramsgate Avenue home, LAPD detectives allegedly recovered dozens of computer disks and magazines containing child pornography, Brown said.

Wait, were there actual magazines?  If so, that disclaims the botnet explanation.  Or were there?  Maybe Brown misrepresented the evidence.  Maybe the reporter made an error.  The point is that there is nothing to explain this.  Anywhere.  No retraction by the paper.  No explanation by the police department.  No reprimand for Brown for telling the wrong thing to the reporter, or allowing himself to be misquoted.  No statement from the University, explaining the charge against Brother Smulders, the investigation, and the University’s decision to reinstate him.

In the absence of real data to the contrary, when there is already evidence of a long standing conspiracy, people assume more conspiracy.  Knock it off, already.

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Posted May 20, 2009 by padraic2112 in news, rants, religion, Uncategorized

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