Thursday, December 5

See, now, this is funny. We need a spot like this:

Old Lutheran featuring, among other things, a Martin Luther bobble head doll.

After seeing it only two times, I've come to hate that Wal-Mart commercial with the school buses carrying the poor kids to buy presents and the Wal-Mart woman's big face filling the screen, lip quivering.

I vote we convince the television stations to replace it, when possible, with a 30-second spot featuring this story, about how a Wal-Mart put the toys in the Toys for Tots bin back on the shelf for resale.

St. Blog's sizzles on Thursday afternoon and evening with discussion of Welborn's startling suggestion for putting clerical abusers in the media pillory. For the accused or the convicted? Too harsh? Shouldn't other measures be tried first?

Welborn marvels at the futility of trying to use hyperbolic acerbity to make a point about oversensitivity to media coverage.

Link on the Lutheran pastor corrected below. Sorry about that.
Here's what I'm for:

Every time a Roman Catholic priest, deacon or lay minister is found guilty of sexual abuse, is caught in the act or admits it, I want that sentence, that incident, that admission blasted across the front page of every newspaper in the country.

I don't care if statistics show that the secular press gives 37.6% more space to incidents of sexual abuse among Catholic ministerial personnel than it does to incidents of the same sins among Presbyterians. Yes, I wish the press were more vigilant about reporting all exploitation of children and young people. Yes, I wish the press would see the frank insanity of holding up books like Judith Levine's Harmful to Minors for thoughtful, open-minded examination, while excoriating Catholic priests for the same behavior Levine holds might not be so harmful. Sure. That would be good.

But until that point, let the headlines blast.

Why?

Because every time the news of a cleric's misdeeds are made public knowledge, we increase the chance that the cleric across town or across the country who is at risk for the same behavior will be scared ****less and get some help and/or get out of the ministry, preferably both. Sure, I want the "image" of the Church to improve, but more than that, I want children to be protected and the priesthood, diaconate and lay ministerial corp to be cleaned out, and if the threat of having your sleazy mug blasted across the country for your mother and every other soul to see is what it takes, I say, so be it.

Some thoughts on Cardinal Ratzinger’s “loopy” (to quote Peter Nixon) conspiracy theory and the issues it raises:

Anyone who is an expert in any field regularly tears his or her hair out over press coverage of that same field. It’s not that the press is stupid, lazy or consistently biased one way or another. It’s that - for the most part – the press is rushed, limited in the space it has to report, and, like most of the rest of the world, superficial in its understanding of what it’s reporting on. So, if you are an educator, you know that the issues that afflict education go much deeper than the “bad teacher unions” vs. “unbelievably short-sighted parents” vs. “kids cannily playing all sides” scenario we usually get. Sure, all of those parties may play their role in making the problems what they are, but there’s more to it, which even purported “thought pieces” in the NYTimes can’t get right.

As I said, some of the omissions are purposeful and rooted in bias – coverage of the abortion issue is the textbook case in this regard, coverage in which the unborn child is consistently and purposefully dehumanized.

And we’ve seen some of this in the press’s coverage of the Situation.

But I have to say….I can’t agree with critics like Steinfels who say that the press coverage has led to a misapprehension of the real facts here. Stories about old accusations always report them as old accusations. Former priests and retired priests and rogue priests are described as such. I don’t see deliberate deception in the reporting.

Now, of course, where you will find a slant is in the analysis – McBrien trotted out twenty times more often than Weigel, and so on. But is that unexpected? We may not like it, and we should choose not to support press outlets that are consistently closed to presenting diverse points of view in analyzing the reasons and solutions here, but again…does that surprise anyone?

But the question remains – is the space given to reporting these incidents – in itself- indicative of a bias. Is the press using this – overblowing the incidents, giving them undue press – in order to advance an agenda destructive to the Catholic Church?

Perhaps in the case of the NYTimes, but I can’t see it anywhere else. This is a legitimate story, worthy of great attention. The Catholic Church is the largest single Christian denomination in the world – and in the United States. The story of abuse is worth reporting, but I’d daresay, those reports would get as much attention as the stories I linked below about the Protestant cases if the hierarchy had been forthcoming in dealing with them. As noted many times, the bigger story is the cover-up and the fears that raises in the ordinary Catholic heart about the trustworthiness of our leaders , both in terms of what they say to us and how they steward the resources we hand over to them, and how they act towards victims - in our name.

If the press were harping on this in dioceses where it is (apparently) not a problem – say – mine – Fort Wayne/South Bend – or dioceses where the bishops have handled it properly – if the press in those areas were making up stories or doing the dance of guilt by association, the complaints would be reasonable. But the press is digging up the stories - where there are stories. That is not a witch hunt. For, as you recall, there were no witches in Salem. There were abusers in Boston.

And there are plenty of stories about the good work of Catholics. I try to post as many here as I find – and remember – those are mostly stories from the secular press. Right now, the papers are filled with Catholic Charities and parishes feeding the hungry and helping the poor in This Holiday Season – there are simply too many to link. If you want to find them, go to news.google.com and type in “Catholic Charities” in the search box. You’ll see them.

No, the press is not perfect. And neither are plaintiffs’ lawyers. But again, and again, we have to think of the alternative. If not for the secular press and the opportunity to sue for damages offered by our civil court system….what would we know? What priests would have been removed? What priests, from Gilbert Gauthe to James Porter on, would still be serving? What actions have been taken by church officials that haven’t been the result of public and legal pressure? Huh?

So yes…encourage others to read the press accounts carefully, to ignore most of their analysis and question facts when they seem overdrawn or on shaky ground. Send your local paper and tv news station announcements of all the Good Stuff Catholics are Doing in your area.

But don’t fault the press, no matter how limited and slanted its efforts might be at times, for doing the work that the Church should have been doing itself, all along.

Equal opportunity ministerial misconduct:

In the Church of the Nazarene

and

the Evangelical Lutheran Church

There.

Protesting nuns to stay in jail.

(No, not the t'ai chi nuns. The other ones.)

If you've ever flown in an airplane, this is not news to you.

Cardinal Law stops meetings at Boston-area parish

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, attempting to assert his authority even as criticism of his conduct rises to fever pitch, has summarily banned all church agencies from holding meetings at a vibrant Newton parish headed by an outspoken pastor who has questioned church teachings on gays and women and has sometimes chafed at Law's leadership.

Law offered no explanation for the ban, but it comes after the pastor, the Rev. Walter H. Cuenin, invited more than 100 priests to a gathering tomorrow to discuss concerns about the archdiocese's current fund-raising drive. The priests planned to discuss the difficulty of raising money when the archdiocese is considering bankruptcy and has been forced to release documents containing allegations of a priest striking a woman, another using drugs, and others molesting children and having sex with adults.

Law's action, barring all ''archdiocesan-sponsored or archdiocesan-related meetings'' from taking place on the grounds of Our Lady Help of Christians Church, has infuriated area priests, as well as parishioners at the booming church.

....Over the last decade, Cuenin's WashingtonStreet church has been heavily used for archdiocesan events because of its size, location near Boston and the Mass. Pike, and ample parking. It is also just a few miles from the chancery, allowing the cardinal to make brief appearances at gatherings. The church was used most prominently by the archdiocese in 1995, when Law chose it as the site for the visit of Mother Teresa. And several events were scheduled for coming months, including a visit by Law on New Year's Eve.

Home to 2,600 Catholic households, the church ordinarily draws about 1,800 people to Sunday Mass, although attendance there, as elsewhere around the archdiocese, is down because of the sex abuse crisis. Our Lady's is generally regarded as one of the most vibrant of the 362 parishes in the Archdiocese. The church was the first of eight churches profiled in the book ''Excellent Catholic Parishes'' (Paulist Press, 2001).

The scandal has hit home at Our Lady's - the church is home to the former parishioners of Saint John the Evangelist Church in Newton, which before being closed had been led by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, an alleged serial abuser of young men.

Cuenin has had a cordial but complex relationship with church leaders, and a somewhat unusual clerical career. Ordained in 1970, he once took a year off to work as a travel agent. He has occasionally been summoned to meet with his supervisors over comments that were perceived as too liberal.

He attracted Law's attention in April when he urged the Legislature to reject a ban on same-sex marriages, despite the support for the ban by the Catholic bishops of the state. Law demanded a copy of Cuenin's testimony and then asked for a meeting with the priest. But Law then canceled seven successive appointments with Cuenin and has never spoken with him about the issue.

The archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, which is controlled by Law, raised critical questions about Cuenin in September after Cuenin was quoted in the New Yorker as saying that the issues of birth control, divorce, and the ordination of married men and women should be discussed. Cuenin was quoted as saying that the church should not describe gays as ''disordered,'' and, most provocatively, as declaring that ''exceptional women are waiting to serve. We have married men who would make wonderful priests. We don't need more vocations - they are already here. Let's just accept them.''

But Cuenin holds an important position at the archdiocese - he is the director of pilgrimages, meaning that he accompanies the cardinal and local Catholics on trips to see the pope or to visit Rome. And he is a founder and leader of the Boston Priests Forum.

See, there's your textbook leadership problem. You've got a guy who publicly disagrees with the Church teaching he's supposed to be upholding. But his Cardinal won't confront him and leaves him, unquestioned, in diocesan leadership positions.

No wonder.

Domenico has more insight on the issue at his joint.





No grand jury investigation of clerical sexual abuse in NJ

More on the Rockford diocesan priest arrested for sexual assault:

The diocese's response

and

the response of the parish

Michigan parish to welcome back their accused pastor for a prayer service

Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida's staff gave cautious approval for the service, scheduled for 7 p.m. at SS. John and Paul Catholic Church in Washington. "Not everyone would agree with this, but it's the parish's decision and we respect that," Maida's spokesman, Ned McGrath, said Wednesday. The Rev. Gary Bueche was removed from the parish April 1 and later was barred by Maida from working for the archdiocese or acting as a priest. Since then, he has spent time at a religious retreat in France, a recent parish newsletter said. The prayer service doesn't violate restrictions placed on Bueche and may help former parishioners "to say good-bye -- to bring some closure to his departure," McGrath said. ....

Other metro parishioners who miss departed priests may want to plan similar services, said Steve Wasko, a parishioner at St. Suzanne Catholic Church in Detroit and a supporter of the Rev. Dennis Duggan, who was removed from St. Suzanne in March. Many Catholics are grieving the loss of priests removed after accusations of misconduct, Wasko said. "Many, if not most of us, in our particular community still walk around with an open wound," Wasko said. "In a broad sense, there's a need for healing."



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