Talking Past

While I no longer comment on other sites, I do follow the occasional thread of interest. dotCommonweal has close to forty comments following Grant Gallicho’s piece on Cardinal O’Brien.

I was struck by this exchange today between Bernard Dauenhauer and George D. First Mr Dauenhauer:

Please let me register strong disagreement with the tone and tenor of the remarks of (people listed). They recall people like Savonarola. They are right, of course, to condemn the sexual misconduct. But their criticisms of Pope Francis, handling of these issues is, and I mean this, merciless.

Criticisms are harsh. I am not sure about merciless.

I have been criticized on this site and off for my tone toward bishops. I have a bit of history I am not at liberty to reveal. At least since 2001, I have made myself available to a small number of victims, as circumstances in ministry have presented themselves. I can reveal that these people have been victims of both clergy sexual misconduct as well as administrative misconduct of bishops. I have been the person in church ministry that was engaged in conversations with people who believe they have been morally abandoned by the Church. I have listened to people who have lost loved ones to what they believe is a premature and untimely death because of the aftermath of abuse and cover-up. I have been the RCIA coordinator or other pastoral minister watching potential Catholics walk away. And I have been questioned by people within and outside of the Church, asking me how I can continue in support of the institution by my role as a minister and as an employee. I don’t always have the answers to those questions.

Close readers of this site also know that the young miss was spared a more serious brush with an abuser which, possibly, harmed people that she knew.

Where Mr Dauenhauer expresses strong disagreement, I find myself with a degree of understanding.

It is  fortunate for the Church that these people are not in positions of authority that would allow them to vent their spleen.

I am not sure of this. People in positions of authority are placed to have meetings with bishops, and can offer strong comment in circumstances that do not publicly undermine authority. Does the emperor deserve to be told about his wardrobe? Or is it a mercy to hold one’s tongue and shake one’s head?

The biblical texts that the Church presents to us for reflection this Lent certainly do not promote the sort of revenge the aforesaid  people insist upon. Their response to the sexual misdeeds is akin to a call for a punishment of inprisonment for life without the possibility of parole. The pope has compared such sentence with a kind of death penalty. I agree with him. Room for rehabilitation may never be wholly closed off.

To this statement, I thought George D had an important insight:

Then Rome should model appropriate forms of rehabiliation. For example, they could enact restorative justice practices. That would mean that all parties, victims, those immediately affected, perpetrators, Bishops and Cardinals together.  No cameras or records in the room – no recording of “proceeedings”. Just a quiet place to talk in a circle where all could talk about the impact on them. It would be a sacred circle only for those immediately involved and affected. First Nation communities use it but it is becoming popular all over.

I think something like this is needed. It strikes me as harmonious with the principles of Ignatian discernment. And if someone, somehow, could get the message to Pope Francis, I suspect he would take notice.

It would mean leaders being vulnerable but we are all the people of God, right?

What I see happening is “them” over here going through whatever internal process is necessary, and the other “them” over here going through whatever process they feel is necessary. But nobody is talking to each other! It is like a huge rupture in a family (and our family to boot!!!) and it is being treated instead like an institution complete with policy/canonical stipulations, processes, etc.

We need to find another language as this is just not working. Everyone is talking past each other and the affected people are not talking TO each other.

This seems like an accurate diagnosis to me. Of necessity, victims have been pushed back on their heels. It was inevitable, not to mention predictable, that the intimidated and abused side would seek out and find allies. Many of these allies are tough-talking, and when things get to court, mercy is out the window and the adversarial nature of modern society takes center stage.

One way the current methods are not working is that the O’Brien settlement raises suspicions about his reception of “mercy.” Is it a cheap mercy? Does it ensure his silence on other scandals–that seems to be a favorite on a few web pages the past few days.

I think it is indeed in the hands of Rome and the bishops. People offer harsh language when they do not believe they are being heard. If nobody’s listening, it seems natural and logical to raise one’s voice. When people yell, it is also natural and logical to retreat and withdraw so one cannot hear. That’s the environment in which concerned Catholics find themselves these days.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in bishops, Commentary, Ministry, sex abuse and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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