This story rolled into my news feed this morning. I don’t know if its because the net knows I’m Catholic, interesting in church news, or if they detect I’ve posted on things like this in the past. I feel for my friends in New York–the few who are still in active ministry and are impacted by this.
When the original stories broke in the Boston Globe, it was difficult for a time to inhabit ecumenical environments. I felt the Protestant eyes looking at the Catholic guy. Only one of my colleagues braved the topic to ask how I was, what I thought, and the like. I appreciated reaching out for my opinion and feelings more than the avoidance of discussion.
I may be a strange bird as a Catholic, but I don’t mind addressing the tough questions, the difficult situations. On the abuse front, significant people in my life have been damaged by predators. I found out how widespread it was as I made serious friendships in my twenties. Even women I dated–I actually wondered if I was subconsciously attracted to people who had been harmed. Later I realized–I was told–that I listened to people. You’d be surprised, I was informed, how often men were inappropriate with women, adults with children, pastors with staff, bishops with priests, bosses with employees. Did I type “inappropriate”? Sometimes it was far worse. Do you know what it takes to discover the ****? You just have to listen.
Bishop Barres of Rockville Centre:
“What became clear was that the diocese was not going to be able to continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable and educational missions if it were to continue to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases.”
It’s now been more than thirty years since concerned experts presented to the US bishops. I remember being angry enough as I listened to stories of harm. Stories of disbelief from people in authority, well … I know clinically how addicts groom key allies. Disappointing, but not surprising. The stonewalling of survivors and advocates used to get me the most heated of all.
It’s an indirect admission of guilt, but an inability to confess it. Throwing up legal obstacles to settlements goes against the sacramental grain of penance. It deepens the self-harm of the institution. It separates leadership from loyal believers. Comparing to the Rite of Penance, certain leaders have, in a way, celebrated a ritual of anti-confession.
Where there was once anger, there is now just sadness. Millions will flow out of the coffers of the Long Island Catholic Church. I hope it’s all in buildings and property. People are too valuable. If one person loses a job over this bankruptcy, it will just be one more victim experience. If I were a priest or bishop responsible for mismanagement, I would be urged by my conscience to insist they fire me instead. Maybe they can’t laicize on mismanagement alone. But at some point somebody has to pay.