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Monday, July 23, 2007

The bad shepherds

Fascinating piece in the L.A. Times this weekend about how covering the Catholic priest child sex abuse scandals wrecked one reporter's own faith. A poignant moment comes at the very end of the article, where he tells his Portland story.

As another writer puts it today: "The church I loved was an international conspiracy for the abuse of children and the protection of their abusers...."

Comments (9)

Ugh. This makes me want to puke, over and over again.

I'm going to think happy thoughts to make it go away, such as: if there is a hell, crooked priests get to go there too.

It's the enabling bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Pope, himself, who bear the greatest burden of responsibility.

That child molesters would take refuge in the cloth is not particularly surprising. But that the hierarchy of the church would act to protect them and to allow them to repeat their crimes upon a new parish...repeatedly...is a far greater crime.

Perhaps you now have some idea as to why I have chosen my pseudonym.

I was particularly taken by the passage: "Part of what drew me to Christianity were the radical teachings of Jesus — to love your enemy, to protect the vulnerable and to lovingly bring lost sheep back into the fold."

It's so, so true. The teachings you find in Matthew in particular, and in Mark, are teachings of equality, of abhorrence of wealth and power, of peace, and of justice. How far we've come, and how co-opted those messages have now become.

I hardly know what to say. I have been a lifelong Catholic, parochial school from first grade through college. I am now way less than regular about going to Mass. I used to enjoy going to the daily noon 'business-person's' mass at St. Michael the Archangel, despite the presence of a certain Oregonian columnist who attends there, whom I tried to avoid in a definitely unchristian spirit. I have been an attendee at St. Claire's as a guest but not a member of the parish. I used to be a regular vocalist at the Grotto for years, ending in about 1994. I have been the vocalist at many many weddings all over the State of Oregon, including the one time parish of Maurice Grammond, who once famously told me to 'stop' because he didn't like the song I was singing. None of these individual parishes or orders have been untouched by the priest sex abuse scandal.

Now, as many of these priests whom I have known, from whom I have taken communion, with whom I have stood while they have baptized and confirmed my godchildren, have been proved to have used their 'annointed' hands for some other activities than holiness, and these bishops and archbishops of the Portland Archdiocese have been shown to have made concerted efforts to look the other way, I hardly know where to park, not my faith, but the whole idea of clergy as inviolate, an idea with which I was raised.

I don't have an answer. I am a Christian who was so raised a Catholic that I'm not sure I can go anywhere else. But I am so disheartened by the Archdiocese of Portland (not to mention our dear Archbishop Vlazny's decision to insert himself into the 2004 political debate about whether one should present themselves for communion if they supported the Kerry ticket - good grief) that I can only say once again, where I began, I hardly know what to say.

Perhaps the Portland Archdiocese has been humbled. Perhaps our new pope (yes, the one who just pronounced that other 'non-Catholic folk' are not QUITE as good as us, but we still want to have an ecumenical dialogue - huh?) will heal the terrible terrible wounds caused by this pedophilia problem in the ranks of the church.

I wish I could say I thought that was true.

We can get our own copies of all the prayers, and we can say the Masses ourselves. Why must we let our spiritual lives be channeled through this organization? Because they somehow have a direct line to Christ through their version of history?

I'm sorry. When the widespread policy of the institution (including here in Oregon) was to move known pedophile priests on to new victims, and to this very day the policy is to play nasty financial hardball and hide-the-ball with those who come forward demanding money for their shattered lives, that chain of authority must have been broken. Meanwhile, the new Pope takes us back doctrinally to the 1940s (not a period of his own life when he was much of an example for anyone).

I'm not sure why I still go. And I feel like I'm sinning every time I write them a donation check. I've been taking stock of this over the past several months, and the Spirit is not moving me back into the church.

the Spirit is not moving me back into the church.

After going to mass every day as a freshman at Chaminade Catholic High School, and thinking about the priesthood...the reality that the Archdiocese of New York was NYC's biggest slumlord, and the Archbishop was blessing the planes full of troops heading to Vietnam, well, it raised fundamental questions in this kid's head.

How would Christ respond to a walk-around at the Vatican? I don't know, really, but we sure can't argue to forgive them for they know not what they do.

Jesus was not much into the religious establishment of his time. The concept of changing money in the temple threw him into a rage. What would his reaction have been to a priest who was the subject of allegations of child molestation in the sacristy? Do you think he'd say, "We're going to protect you, but you'll have to move to another parish"?

I agree with every comment made on this post so far. On a local note, the Archdiocese has decided to close Our Lady of Sorrows School on 52nd & Woodstock. Enrollment had dropped due to bad administration practices (will not say more, it would not be KIND but most of it was due to the Archdiocese screwing up) but was climbing back up due to concerted effort on the parents' part. The congregration and parents were very excited and thrilled when Vlazny came in the spring and PROMISED AT MASS IN CHURCH that the school would not be closed. We would have celebrated our 80th anniversary in 2008. HE BROKE HIS WORD. Look at what's happening on Woodstock. Do you think the Church wants to sell the church and school which is becoming prime real estate to get their money from the settlement back? I do. The Archdiocese has just killed a darling little school and community, not to mention the church which will have a hard time surviving without parent volunteer efforts, whether they realize that or not. I think the Roman Catholic Church is like the Roman Empire at the end - they are in the death knell, they just don't get it. And even if they did, they don't want to change.

Just out of interest, can anyone here tell me why so many christians insist on using the metaphors of "shepard" and "flock" for the clergy and their congregations?

I mean, really...Doesn't the shepherd keep track of the flock because he expects to gain from the shearing of the flock members and the slaughter of select members?

With regular news like this, I'm beginning to thing the turn of phrase is all too appropriate.

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