In those days, we had 550 priests," the Rev. Edwin B. Broderick (former Bishop of Albany, NY) said. "What are you going to do, go down to every rectory at midnight and check to see if the priests are alone? Or if there are little boys around? They all take a vow of celibacy."
I get a kick in the pants over those Catholics who lecture others about being a cafeteria Catholic. For those dear readers who do not know what a cafeteria Catholic is, it is the term given by some Catholics to other Catholics who do not agree with a specific church teachings. In other words, follow all Catholic teachings, every single one, or don't call yourself Catholic.
Get it? Just like a cafeteria, where you pick and choose what you want to eat.
Now, I agree with the concept of "all or nothing" in theology. If you want to call yourself Catholic you should follow all the rules. That makes complete sense; and it's a fair request.
Too bad no one on earth follows it -- or even could follow it if they wanted to.
And that is ok too. We are all human. Moral people try to live by a moral code, and for some that is Catholicism. But as humans we all make mistakes, we all have a different view of what is right or wrong.
What kills me, dear reader, is those that judge others for not being a good Catholic.
Please don't give me your moral lectures. You don't know me and I do not know you. I am doing the best I can, and I assume you are too.
As any loyal reader of Jefferson's Spirit knows, I have more than a few complaints about the church. They are responsible for the largest cover-up of childhood sexual abuse in history.
And if you gloss it all over by saying well, that's YOUR problem with the church I don't have much respect for any opinion you have about Catholicism. It is ALL of our problem.
And Cannon Law 1395 specifically forbids sex with minors by clergy. Cannon 1389 punishes church officials who don't punish clerics who sexually abuse.
So those Catholics who don't care to speak out about the abuse aren't following church doctrine. Plain and simple. Don't believe me? Look it up.
That's terribly sad and tragic. But it's ok. We aren't perfect and we can't be expected to follow everything. If going to church on Sunday gives you peace than I say go for it. I won't judge you.
So don't judge me.
My wife and I travel a lot and I always make it point to go into the Cathedrals of the city we happen to be in. It gives me peace. I light a candle of my grandmother. I say a prayer.
My wife always asks me why do you like going into churches so much.
I always answer The religion of Catholicism is beautiful, and, there are so many beautiful things about it. Too bad all of us had to go and fuck it all up.
So yes, dear reader I am a cafeteria Catholic and if you are Catholic and tell me you are not ,well, then I am sorry to say I don't believe you.
Last week, the dismissal of my lawsuit against the Diocese of Rochester, New York and Bishop Matthew Clark was upheld by the 4th Department Appellate court. They reasoned that I knew I was being molested by O’Neill at 12 and should have told someone. This runs counter to experts of sexual abuse who know it takes years, often decades before a child comes to terms with his or her abuse.
But let’s for a second pretend I did tell my parents Robert O’Neill sexually abused me at 12. Picture the scene – I have just come back from a weekend trip with Father O’Neill. Keep in mind I have to see him at school with him at St. John’s the Evangelist the next day.
Dad: “How was your trip son?”
Me: “Great Dad, we went to Canada. I also got shitfaced on gin and Father O’Neill had sex with my friends and me during confession! What’s for dinner?”
There should be no statute of limitations against sex crimes against kids. Thanks Bishop Clark for doing absolutely nothing to protect my friends and me. And I am sure your heartfelt apology got lost somehow in the mail. . . Hey, it happens.
But dear reader, in a lot of ways I am luckier than most. In 2002 I was fortunate enough to travel to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland to present testimony on the devastating impact of clergy abuse. We also went to Rome to demand the Vatican discuss the issue. On that trip I met an attorney from Ireland – Simon Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy represents those abused by Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland. The crisis is horrible in the United States – in Ireland, it is even worse. Mr. Kennedy represents several women who were forced by their parents to enter the convents of the Magdalene order. Often times these girls were unfortunate enough to have had teenage pregnancies or caught in some other sexual acts with boys. Sometimes being raped was enough to get you sent there. Instead of helping their daughters, strict Roman Catholic parents would try to save their own souls by outcasting their children and sending them to Magdalene convents. Here, through harsh labor conditions, these girls where tortured and sexually abused. They were locked in their rooms at night and any escape attempt was treated with severe punishment. Many women were forced to spend their entire lives in these “Catholic prisons”.
Last year a movie was made on the plight of these women in Ireland -- The Magdalene Sisters. I highly recommend the movie. I must warn you though it is horribly depressing – but I believe it is important to watch. We need to open our eyes to the devastating impact the Catholic Church has had on children.
My wife did not want me to watch this movie. She felt it would be too triggering for me. For the most part I was ok. One scene got to me. A girl who was being molested by a priest finally snaps one day and starts screaming at the priest:
YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD!
YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD!
YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD!
Over and over: “YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD!”
I started crying – how I wish I had the courage to scream this at Bishop Matthew Clark and Robert O’Neill. . .
But I don’t. . .
And the girl was sent away to the insane asylum for having the courage to speak her truth.
I think it would be well worth you, dear reader, renting the movie.
Today I did something I normally do not do – I went to the movies by myself.
I saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I was moved. It’s a powerful movie.
I do not know what I believe when it comes to Jesus Christ, the Gospels, and the divinity. The only thing I am sure of today is that my spirituality is growing.
I believe in a power greater than myself – A Higher Power. And the story of Jesus is a touching and beautiful story.
Now people are getting all worked up over Gibson’s movie. Many claim that the movie is just too violent; not enough time is spent on the resurrection of Christ and merely focuses on the pain and suffering.
But Dear Reader, that is the point! And it blows my mind that is so misunderstood.
Yes, Jesus (to those who believe) is God. But let’s not forget the kicker – Jesus was also a man!
A man who worked for a living, who had friends, a mom, emotions and fears.
Yes, fears! He knew at the end that speaking the truth would kill him. He knew he would be tortured in terrible, brutal ways by an establishment that hated him simply because he was speaking his truth.
He cried in the Garden of Gethsemanie – prayed to his Dad to take it all away. To not let him face the terrible burden he was about to experience. But he said to God “I don’t want this, but let your will, not mine be done.”
He was scared to death in that garden, like any man would be – but he accepted his fate.
His friend betrayed him, his other friends abandoned him in his time of need. That must have felt awful.
The religious leaders of the day whipped and beat him. They coerced Roman officials to first torture Jesus to within an inch of his life and then sentence him to death.
Can you imagine the humiliation, pain and sheer fear Jesus must have faced? And Jesus did this to save all of us. He suffered these horrible things, as a man not as God, to save us.
That is the whole point behind Christian salvation!
Think about it. God is, well, He’s God! Rising from death is as easy as a card trick for God! Actually rising from the dead is a big yawn for the man upstairs. And if Jesus were playing the God role during his torture and execution it would mean nothing. It would be like an actor getting shot with blank bullets – no fear because there is no pain.
In my mind, Jesus took the role of a man to feel what we all feel – with no guarantees that he would be ok in the end. He didn’t deserve this death, but he picked up the check for all us sinners.
And that is brave and noble. Something we should all aspire to.
When they were driving the spikes through his hands and feet he prayed for forgiveness. "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
Like I said, I don’t know if the Christ story is real or is fiction. But I can and do get inspiration from Jesus.
The next time I am spit upon, made fun of, scared, betrayed, or feel like life is a terrible burden I need to remember Jesus’s words:
“So they hate you, remember I was hated first.”
I don’t need to remind Mel Gibson of any of this – it is what he was trying to show with his movie.
| Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Don't Need Pep-Rallys From the Dioceses
Letter to Bishop Howard J. Hubbard -- Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, NY February 9, 2004
Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop, Diocese of Albany
40 North Main Avenue
Albany, NY 12203
Today's pep-rally in your support is simply not something Jesus would do, sanction or tolerate. The same is true of last week's carefully orchestrated press conference at which scores of priests, including Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, cheered and applauded wildly -- even booing reporters who asked solid questions.
We know the news conference was painful for many of our members. We fear that today's rally will also be painful for them.
Even worse, we worry that events like this may intimidate other victims of clergy abuse into remaining silent. It is already very difficult for adults who were sodomized and raped as children to speak up. It is even more difficult when church leaders are organizing rallies on behalf of an accused cleric.
We certainly understand that recent allegations against you have been traumatic for you and the many of Albany area Catholics. We also appreciate that your supporters want to offer you comfort. But it's best for all parties if they do so privately. Otherwise, they risk scaring already suffering victims of sex crimes, and reducing the likelihood that other
crimes will be reported to law enforcement.
As the shepherd of the Albany Catholic flock, we hope you will encourage them to provide that support in quiet, appropriate ways. This moment, disturbing though it may be for you and your supporters, is an opportunity to educate parishioners in the Christ-like way to respond when abuse allegations surface.
Vigorous, public displays of unquestioning support for you have the potential of deterring some who were abused by clergy but are still suffering in silence, shame and self-blame from coming forward.
When victims and witnesses come forward, there is at least some chance for prevention and healing. When victims and witnesses remain silent our children remain at risk. Therefore, we hope that you will do everything within your power to foster a supportive climate for victims in this diocese. In particular, we hope that you will discourage further
orchestrated rallies and media events that may provide you with solace but may also rub salt into the wounds of already hurting victims and deter other victims from reporting child molesters.
We in SNAP pray for all the parties involved in these allegations. Every person involved deserves and needs prayerful support.
cc: Bishop Matthew C. Clark
Diocese of Rochester
1150 Buffalo Road
Rochester, NY 14624