Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Something further

Yesterday I posted on the elections of Cardinal George and Bishop Kicanas as president and vice-president of the USCCB, saying they were on the list of "really good guys". Since then Bishop Kicanas has been excoriated for his handling of a Fr. Daniel McCormack, allowing his ordination to proceed even though he was aware of three incidents of sexual impropriety. That's what happens when you post while tired and Google search doesn't nail the other issues in the first few pages.

Excuses aside, I'm still rather disturbed at the sheer venom directed at the Bishop for as of now only one issue which occurred between thirteen and fifteen years ago. Did he blow it? The fact McCormack is now in prison for molesting five boys would certainly suggest he did, at the very least beyond that jury's reasonable doubt. Am I defending the decision? Absolutely not. What I am saying, however, is that we sit in a very privileged seat when we judge the past actions of someone knowing more than they did at the time and with a particular sensitivity to an issue which has intensified in the interim. When we then act as if our privileged position should have been common sense fifteen years ago and then castigate someone who is, shall we not forget, in the line of the Apostles we act in a most un-Christian manner.

Do I sound as if I'm giving the Bishops a free pass? If you honestly believe that of me that only proves you all the more unworthy to judge in this situation. Perhaps I sound more annoyed than lucid. Perhaps that is the case - one can only deal with so many self-righteous claims of higher authority from those with less knowledge of what really happened than a juror in the first O.J. Simpson trial before it becomes too much. It's amazingly hypocritical that the very same people who damn the Bishops for not sticking their necks out to defend the faith are also the ones swinging hatchet and cleaver at those same necks when the first inkling of a decades-old sex abuse case surface. It's no wonder our Bishops have a serious case of turtle-neck syndrome.

If you're wearing a mitre and someone questions you about a past action in the case of any sexual abuse case by now you've been conditioned both from repetitive life-saving ducking motions and the continual advice of legal council to either not answer at all or defend your past actions as appropriate at the time. Should Bishops always listen to lawyers? No, but they also realize that a public admission of any level of fault will generally result in the implosion of any chance of a legal defense which means costing the Diocese for which they are ultimately responsible being hammered with settlements which they simply can never afford.

The further fact that many of these cases have been resurrected from years past serves only to compound the impression that they are being attacked from all sides. Even when cases are impossible to reasonably adjudicate due to time lapse the sheer emotion of the case has all but decided the verdict before it ever sees a courtroom. States then passing special laws rolling back the statute of limitations just for cases involving the Church move the level from suspicious to absurd. Who are they supposed to trust, the lawyers who at least are sounding reasonably prudent and offering the possibility of a way out which leaves the Diocese intact - or the chattering class, red in the face with fury with their knives drawn and torches lit? By virtue of being Bishop the virtues of the Saints are not necessarily imputed.

And finally, let me pinch this off before it even gets going. Don't dare to tell me that sexual abuse cases are so special that any and all laws need to be rescinded so that we might get at these reprobates and that I can't possibly understand what any of these people went, and are going, through. I've been there and done that. No, not by a priest. And no, I've never filed suit either against the person who did it nor their employer. I could never achieve any type of closure by destroying what's left of that person's life - I know what happened, I know the other person knows, and until we are both face-to-face with Christ Himself I would like never to worry about it again. Closure for me is simple - that other person had serious issues which were not dealt with appropriately and I firmly believe they were fighting internal demons. My only reaction to the whole ordeal now is sadness for the other person and prayerful hope that they will get the help they need and with any luck find their way to Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Getting souls to heaven, people. Let's keep our eyes on the ball.