Friday, June 11, 2010

So Little, So Late

When I finally spit out a rant here, you can be sure it's been simmering on the stove awhile. (In this case, 11 years, ever since a detailed report on the Boston scandal lived on my desk in the late 90s.) I apologize in advance for offending loved ones who are Catholic. This has nothing to do with your personal faith, only crimes advanced at the main office, as it were.

So, the Catholic Church. Wow. Where to begin? Where will it end? The decades and yes, centuries of ignorance and willful abuse - all done in the name of God - makes my skin burn with white hot rage. If I could shave my head and rip up a photo of the Holy See Not on SNL, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Today, the news broke that the Pope has finally gotten to the bottom of his to-do list and offered an apology for all the thousands of lives destroyed worldwide from ongoing sex scandals. Timely as usual. (Reminiscent of when The Church finally vindicated the astronomy studies of Galileo - who died in 1642 - in 1992.)

Confession: Priests have given me the heebie-jeebies my entire life. I could never pinpoint why but these days, I've got a pretty good idea. If I got on a crowded bus and had a choice between sitting next to a priest or a big, black gangster dude, I'd take droopy pants over the collar every time.

The only Catholic person in a leadership position I ever trusted was Fran, one of the coolest holy guys ever to walk the Earth. I still talk to him sometimes and I wish he was here to help me understand this mess. If guys like Fran were running the show, The Church would not have sunk to the oozy tarpits of lies and deception, where it currently resides. When the media offers interactive maps (like the Boston Globe did here, highlighting districts with abusing priests), you know things are bad.

Last year in Phoenix, The Church excommunicated a hospital administrating nun for approving a life-saving abortion. Doctors agreed that the woman - also the mother of four children - would likely die of pulmonary hypertention if the pregnancy were to continue. No matter, Sister Margaret McBride was out her ass after decades of service.

Now, this is the same Church that artfully moved pedophile priest from one diocese to another to protect its own sanctimonious reputation. The Church - you know the one that preaches family values? - ended up being comprised largely of either child fuckers or those that protect them. Let's put it this way, when I tried to get my arms around the expanse of this situation, I got a Wikipedia entry entitled:

Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Cases By Country

This cancer within the Church is so pervasive, so deeply rooted, that it has to be broken down by entire nations. And yet, time and time again, backs were turned to the problem. The Church that bans birth control, disallows women leaders and molests thousands of children, wants you to live by their rules. The Catholic Church is like the Enron of religions and they are losing numbers fast. Say what you want about extreme Islam, but they do not abuse children.

And let's not forget how much money is spent trying to clean up this mess. Dioceses and their insurers paid $104 million in settlements, attorneys' fees and other abuse-related costs in 2009 and $376 million in 2008. All told, the scandal's price tag for settlements and other costs has risen to more than $2.7 billion, according to estimates, and these numbers apply to the U.S. only. Something to think about when that plate comes around....

As a non-Catholic, I can't seem to engage anyone of this faith in a realistic discussion. I get responses like, "Well, plenty of religions have the same problem." Really? Which ones? Honestly, I'd like to know.

"Well, the problem is limited to certain areas." Correct, that area being Earth.

"Well, not all priests are guilty of this." Agreed, although they are part of the same fraternity that allowed this atmosphere to grow and fester. 

And then there's SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests. A NETWORK, PEOPLE. They've been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. The fact that they even exist, that they host conferences and have handy Abuse Trackers, makes me ill.


Just to put the cherry on top of this evil sundae, there's also now a website for Italian women who have sexual relations with priests. Celibacy in the Church - what a sham. And why? What does it prove? That people who claim not to have sex are somehow closer to God? I don't buy it. After all, isn't He the one who made the parts fit together so nicely?

I can't help but recall a time when I traveled through the Australian outback for three days with a young Catholic Irishman. He was a virgin (because the Church said no sex before marriage) and was deeply conflicted about it. He was also an alcoholic and had mysterious open sores all over his skin. Over the long hours of driving through a bright orange desert, we had many talks about this imposed celibacy issue and I recall saying one thing that gave him pause:
"Nature - your body - always has the last word. It doesn't care about plans or rules or anything like that. Think about when you get the flu and how much work or fun you miss out on because the virus needs to have its way with you. It has no concern for your schedule or what another human has told you. None whatsoever."
He was quiet for a long time after this and I still think about that poor, confused young man. Now, I'm not saying getting laid would've cleared up his head and skin (although it works for me), but other than being told "No!", he had zero guidance from his Church on how to maneuver the real world.

Honestly, I'd love to hear something - anything - from Catholics who are really angry about this post or have some helpful insight. The most excellent pro-Catholic essay I've read so far is from Elizabeth Scalia: "On Good Friday, Why I Remain Catholic."

Don't get me wrong, I'm seething like an angry wet cat but ultimately, what I wish for is healing for all involved. Even those creepy guys in black.


Fang Bastardson said...

I have to give the Catholics credit for two things: Commissioning some kick-ass pieces of artwork over the centuries, and being consistent on "Life" issues. They're anti-abortion and anti-death penalty.

And when I was a kid, anyhow, they ran their schools like military academies. Two years there was good for two and a half years when I transferred to a public high school my junior year.

I'm lucky I was a dorky kid and never drafted into the ranks of the altar boys, or youth group leadership.

hotdrwife said...

Great post.

I grew up in a small town with a choice of three churches to attend, and the big one was the Catholic church. I had a classmate fighting with her parents, and her way of getting back was to join the Catholic church.

I wonder what she thinks of that choice nowadays.

SUEB0B said...

I'm with you except the "say what you like about extreme Islam..." This is not an anti-Islamic comment, though. It is an anti-fundamentalist comment - because I think it is endemic to every type of extremism and fundamentalism that children are hurt sexually and otherwise. The need for control endemic in fundamentalism is antithetical to the joy and freedom of a healthy childhood. Fundamentalism hates play, innocence and living in the moment and will do anything to destroy those things.

ClizBiz said...

Point taken, SueBob. You're correct, zealotry of any kind doesn't do favors for any kids nearby. I guess I was thinking specifically of molestation but really, there are more ways than one to cause long-lasting harm. Thanks for engaging me!

Kath said...

As a former Catholic with parents that are still loyal Catholics, I can tell you that my parents & I are both disgusted & fed up with the Catholic Church.

The priest that performed my wedding ceremony left the priesthood after being approached again and again to have sex with other priests. He was fed up with the two-sidedness of it all.

There are priests out there that are kind & Christ-like and worthy of being leaders.

My two cents = the Catholic church need to change for the better and that change needs to start at the top with the Pope. Actually, I'd like to see the Pope removed from office - sooner than later - to demonstrate how serious they are about change.

ClizBiz said...

Kathy - Thank you SO MUCH for some honest feedback. I feel bad for your parents and the priest who performed your wedding. It must have broken his heart to make that decision.

You're right, there are many true Christ-like priests out there but alas, they are not getting press.

Removing the Pope, now there's an idea whose time has come but I wouldn't bet on it. They love a good hierarchy in the frat.