Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Pattern

You know, the sex scandal was typical.  I don't mean that priests typically molest kids and bishops typically let them get away with it.  What I mean is, the way the Church handled the sex scandal is the way they handle everything.

For example: below are all things I can vouch for in my twelve short years as a Catholic, though the names have been changed to protect the guilty - if any names are used.  Some of these events I was involved in; others happened to friends.

  • A teacher at a Catholic grade school handles a situation very poorly in class.  Mom and Dad complain to the principal.  The principal responds by circling the wagons, threatening the parents, and bullying them behind closed doors.  The parents complain to the pastor.  The pastor responds, "I have full confidence in Principal Raw-Knuckle.  This matter is entirely hers to handle as she sees fit."  The problem recurs and is not fixed.  The parents move their kids to another Catholic grade school,which is run by a principal who is even worse, and by a pastor who is even more hands off.  Eventually, the parents remove their children from the Catholic grade school system entirely (to save their faith, for one thing.  The best indicator of adult apostasy - twelve years of Catholic education).  A problem arises with a teacher at the public grade school (she was telling the kids in class to tell their parents to vote yes in the next election to allow embryonic stem cell research in our state).  The parents complain to the public school principal, who sincerely apologizes and promises that he will handle the situation with the teacher, and that the issue will not arise again.  "She should not be campaigning in class," he simply and plainly admits. The parents are treated professionally and courteously.  No threats, no circling the wagons, no bullying.  The problem does not recur.

  • In three separate cases, three different clergymen were known to behave erratically and dangerously.  One priest was known to have a married girlfriend and perhaps a boyfriend or two.  Another priest had a personality disorder that expressed itself in brutal treatment of many of his parishioners, and which included the establishment of bizarre rituals.  A third was exhibiting his unhealthy compulsions in public, advertising them for all to see.  In each case, the bishop was contacted.  In each case, the concerned parties were stonewalled and the clergy continue to remain active.  Did the archdiocese act behind the scenes?  Perhaps, but if so, nothing changed.

  • Sometimes the problem works in reverse, and it's not the "hierarchy" who drop the ball.  For instance: a bishop behaves badly enough to put the children of his diocese and his own priests at risk.  He spends millions of dollars he receives from Catholic parishes and schools to protect his reputation.  Many of the laity refuse to admit any error in his behavior or in his spending church and school money to shore himself up.  They verbally assault anyone who points to the facts and who suggests that things like this should not be tolerated.  The bishop continues to reign.

Why the Church runs things like this, I just don't know.  The worst examples are child abuse enabled and covered up.  But the examples above are just some of many that don't rise to that level. 

So it's not really about sexual deviance or the rigors of celibacy or bad vocations to the priesthood. 

It's about a systemic failure.

Maybe some of you have an explanation for this.  I certainly don't.


Sleepy Anon. said...

I've seen them circle the wagons at the public schools, too.

All I can think of to say is, it's the bureaucracy of the thing. School systems, governments, dioceses all get too big and too self-important, self-serving, and there's no recourse. At least, none that isn't slower than molasses.

Also, too few priests. If you get rid of one, there is no one to take his place. And some bishops run their diocese like a union boss, or like mafia. Or fight club. First rule of fight club...

Sorry. My reply is a bit disjointed - I really am too tired to be online. But I wanted to let you know that as long as you make sense, I will read your blog whether I agree with you or not. I am in favor of shining light on the dark places.

James said...

The problem is that we haven't tried to fix the culture that enabled sex abuse, we've just made sex abuse a special case.

Kevin O'Brien said...

James, thanks for the link. That's a very well written post, and you hit the nail on the head. I plan to mention it in my own next post.