Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sin and the Passive Voice - A Modern Cerbonius is Thrown to the Bears

St. Cerbonius and the Bears.


If this news report is true, then here's what happened in the Sacramento diocese (which is named "Sacramento" after the Blessed Sacrament - Jesus Christ present among us).

Christopher Cerbone ("Christopher" means "Christ bearer"; "Cerbone" is a name related to that of St. Cerbonius, who was thrown to the bears) was a soccer coach at St. Patrick / St. Vincent High School in Vallejo, California.  One day, he learned that there was a kind of "hazing" going on among his students that was tantamount to sexual abuse.  As soon as he learned of this behavior, he reported it to school officials.

The school responded by expelling five of the guilty students - and firing Christopher Cerbone!  They justified this by issuing a press release saying that, as coach, Cerbone was, himself, responsible for the hazing, even though he immediately reported it as soon as he found out about it.

This is an open and shut case.  If the news report is accurate, it is clearly unjust termination and defamation, and it will cost the diocese of Sacramento nearly $1 million in actual damages and perhaps as much as $4.5 million in punitive damages.

In trying to argue against a high punitive award, the lawyer for the diocese told the jury that the diocese didn't mean any real harm, and that (gosh dang it) the matter was handled "very poorly" - so, no biggie, you see.  "Mistakes were made" as it were.  Nobody's fault.

Oh, and, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, don't come down hard on the diocese of the city of the Blessed Sacrament, because, after all, the diocese that brutalized Christopher Cerbone "does good works every day".  And, you know, throwing St. Cerbonius to the bears was just the kind of thing that slipped through the cracks.  Was it a way of sending, as the plaintiff's attorney claimed, "a message to the 1,000 other employees of the diocese, 'Don’t stand up. Don’t say anything about us, because this can happen to you.'"  Or, golly, was it just a situation that was handled "very poorly"?  Darn it!

Well, here's a novel idea.  How about we Catholics own up to our sins, admit them without excuse, and, when the sins are public, do public penance of some sort as a way of expressing our contrition and as a way of witnessing for Christ?

After all, even in the privacy of the confessional, do we say, "Father, mistakes were made?  Father, the matter was handled very poorly?"  And does the priest then say, "Mistakes are forgiven.  The handling has been overlooked"?  No, we say, "I have sinned," and he says (if we mean it), "I absolve you".

Who knows what the heck the school was thinking in this case.  But they didn't "handle it poorly", they deliberately harmed a man and then deliberately defamed him.  Speaking in the passive voice is a way of ignoring this.

All sins are personal.  All sins harm either our own selves personally or other people personally.

But an institution that would throw a man to the bears is an institution that would probably not feel sorry for having done so.


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