The last serious conversation I had with a priest ended with me telling him to go to hell.
I’ve probably told this story before. This was eleven years ago. Spring of 2001. Young Ken was in second grade and having a miserable time of it. At the time we didn’t know what was wrong. It was clear he had problems. We suspected learning disabilities but feared there was something else. We had no idea what that might be or how to look for it. And we were getting very little help from his school. His teacher was trying, but the principal had thrown up her hands and the pastor was making noises about how if we---meaning the blonde and I---didn’t do something and quick Ken would have to leave the school.
We needed advice. We needed recommendations. We needed help from professionals with experience with children having problems like Ken’s. So I called the bishop’s office and spoke to the head of the diocesan school districts, figuring that he’d know somebody and be eager to help since, well, it was his job.
He was worse than unhelpful.
He was hostile.
He made it plain he thought we were doing something wrong.
He made it plainer he thought we were bad parents.
Plain as in he called us bad parents.
That’s when I told him to go to hell.
Ken’s career at that school ended right there. I’ll save the story of his educational progress after that and how his life was saved by his third grade teacher at a charter school for another day. The point for now is that at that time I was going to chalk it all up to experience. I knew from my altar boy days that priests were not saints. Some were good men, some weren’t. This guy, I figured, was someone who’d decided that rather than a shepherd of souls his vocation called him to be a petty bureaucrat whose function was to protect his employers from hassles and headaches while making his own job as easy and trouble-free as possible, and there are petty bureaucrats like that in every institution and organization. The pastor of our parish was indifferent to our trouble, the principal was incompetent, but so it goes. Bad luck for us. But we’d muddle on. Which is what we did, except…
It happened to be right around the same time that the dams broke. There was a flood of news letting the world know that what had happened in Boston under the now fugitive from justice Cardinal Law wasn’t an aberration. It had gone on, was going on, in parishes across the country. At first it seemed like a horrific coincidence. But there were so many and the patterns were so much the same that it couldn’t be denied. The Church had become a criminal enterprise devoted to protecting and covering up for child molesters. Every priest and bishop was now suspect, either of being a molester himself or of being a coward and looking the other way or of actively covering up for the molesters.
I suddenly saw what had just been done to Ken and us as part of the horror. The Church wasn’t interested in children except as victims. The schools didn’t have money for students with special needs or, in more and more cases, for even keeping the doors open, because all the money was going to pay lawyers and pay off victims. The bureaucracy was focused on dealing with the crisis. I don’t know that it was so in our case but it’s easy to imagine because it was happening in other dioceses if not ours that priests like the one I told to go to hell were in foul moods when they talked to parents like me because they had just finished talking to other parents who were threatening to sue or call in the police.
The whole of the Church’s hierarchy was rotten and corrupt and the bishops were the ringleaders.
We were lucky. We had our eyes opened without the kind of harm to our son that so many other people’s sons had suffered. Given our experience it wasn’t difficult for us to believe what was happening was in fact happening and that as an institution the Church was not in the business of taking care of its children.
It was in the business of throwing children to the wolves.
A lot of people are still in denial about this, mostly older Catholics and ultra-conservative ones, but also many non-Catholic journalists and politicians, even though in the years since the news has grown ever more appalling. The crimes have been going on for decades. The criminality of the Church’s leaders is world-wide. And Rome knows and has known and has not done anything about it except try to end the lawsuits and thwart prosecutions and keep the remaining faithful blind and in line.
This is very important to understand: The whole contraception charade is part of a strategy to divert the faithful and the politicians and shut down the lawsuits and save priests and bishops from arrest. The whining about infringements on religious freedom are intended to scare off more investigations and prosecutions and discredit attempts to change the laws to make it possible for more victims to come forward to seek justice and sue. And every bishop and cardinal appointed in the last twenty years has been given as one of his main duties implementing that strategy.
Which is why the archbishop of our diocese, the newly minted Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has been lobbying against a proposed law here in New York to lift the statute of limitations on child abuse.
And then the man has the nerve to say this in response to the President’s declaration in favor of same-sex marriage:
"We cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better."
Yes, his eminence has put himself forward as a defender of “our children” while he’s working to see that more molesters evade prosecution.
And guess which party his main allies in Albany belong to?
Getting the measure through the State Senate would be an uphill climb; previous attempts have failed, and Republican leaders have again vowed to stop it.
The Catholic Church has always been and still is a voice for social justice but if you’re wondering why the bishops never seem to be as angry at granny-starvers like Paul Ryan, who is a Catholic, as they are at gay friendly and pro-choice politicians like the President, who is not, or work as hard, if at all, towards their defeat at the polls, there you have it.
The bishops know which politicians they can count on to protect them from justice.
Like I said, the bishops’ job is to keep the remaining faithful distracted and in-line. And they know they can count on the ulta-conservatives to fall for anything.
This fits with Rome’s attack on the nuns. The men in skirts are furious at women who stand up to them and for themselves and the Girl Scouts teach girls how to stand up for themselves.