Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WASHINGTON POST -- A Catholic mom on Vatican's strategy to address abuse

A Catholic mom on Vatican's strategy to address abuse

By Tracy Grant

The Catholic Church has shown that it has a lot in common with your typical 6-year-old.

In announcing its latest attempt to deal with the decades-old priest sex abuse scandal, the Vatican wheedled when it could have healed, deflected when it could have taken a punch squarely and ultimately, failed to put behind it the greatest calamity to face the church in centuries.

Fundamentally, the church failed to recognize that "honesty is the best policy" is not merely a hoary chestnut, not merely a pat moral salve: it is, in times of crisis, a highly effective, but infrequently used, strategy.

Every mother who has ever caught a child next to a broken vase and heard "I don't know what happened, Mom. HONEST" knows that very elemental, human urge to avoid a little bit of trouble that has been around since - well, Adam and Eve. Such is human nature ... to blame, to skirt the edges of truth, to believe against all odds and evidence that we'll get away with the lie, that we can contain the situation with half-truths, nuanced answers.
But imagine the kid who when caught next to the vase doesn't spew out a bald-faced lie, doesn't blame his sister or the dog, doesn't say that Mom is stupid to have an expensive vase in a house with kids but instead looks up into Mom's face (a quavering lip would probably be a nice touch) and says "I'm SO SORRY, Mom. I was running when I shouldn't have and I broke your vase. I'll use my allowance to buy you a new one."

How does Mom respond? Probably with a comforting hug, words that convey that we all make mistakes but that the really important thing is that we learn from them. She probably calls Dad at work, not to lament the loss of the vase but to herald the moral rectitude of their amazing future Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Was the child honest for the sake of honesty or because he had calculated that simply coming clean would spare him being yelled at, lectured to and punished?

I'm not going to say that it doesn't matter, but I am going to say that I wish 20 years ago, the Catholic Church had been that smart, that strategic, that cunning in dealing with the priest sex abuse scandal. Of course, it would have been good for the victims of the abuse, acknowledging their pain and suffering Of course, it would have been the right thing to do for an institution that preaches the power of confession and forgiveness. But it also would have simply been the smart, pragmatic, strategic move.

Instead, this week the Church announced new rules that embrace, instead of close, loopholes; rules that suggest that there just might be under some circumstances, a case where a priest abusing a child just one time might be excusable; rules that don't hold bishops (bosses) accountable for the actions of priests (employees).

The public outcry was predictable and justified.

My disappointment in the church is no longer that it lacks the soul to stake out the clearly moral position but that it lacks the brains to stake out the clearly strategic one.

Tracy Grant is editor of Weekend and KidsPost.



It really does make one wonder why a Church this rich and powerful couldn't get a better PR firm.

Posted by: areyousaying | July 21, 2010 6:29 PM

I started leaving the RCC when I was about 12 years old, for fairly abstract reasons having to do with the low probability of the existence of a personal deity. There was a lot of pressure from family to stay "true" to the Catholic faith, but ultimately, I could not. I just didn't see the evidence for a personal deity.

That was a very long time ago. (I am a female Boomer.) Much water connected with child molestation and hierarchical cover-ups has since roared under the bridge.

It is a puzzle to me that any American woman is disappointed in the Roman Catholic Church. Why on earth did anyone expect anything different? The Roman Catholic Church is not just a corporation; it's a stupid, out-of-touch corporation, where things are rigged so that the most out-of-touch person in the corporate hierarchy is elected to be CEO.

Wake up and smell the coffee, as Ann Landers used to exhort her readers. The Roman Catholic hierarchy is a corporation determined to protect its assets. What would they gain from contrition? What would they gain from sharing power with cootie-infested persons (females)?

OK, the RCC might gain a flourishing future where women continued to insist that their children be raised as observant Catholics. But they don't get that. Despite their direct pipeline to God. Who could imagine?

I'm thankful that I didn't try to raise my children as Roman Catholics, constantly trying to excuse the child molestation cover-ups and the complete rejection of women's ordination. If my children ever want religion, there are plenty where women play an equal role.

So far, they don't seem to want religion.

Posted by: MaryC4 | July 21, 2010 1:11 AM

I agree with Tracy Grant that the Catholic Church blew it with its handling of the sex abuse problem. What causes a religious institution to not do the morally right thing in a time of crisis? Ms. Grant alludes to "childishness." Because the Church continues to avoid the morally right approach, the word "arrogance" seems more appropriate. The Pope and his minions lost my respect a long time ago.

Posted by: davebeedon | July 20, 2010 12:49 AM

It appears these old men (and the young ones who are being brainwashed into the same mind set) only care about themselves and the perpetuation of their club..
They seem to think that everyone else on the planet is here to serve and obey them.
The people need to say NO and walk away and not return..
leave the pope and his buddies including all the perp priests at the vatican

Posted by: dangerous1 | July 19, 2010 8:12 PM

I have often said that most 2nd grade, First Communicants, have more of a grasp of Mortal Sin and the subtleties of right and wrong than do the priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals of the Catholic Church. Oh, what the hell! Why not throw the Pope on to that list! After all, he's the one who saw the records, which came across his desks of stories of Pedophile Priests, for about 2 decades, when he was Prefect of the CDF! Now what totally amazes me is that we allow these men in scarlet and high-hatted miters to run the Church and to threaten us with damnation at just about every turn, if we openly, and heretically, disagree with them or with the Church's out-dated system of Canon Laws. One of my none-Catholic friends asked me recently how Catholics could ignore the insanity and reconcile how pedophile priests were allowed to minister to the gullible for decades, even though their abuse behavior was often known to their superiors? I told her that I'm sure the answer must lie in the concept of "Cafeteria Catholicism." I might add, that I left the Church long, long ago, because I was tired of picking and choosing (based on my Free will and conscience), what I was going to believe and not believe. When I finally recognized the insanity, leaving was my only option! I have learned and taken to heart the words of Christ: "My kingdom is NOT of this world," and "The Kingdom of God is within!" He is all I need. I don't need to be in a Church, where the leadership doesn't have the moral fiber of a 2nd Grade, First Communicant!

Posted by: JeannieGuzman | July 19, 2010


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