Cumulative Days Riding: 163 Cumulative Days Blogging: 148
Today’s Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 1103
Tomorrow is Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays so tomorrow we will visit two beautiful churches in the Jacksonville area. As I ride the bike this afternoon, I have pondered why I have been unable to motivate myself to write the blog for the past three days.
I have been busy with tests and with the arrival of warm spring weather it is a challenge for me to stay focused. Yesterday I posted the following on my Facebook page: “A beautiful day is unfolding outside my door! I can’t resist it any longer! Pink flower petals fall like fragrant snow and bees dart about in the sunlight like a shifting haze surrounding the flowering trees… I shall walk, breathe deeply and ‘go with the flow’… riding the Tao past mid-day and into the afternoon… on for the rest of life!”
This morning I read more news stories on the internet about the deepening crisis within the Catholic Church. This is a crisis surrounding accusations of child abuse against priests and bishops across Europe. It is similar to the crisis that occurred in the USA several years ago. I now realize that this crisis, with its troubling meaning for the church and its members had in part contributed to my silence.
I was baptized and raised a Catholic and while I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I owe the church for eight years of my education and still hold some of the priests and nuns who educated me as significant models and mentors. I have made it a point in my blog and my teaching to not single out specific churches or faiths for harsh criticism. I have seen on numerous occasions that a church or faith might be problematic for a particular individual (e.g. its attitude toward women or gays may not promote growth for individuals in those groups) while at the same time proving to be a healthy fit for another individual. I also have close friends and family members who are devout Christians (Catholic and Protestant) and it is not my intention to criticize their “path to the divine.”
I have recently blogged about the “evil actions” that can be undertaken by religious practitioners as well as the uplifting, caring and compassionate actions which religious beliefs can generate. I continue to have visitors to my blog site who disagree with my statement that “I would never support the abolition of the institution of religion.” Religion as an institution is a primary source of “life meaning” for many people. They help individuals and communities deal with disasters and loss and can provide a primary source of “moral guidance” to society. Most of the important “rights movements” of the last 100 years have been lead by clergy walking arm-in-arm against reactionary forces. Many of the loving and selfless volunteers serving our society’s “safety net” do so out of deeply held spiritual and religious beliefs.
Taking all of this into account, it is also quite clear that Religion, and any of the churches that make up the mosaic of a culture’s religious fabric, can and do become dysfunctional! I believe this tends to happen when the institution loses sight of its primary functions: to care for it’s flocks immediate needs for safety and guidance; and to help counter forces within every culture (e.g., political power, material wealth, hedonistic pleasure, group biases that demonize others) that draw people away from the transformation power offered by a healthy spirituality and loving/compassionate faith.
I believe that what is unfolding in the Catholic Church shines a spotlight on a terrible secret and deeply damaging breach of trust in the “faith” people place in the clergy. In my profession it has long been recognized that two things represent egregious breaches of moral and ethical principles. These are: a breach of the client’s confidentiality, the promise of privacy toward their disclosures and no exploitation in any sexual or financial way. Children and adults in distress are in need of trusted guidance and protection. Anyone who meets their own selfish needs (e.g., power, wealth, sexual gratification, dominance) at the expense of another has committed one of the most deplorable acts imaginable, whether that person is a priest, a parent, a teacher, or a therapist. They have punished and added to the burden and suffering of someone in need.
The Catholic Church has taken a position that this is a problem with a few “bad apples” and that the institution’s response was appropriate. They removed priests and sent them for treatment! However, the evidence is mounting that they often returned offending priest to service without warning their new parishioners or insuring that the treatment had worked. There is evidence of some priests perpetrating abuse for decades and the church turned a blind eye to the abuse!
It has been an accepted fact within the field of sexual abuse research that perpetrators seek job positions that place them in contact with potential victims. All churches have had more than enough time to recognize this fact and take extreme and immediate steps to purge their ranks of any such individuals. Two additional facts from this field of study are relevant here: the best predictor of future behaviors is past behavior; and the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children are extremely resistant to therapy and change. Most professionals in this field suggest a permanent removal of the offender from any contact with potential victims! It is my belief that the Catholic Church has been grossly neglectful of its responsibilities towards “parishioners” and those dedicated clergy who follow the loving and compassionate examples of Christ in their sacred scriptures.
Peggy Noonan wrote an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal in which she noted that there were three groups of victims in this ongoing Catholic Church crisis. The first are of course the children who were abused and carry the scars and suffering of that abuse. The second group is comprised of all the dedicated clergy and nuns who have been truthful to their sacred vows. The third, and largest group, are all of the parishioners “in the pews” who are left to question the authority and relevance of a church organization that knowingly placed their weakest members in “harm’s way” against preverbal “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
I believe that Catholic Church needs to stop trying to blame external forces (e.g. the secular media or reform minded critics) and open its institutional structure and rules (i.e., Yes maybe even the question of marriage for priests) to honest and painful scrutiny. The Church’s past sins have come home to roost! How it responds to this crisis will establish whether it continues to be a positive force into the future or just an old fossilized institution that lumbers on by sheer momentum of its size. History has shown repeatedly that institutions that do not grow and transcend their old rules and “ways” are destined to litter the ditches of the roadway into the future!
One final point, just in case anyone reading this posting feels that this crisis relates only to the Catholic Church, my local paper contains on a monthly basis, reports of Protestant ministers abusing children in their care. My understanding is that the Southern Baptists do not even have a system for tracking reports of such abuse or of notifying their member churches to “black list” a minister. I have a good friend who as a child and young adult suffered through an abusive family life. Twice as a child and once as a young adult she turned to fundamentalist Christian ministers for help and guidance. What she received in all three cases were unwanted sexual advances!
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