An Israelite Without Guile
Fr. Shawn Ratigan: Catching a Creep in the Circle of Grace
In whatever terms, the standards are objective, in the best tradition of Catholic moral theology. This also makes them non-partisan. It imposes the same restrictions on Pax Christi members as on Knights of Columbus chaplains.
Whether the notion of the Circle of Grace enhanced the street smarts of the St. Pat's adults in any appreciable way I don't know; ours is a sophisticated generation. But I would bet that the clarity of the guidelines served to quiet that caviling inner voice that says, "Don't be such a paranoid loon." They might not teach vigilance, but they validate it. In Ratigan's case, that was enough.
From some angles, the conduct code looks like a micromanager's dream. But child protection may be the one instance where small acts of disobedience really can signify major character flaws. Several people, including Principal Hess, reminded Ratigan of the rules in what seems to have been a non-accusatory tone; Ratigan protested and blustered, raising staff suspicions even higher. It was as if, for once, the devil really did give himself away by a faint whiff of sulfur.
Stories about bad or careless bishops have been so numerous; I can barely stand to hear any more. They're numbing me into complacency. The same stories enrage other Catholics into denial, which is worse. So let's flip the script for a second, and focus instead on the splendid tools that run the risk of going unused. In every diocese, we've got guidelines that can smoke out potential abusers before they do too much harm; at the grassroots level, we've got adults willing to face awkwardness and disappointment in order to enforce them. Doesn't that make you feel better?
No? Me neither. But it makes me mad in new and exciting way. That should count for something.
Max Lindenman is a freelance writer, based in Phoenix. He has been published in National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and Salon. His Open Salon blog is here.