Cooling off… a bit

I’m finally cooling off after one of the angriest days I’ve had in quite a while. Just when I think our shepherds have exhausted my capacity for outrage, something like today happens. I continue to see absolutely no justification for the Cardinal’s action (unless looking good for the camera counts).

“But it was to protect the children!”

From dead priests? Somehow I detect another motivation was paramount.

“We have a right to know!”

Actually, the *authorities* have a right to know–if there’s something worth telling them. When the cops tell the papers that somebody who sinned 17 years ago is in trouble, then I’ll listen. If I think you robbed my house, I tell the cops, not the papers.

“These guys could be a menace.” Some of these guys were merely accused, others are dead. If every accused person is a menace who needs public humilation and a ruined life, then we’ve not only left the gospel of mercy in the dirt, we’ve left common decency.

“But he did it for the priests! Keeler said so! He said he wanted people to know most priests were doing a great job!”

Yeah? Then how come the priests (all of them, not just the ones on the list) feel betrayed and abandoned? Why are they getting the same message I got: “If some nutball in your parish accuses you, no matter how preposterous the charge, be advised that I will hand you to the wolves rather than risk looking soft on abuse. You’re on your own.” This is the same despicable dereliction of office that led Egan to attempt to claim that his priests were “independent contractors” in order to disavow responsibility. There was one priest and one priest only that this action was calculated to benefit: William Cardinal Keeler.

Nope. The Cardinal behaved despicably. Despicably. Part of me hopes there’s some poor sap named “Gerald Bugge” in his diocese who sues him for defamation since he couldn’t even be bothered to proofread his list before handing it to the wolves. Wouldn’t it be great if that were Nihil Obstat’s real name? Nihil: sic ‘em.

As for Gerard, he did wrong–and he’s been laicized at his own request. If there’s a problem that the civil authorities need to address then, dammit, it should have gone to the civil authorities first, not to the Great Disembodied Jury of Cyberspace for the Royal Richard Jewell Treatment. Really people. I’m ashamed at some of the malarkey that has been put forward in justification for publicly humiliating, cyber-trying and convicting him as a Permanent Leper whom Decent People Can Shun with Impunity Forever. Since the Cardinal doesn’t seem to have anything to offer the civil authorities (and if Gerard is accurate, could not be bothered to know the details of, just as he could not be bothered to know the spelling of his name) and since nobody appears to be filing any complaints against Gerard, I cannot see that it’s the business of John Q. Public, nor that it was the business of the Cardinal to make it John Q. Public’s business. Still less was it our business to know of merely *accused* men. And we could really do without knowing about merely accused dead guys. So can their families.

Here in Washington State, the state has different levels of sex offender status according to likelihood of recidivism. At the lowest levels, sex offenders do not need to inform the community they are living there. The state deems them no danger and, judging from the fact that you don’t hear constant Willie Horton stories in the press about repeat offenders who were deemed no danger, they are apparently justified in making this judgement most times. I don’t know what the law is like in Maryland. Indeed, I don’t even know if what Gerard did merits the attention of the law. And that’s not because Gerard hasn’t said, but because the Cardinal hasn’t.

If the law has not required anything of Gerard and he has lived in holiness and chastity for 17 years, then to demand that Gerard now make public in the grubby and merciless forum of cyberspace something that neither Caesar nor Christ demands he reveal is to usurp a place that is doubly not ours. Gerard has sinned and has voluntarily done his penance: he’s laicized. If he’s committed a crime, or poses a likelihood of doing so again, then it should have been referred to Caesar, not the media–and that was the Cardinal’s responsibility. Since that was not done, I can only assume the Cardinal’s motive was as creditable in Gerard’s case as it was in revealing the names of merely accused men, both living and dead. Which is to say, not one damn bit.

Bottom line: if neither Christ or Caesar have required this humiliating act of exposure, it’s none of our business to pry into it further, I deem. If the Cardinal has something to say to the authorities about Gerard then let him do it. But Gerard is under exactly the same obligation to expose his repented sins to the scrutiny of John Q. Public as you and I are.