Posted by: Peadar Ban | June 4, 2012

Only The News We Can Make Fit Will We Print (A Letter to a Friend)

The other day the New York Times published a piece by Laurie Goodstein.  She is their religion reporter, though what she knows about the subject, especially as it applies to the Catholic Church, sometimes seems to me to be just a teensie bit less than what I know about quantum mechanics…which is exactly nothing.  You can find the article here.  The article concerns something Cardinal Timothy Dolan is alleged by Goodstein’s reporting to have done when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

I was directed to the article by my friend, Dr. R. who had read it and thought Cardinal Dolan, while in Milwaukee, had done something which proved him no better than “the rest of them”, the bishops and members of the “all male hierarchy” who’d covered up and excused the behavior of the child abusing priests until, finally, they couldn’t do so anymore.

A day or so later I found another article, one which took issue with the Goodstein article, and directed it to my friend’s attention.  It is here Here is another longer piece about the incident and Goodstein’s questionable reporting on it.

My friend responded, suggesting that perhaps the position I was taking involved a bit of blaming the victims.  I felt it necessary to answer him.  That is what is below.  beyond the fact that it allowed me to do a little thinking about things I have done little enough thinking about, there is nothing really important about it…except for something I quote from Saint Dorotheus the Abbot; something which I think we all need to keep in mind.  Read on if you wish.

I understand it’s a lousy night for TV:
Dear Dr. R:
This is very long…so you may simply want to delete it.  As you can tell, if you decide not to do so, I can ramble on.  I apologize beforehand for that.

Let me say, in my own defense, that I am unaware of ever having blamed the victims in this matter; there is enough of that being done elsewhere, I suspect.  I do, though, find fault with much of the media, and quite a number of attorneys who have plucked what all believe is a fat bird and enriched themselves; suborning, I’d give odds, quite a bit of perjury along the way.  But, I do not judge attorneys…or victims….such as they may be.  I therefore reject your slightly less than accusation that that is what I did.

Saturday morning we awoke early and decamped for Blessed John XXIII Parish for the funeral of Armand Beaulieu, just another dead guy…where we were to sing him home.  The poor fellow was 89 years young when he took the dirt nap.  A few days before that we had sung at the Funeral Mass of Margarita Urrutia, who succumbed to shortness of breath, finally, at the tender age of 105.

Margarita’s son, who is a courtly gentleman, a retired cardiologist who devotes much of his time to working among the poor here and elsewhere, and does a bit of teaching at Harvard Medical School, spoke a bit about Mom to Mariellen and me.  She survived much in her short life…the Flu Pandemic of 1919, the Spanish Revolution, and, in Mexico virulent anti-Catholicism and its attendant persecutions, before coming here…where she brought up her doctor son to be a faithful and believing Catholic.  He finds himself, oddly, at odds with most of his medical colleagues who find little evidence for or proofs of the existence of god among the guts and gore of operating rooms, the secrets of test tubes and drugs and machines that go zip when they move and pop when they stop and whirr when they stand still. (And, mirabile dictu, people still end up in holes in the ground.)

In his homily Saturday morning over the crumbling remains of Armand, Father Bisson mentioned how devoted the rather public spirited old and dead man was to the faith, and to the sacrament of the Eucharist, especially.  He said that sometime last week he’d received a call from the Hospice place where Armand was waiting for the long slide, to come over and give the fellow a “rubdown”…in other words to Anoint him.  He’d already done that once, but, he figured why not do it again if that’s what the guy wants.  Father was, at that moment, helping out at the planting of another dead old Catholic.  Once that was done, he stopped by Armand’s bed and oiled him up.

(There is a point…stick with me.)

Unfortunately, Father related, he hadn’t brought the Blessed Sacrament with him, which was what Armand really wanted.  (Think about those last few words for a moment, will you?)  So, he went to the church, and came back to Armand’s bedside and gave him Jesus, as he said.  Then, Armand confided something to him.  He showed him a little cloth bag in which he carried several un-consecrated hosts.  Armand told Father he used them, as he had used others for many years, as aids for prayer, meditation, contemplation, spiritual exercise…you name it.  Things, I thought as the story was told, to help him through the night…of life, this journey through the Valley of Tears.

How odd, when everywhere around us we see, and on every corner we are told, that things could not be better…and will get better still.  And then?  And then we die.  All of us.


My old boss, a former NYPD Det. Sgt.,  worked for part of the time for one of the Deputy Chiefs who was in some sort of close liaison with the Archdiocese. My first wife’s (Sheila Welby, R.I.P) uncle, Henry, himself of happy memory, was a rather successful drunk chaser while in AA.  What have the two of them in common?  In the 1950s and 1960’s they were from time to time called to “rescue” the odd errant cleric from an embarrassing situation, and sweep the dirt under the rug.  I don’t recall any stories about little boys or little girls from either of them. But, I cannot say that they did not exist.

In New York, at least, that was the way things were dealt with, fifty, sixty, seventy years ago and more.  And Father Falldown, or Brother Bignose, or Sister Rumpot was moved to another place.  I am sure the same thing happened all over.  It happened (does it still ?) in every organization.  It happens in quite a few school districts across the country…and the news of it happening has quite often and for a long time been suppressed…ahh, unions.

Very soon after I moved to Cow Hampshire  in 1977 I learned that there was quite a lot of sexual abuse of children going on…off the main roads; I who had long believed that what distinguished a red neck from all other forms of humanity was the fact that he shied from marrying a girl who couldn’t attract a father, uncle or brother.  I ran into more than one fellow who thought that the odd thing was that some folks were interested in prosecuting some of those cases up here.  The Boston Globe…yes that paper…rather laughingly reported on one such case not too long after I began working with the state police.  But this was years before “child abuse” was even considered to be a crime by the smart set.  And years before the Boston Globe got religion.

I know people who have been so victimized.  None of them have sought out lawyers (who will only take 2/3 of whatever they can get in a settlement).  One simply wanted to hear his victimizer apologize.  Which was millstone enough for him.  Would any of us demand more? There are others whose simple response to their pain is to pray for the person who caused it.  How amazing.

I know a bishop or two who dealt with some of the people we wish to see jailed…or worse (beheaded?).  And, I know them to be men who had more than a simple victim/victimizer problem to consider.

You know as well as I do that children are at greatest risk of sexual abuse and exploitation from members of their immediate family. Next in line for abusers are teachers and coaches.  After that come Boy Scouts troop leaders and other male “role models”.  The fact is ( a sad fact) that the safest place today for children is in a catholic school, or in a program supervised by people affiliated with the Catholic Church…I know.  And, so do you, I think.  I’ve had more background checks done since I started work in the Catholic Church than during my 30 some odd years in the feds.

Did Cardinal Dolan “pay off” priests who should have been reported to the police?  I do not think so.  I accept as correct the fact that those priests who were accused of sexual impropriety were given the money they were given to leave the priesthood in order to avoid lengthy and costly (financially and emotionally for the victims) canonical trials.

Let me return, now to my uncle and my boss, please.  The first, a World war II combat veteran who went from North Africa to Berlin, came home an angry and embittered man, and a very determined drunk.  He sobered up, though, on the day that JFK was shot, and became…perhaps because of his suffering?…one of the most happy, kind and wise men I have ever met.  He saw good in everyone.  I am tempted to say that is exactly what God sees.

My boss, on the other hand, did not profit from his own similar journey into darkness.  He left the church, embittered and full of scorn for those he saw were both wrong or bad.  And that was merely over the loss of Latin.  Well, he also judged and felt better than the men and women he “extricated” from sticky situations.  He could not, would not forgive what he thought were their faults, and did not consider that what was done for the men (and few women) he was involved in rescuing (?) was in any way just or fair to the vast majority of us poor unknowing faithful.  Perhaps it was because he had never been to an ordination, or to the profession of solemn vows.  I don’t know.  Have you?

Did you know that the Bishop, Abbot, Superior, receives the ordinand, novice, as if a child had been received by a parent; that, they both bind themselves to each other in Christ with an intentional giving and receiving for life?  This is not simply a job from which one can be fired.  I have heard more than one bishop call the new priest his son….and the old one, too.

Of course, they look on us all in much the same light.  Do we look back?  Do you love the bishop, your priests, the sisters, all of them as you would a parent, brother, sister?  I have to say I never used to do so.  Well, not until the last few years, at least.  The odd one stood out, of course.  But love?  Never even gave it a thought.

I will finish with this, from the Office of Readings for today.  If you have made it this far, I beg your indulgence for a minute or so more.  Pay attention to the part I have, with my penchant for overemphasis, highlighted:

Reading    A colloquy of St Dorotheus
The reason for all disturbance is that no-one blames himself
My brethren, let us consider how it can happen so often that someone hears something unpleasant and goes away untroubled, as if he had not heard it; and yet sometimes he is disturbed and troubled as soon as he hears such words. What is the cause of this inconsistency? Is there one reason for it or many? I recognise several, but one in particular is the source of all the others. As someone has put it: it all comes from the person’s state of mind at the time.
If someone is engaged in prayer or contemplation, he can easily take a rebuke from his brother and be unmoved by it. Or again, his affection toward a brother may be a strong reason; love bears all things with the utmost patience. Yet another reason may be contempt: if a person despises the one who is trying to trouble him, and acts as if he is the vilest of all creatures and considers it beneath his dignity even to look at him, or to answer him, or to mention the affront and insults to anyone else, he will not be moved by his words.
All in all, then, no-one is disturbed or troubled if he scorns and disregards what is said. But on the other hand, it is also possible for someone to be disturbed and troubled by his brother’s words, either because he is not in a good frame of mind, or because he hates his brother. There are a great number of other reasons as well.
  Yet the reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, is that no one finds fault with himself. This is the reason why we become angry and upset, why we sometimes have no peace in our soul. We should not be surprised, since holy men have taught us that there is no other path to peace but this.
We see that this is true in so many other people; and yet we hope, in our laziness and desire for peace, we hope or even believe that we are on the right path even when we are irritated by everything and cannot bear to accept any blame ourselves.
This is the way things are. However many virtues a man may have – they could be innumerable, they could be infinite – if he has left the path of self-accusation he will never have peace: he will be afflicted by others or he will be an affliction to them, and all his efforts will be wasted.
If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves, but if we acknowledge our sins, then God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins.
He who conceals his faults will not prosper, but if we acknowledge our sins, then God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins.

Today is the Feast Day of St. Dorotheus, an abbot in the early church.  He also had this to say: 27. It is impossible for anyone to get angry with his neighbor without initially raising himself above him, belittling him and then regarding himself higher than the neighbor.

I know that I have a long way to go in that department….especially as regards folks who write for and folks who read publications like the New York Times.

As Ever,



  1. On balance, one of your better articles. ‘ Especially like that last comment “I know that I have a way to go …” Indeed. Only those who know how very far they themselves have yet to go can fully profit from Dorotheus’ wisdom. Or St. Francis’ … if I were the person God calls me into being — with my whole heart and soul, and at all times without exception — the world would be a far holier place for everybody. When anyone anywhere sins, because of my sin I am also guilty.

    • Amen!


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