The local NPR station, KCUR interviewed the new Catholic Bishop, James Johnston today and what a disappointment.
Coming at this time, when the local Catholic Diocese is just off a rather large child abuse sex scandal, the Bishop--and worse, the Church--got off easy, very easy. All the Bishop got for an hour were the easiest of, as I said in the title, "softball" questions. There was no "holding their feet to the fire", holding the Bishop and the Church accountable that, first, the sexual abuse of children in their care ever occurred and then, worse, that it was covered up. And it was covered up for years and years, at that.
The interview began hopefully enough with a recording of Catholics in an actual mass at the local Church of the Immaculate Conception, reading the written words of some of the now-adults who had been abused by the Priests here in this Diocese.
But from there, it was lost.
It was as though these children weren't ever abused, sexually abused.
Forget that the previous Bishop had been found guilty in a local, civil court, "LET'S MOVE ON!"
From there, the interviewer, Brian Ellison, immediately went into questions about the Bishop himself, where he came from, what his background and family life were like, etc.
Students? Children? Sexually abused?? FUGGEDABOUDIT!
Adults? In the Church? Covering up for the sexual abusers?? WE OUTTA' HEAH.
I can't imagine a more touchy-feely interview and conversation, given that so many children were, again, abused and sexually abused and by Catholic Church Priests and then covered up by some and ignored by others, all in the Catholic Church.
And sure, I understand that there has to be some "niceness", some respect to the guest but we're talking the sexual abuse of children here. It isn't over. Bishop Finn may have finally been foisted, however reluctantly, out of his position in and with the Church and Bishop Johnston is now in his place but for the people who were sexually abused, rest assured, it is not over.
The biggest question, I think, that needs to be both asked and answered and then held to, would be "What provisions have been made within the Church and within this Diocese to make sure sexual abuse of a child and worse, of children, never occurs again?"
It's true partly because this sexual abuse occurred at all but it's especially true because this is far, far from the first time these kinds of sexual abuse cases have occurred in the Catholic Church. Far from it.
Sexual abuse has occurred in Catholic Churches and schools and Dioceses, as the world knows, in not just areas, not just states of the US, but all across the US, all across Europe and, in fact, the world. And it's happened over not just years or part of a century but FOR CENTURIES. Literally for centuries. They don't like to talk about that or have you know it or think about it.
At what point does the Catholic Church learn? At what point do the Bishops and Priests and leaders in the Church learn from these abuses and put policies in place so they never occur again? (Reminds me of an old joke. Q: How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb? A: CHANGE??)
Next was the question: "How are you going to clean up the mess he's (Bishop Finn has) left?"
For his answer, the new Bishop gave an extremely vague and, I'm sure, intentionally warm and fuzzy answer about there being lots of people in the area who care and who have "a desire to make a difference."
That was it.
They then brought on one Kathleen Chastain, Victim Services Coordinator of the Church.
And for that, I say we have to pause right there.
Note: This is a church. This is a Catholic Church. It's supposed to be about Jesus and Jesus Christ and love and everything good and they have to have a Victim Services Coordinator, Offices of Child and Youth Protection.
Does that not say something right there?
What other church organization, self-professed Christian or otherwise, has to have a Victim Services Coordinator, let alone Offices of Child and Youth Protection? (Those Catholics can sure do hierarchy and bureaucracy, can't they? Like no one else, governments included).
So Mr. Ellison asked Ms. Chastain how long her position has been around. Ms. Chastain answered that "...there has always been a Victim Advocate..."
Holy Mary, Mother of God.
That tells you how long the problem has been going on right there, folks. THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A VICTIM ADVOCATE. But you think they'd maybe let Priests marry or something, to solve the problem?
NAAAAHHHH. Again, FUGGEDABOUDIT.
Forget that, apparently and even obviously, the "Victim Advocate" has little or no power or effect whatever or the problem wouldn't keep not just occurring in the Church but recurring.
What amazes me is that more Catholics aren't embarrassed by child sexual abuse in the Church.
The other thing that amazes me is that Catholics stay in the pews, they stay in the Church, even given all these, again, recurring sexual abuse cases of children. CHILDREN.
Ms. Chastain said her job "is to provide support for those suffering from abuse by the hands of the Church"--her words, not mine--"and then to provide outreach." She described "outreach" as "a more pro-active approach like the healing services we provide...". This is masses dealing with this issue of child sexual abuse.
Can you imagine that? Think about it. Can you imagine going to Church, ostensibly to be a better person, maybe to hear about God and Jesus and God's love and everything good and then HAVING TO SIT THROUGH AN ALMOST ONE HOUR MASS, kind of confessing THE CHURCH'S SINS, the Priests and Bishops sins and then going home? How screwed up is your Church if it's asking for forgiveness? And then, how screwed up is your Church when it has to ask the people for forgiveness again and again and again, in different locations, all round your nation, all around the world and for centuries? And you're still attending? You're still giving them money?
OH HELL NO.
Mr. Ellison asked Ms. Chastain if the local Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese ever put an actual figure on the number of people sexually abused here.
The answer? No.
Oh, heck, no because that would mean, a) you care and b) you intend to own up to your problems and faults and make restitution. The Catholic Church and their leaders will have none of that. They've already paid out millions upon millions of Church offerings from people in the pews. The last thing they want to do is maybe "come clean", at long last, and risk paying out yet more money. "Run along, run along. There's nothing to see here."
Ms. Chastain actually said "I don't know if there's any way we could put a number to that." That is, put a number on the actual childen---again, children---who were sexually abused in this Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.
Isn't that a beauty?
The one question I wanted to hear both asked and answered was and still is---What, precisely, reforms and hard rules have been put down to make certain this never, ever happens again?
It was never asked.
For anyone who's ever been a Catholic and exposed to what they do, this is all pretty stunning because the one thing they make you do and say, week after week, in their Catholic Mass, is that we are "not worthy."
Jesus (said ironically and for effect). That's rich. They have sexual abuse scandals of children in their own care, from state to state to state and nation to nation, continent to continent, over decades and even centuries and they have the people in the pews, the followers, say they're "not worthy." Irony and hypocrisy doesn't get any heavier or thicker than that.
Then Mr. Ellison compliments Ms. Chastain and so, by default, the Church by saying she and the Church deserve credit for being so forthcoming "about how things were not addressed in the past."
That's pretty clueless right there. So they're talking "honestly and openly about how things were not addressed in the past." Big deal. WHAT, PRECISELY, ARE YOU DOING TO MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T, THAT THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN?
Then Mr. Ellison asks when this change took place.
Wow. That so totally does not matter. The only three things that matter are holding people accountable that let this happen to begin, the tending to the abused and then MAKING SURE IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. Who gives a freak when this change, this new supposed honestly took place? That's irrelevant. Again, it's a softball, pointless, unnecessary question.
Mr. Ellison came close, close, to holding the new Bishop and the Church accountable, a little over halfway through when he pointed out that SNAP said the Church's services about these episodes were only, in effect, "window dressing" (my words) and for outward consumption, that they weren't real contrition or solutions. The Bishop quickly diverted the question by saying he was sincerely sorry and that if anyone doubted it, he couldn't stop them.
Well I'm glad he cleared that up.
"We're done here."
Mr. Ellison asked just what a Bishop does all day. Man, that is some hard-hitting question, right there. This entire conversation was dripping with, again, irony and hypocrisy on the part of the Catholic Church.
From there, it went on to questions from the callers and to "looking to the future", according to Mr. Ellison. The first caller, a Catholic, he said, tried to pin the Bishop down on the Bishops in the Church, through the Council of Bishops (see? more of that wonderful Catholic bureaucracy) holding individual Bishops accountable for their actions. It came close to the issues but that was as good as it got.
Look, I love NPR and KCUR but this interview went off the rails from the start and ended that way. It was weak and soft and empty. At the end, I'm surprised all three of them, the interviewer, the Bishop and the "Vitcim Advocate" didn't all get up, hold each other and sing "Kumbaya."
I'm just glad that Bishop Finn and now Bishop Johnston and all the Catholic leaders, nationwide and worldwide, were all able to sweep all this child sexual abuse stuff under the rug and move on.