This week … in this space … I’m going to break a promise I made to myself over two years ago and have honored all that time. I said I wouldn’t get into this Catholic Church scandal. And I haven’t. But, in the immortal words of Popeye, “That’s all I can stands. I can stands no more!”

What drove this writer in his 70’s over the edge was another guy in his 70’s … a Cardinal at the Vatican … calling the most recent reporting of priestly sexual abuse of children “petty gossip.” And one of his brethren charging the New York Times was “out to destroy the Vatican” saying abuse charges were like “anti-Semitism.”

Those two dead wrong Cardinals, like some other voices in the Catholic hierarchy now speaking out, seem to be getting public relations advice from the same outfit that almost destroyed Tiger Woods and his public persona after hitting that tree. “ Cover up.” “Say nothing.” “Accuse the accusers.” “The details are none of their business.”

For the past 10 years or so, a lot of people in other countries seemed to look at the clergy carnage within the U.S. Catholic Church, chalking it up to “Well, the Americans are at it again.” Seems we had created an environment for this beastly conduct that was certainly different from their own and “it couldn’t happen there.”

It gives me no comfort to say now to them “look to your own.” The plain truth is the pedophiles desecrating children in the parishes are an intercontinental disgrace knowing no borders. And, every so often, some Protestant denomination gets dragged into one of these proving to all that deviant theologians preying on children are truly ecumenical.

Even various regional units of the Boy Scouts of America are involved in legal battles across our country for the same kind of adult-to-child abuse. Fact is, sexual predators know no special uniform or robe, no religious belief, no nationality, no special province. It’s an equal opportunity crime.

In some places, Boy Scout organizations and a church relationship are one and the same. In much of Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Utah especially, the Mormon Church is an overarching sponsor. There, too, some local leaders in both church and scouting have been found to be pedophiles. Other times there are Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist sponsors which can give a false sense of religious security.

Many American Catholics have been critical of their church leaders for not facing the problem squarely case-by-case; for declaring bankruptcy in some instances to avoid legal decisions awarding millions of dollars to victims; for twisting and obfuscating when documentation has clearly shown a known pedophile was kept in the flock but given different sheep in a different pasture.

Then there are the other priests … the ones doing God’s work and tending to God’s children with true theological love and comfort. Many of them feel they are being tarred by the same brush of exposure now staining the guilty. At a time when Catholic clergy are in short supply, the near daily disclosures of sexual abuse can’t be helping recruiting efforts. Or even retention.

In the case of the Catholic Church specifically, a persuasive argument can be made for an honest, thorough, external investigation and, if necessary, some clerical and procedural disinfecting. But, so far, the public appearance I see is to circle the wagons, exclude outside resources to conduct such investigations and a feeling that this will all blow over if everyone involved keeps his … or her … mouth shut.

That sort of medieval thinking worked for a couple thousand years because of isolated communications and ritualized acceptance. But now, when details of any news story can be flashed around the world in seconds and repeated infinitely … with pictures … the duck-and-cover defense can’t be successful.

There are also the inquiring minds and honest outrage of millions of Catholics who no longer see their leaders as some sort of mystical congress in the Vatican. They want answers. They want facts. They want the problem(s) solved and justice meted out. A lot of those people are parents as is one of my daughters. Or grandparents. Like me. When it comes to the safety and security of the offspring, we … and they … don’t want platitudes and wordy denials of the growing abuse problem. Many are balancing religious beliefs and their children’s futures. They … and we … want action.

My advice to the Vatican? Put on some street clothes, go out among your parishioners and listen to what they’re saying. Then renew your vows and work like Hell!

One Response to “The Catholic Church and Tiger Woods are getting bad advice”

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