Sunday, April 27, 2014

John Paul II's Canonization and Victims of Sexual Abuse

Trigger Warning

Last week, a young man in the village of Cevo, Italy was crushed when a giant crucifix that honored John Paul II fell over. John Paul was the leader of the Catholic Church for 27 years. The sexual abuse of children and the legacy of  cover-ups and inaction that happened on his watch crushed uncounted thousands. 
I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic Schools. In college I went to a Catholic University and among other things, I took 25 hours of Theology.  Not quite enough for a major, but more than a lot of people.   also majored in Psychology and through a somewhat winding path ended up spending the last 20 years investigating child abuse. 

Working with survivors of sexual abuse, talking to children about the abuse they suffered is no easy task. It's even more difficult when the abuser is a member of the Clergy in any religion. If the abuser is a Priest it is almost impossible to get justice for the victim. 

John Paul II was the Pope during the horrific Priest sexual abuse scandals that were made public in the 90's and into the early 2000's.  He was aware of the scandal, and was made aware of Priests who were multiple time offenders.  Yet nothing was done until 2001, when he directed Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict, to deal with the scandal.     

Many say that much of the abuse happened before John Paul was Pope. Saying that John Paul is somehow absolved because people were abused 20-30 years before making complaints, is that same thing as saying Joe Paterno should be absolved of the scorn and derision he has received. 

In fact, the Catholic Priest sex abuse scandal is Penn State writ large.  An open secret known to many, if not all, in power.  Those in power turned a blind eye to the abuse.  Many more children were victimized as a result of institutional inaction.  The comparisons can go on right on to the current leaders of both Penn State and the Church gamely trying to move on and refocus on the healing of the victims.  

I know a few adult survivors of sexual abuse by Priests. Some I have met through my job, two I know from elsewhere and they confided in me in confidence.  What they all have in common, is that they were abused after John Paul II was made Pope. Some disclosed and some did not. 

We know that Cardinals all over the United States from Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston were actively covering up sexual abuse by Priests in the 80's, 90's and 2000's.  To say most of this happened before he was Pope is naive at best and an outright obfuscation at worst.  Due to the stigma attached to victims when they disclose, there's a great possibility that there are thousands up thousands of victims worldwide that we'll never know about.  

Another thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that the abuse of children by Priests is still going on. The Priests may face punishment sooner than in the past, but that hasn't stopped the behavior.  The same forces that kept victims silent 30 years ago, are still in play today.  Priests who abuse are no different than anyone else who abuses. 

On April, 27, the Catholic Church made two men Saints.  One man modernized the Church in the 1960's. The other turned a blind eye to the most egregious case of wide spread, institutional sexual abuse of children in recorded history.  Making John Paul II a Saint, is a slap in the face of people who were sexually abused by Priests.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nancy Grace and the Death of Decency.

*Trigger warning* 

Over the weekend, Utah authorities found the remains of seven infants, allegedly killed by their mother, Megan Huntsman.  According to reports, she admitted to killing six of them by strangulation or suffocation. The seventh was allegedly still born.

This is a tragedy rarely seen.  As a twenty year veteran of Child Protective Services, I've been to far too many autopsies of babies and children. Going to seven at one time? Even for my thick skin, that would be a challenge.

Fortunately, though, we have Nancy Grace to guide us through the gruesome details.  Ms. Grace has a history of taking a special interest in nationally known cases that involve the death of children.  Her Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman coverage were nonpareil, because no-one in major media today likes to pick the bones of dead children like Ms. Grace.

Tonight it what can only be described as a window to her soul  empty place where her soul should be, her official Twitter Account tweeted this:

Shocking new details: Cops say a Utah mom admits to strangling or suffocating her 6 newborn babies 

And the Hash Tag #BoxesofBabies has gone unchecked.

While many people chalk this up to normal TV sensationalism, I take personal offense.  The death of children is not a glib, funny tweet. It's not an alliterative hash tag. It's real life.

After seeing the tweet from Ms. Grace's account I went on a Twitter rant that probably means nothing to her. Unfortunately what Ms. Grace deems as a good news story and a ratings grabber, has far more serious consequences outside the TV studio.

The people who responded to the home, be they Sheriff's deputies, CPS, Firefighters or paramedics, aren't going to forget this scene any time soon.  They won't be spreading heartless tweets or being glib about headlines that say boxes of babies.  They are men and women, human to the core that will take this to the grave.

Maybe Ms. Grace and her staffers are unaware of PTSD, because you know, it's never in the news.  People who do this for a living, who deal with horrors that Ms. Grace can only blab about, have a very high rate of PTSD.  Rolling up on the death of one person is hard enough.  Seven babies? Don't even want to think about the nightmares.

These were seven tragic souls, their mother, most certainly mentally ill, or as Nancy Grace likes to call them: ratings.

I'll end this post with a simple question with regards to Joseph Welch.  Have you no decency Ms. Grace? I think we all know the answer.