Sunday, July 18, 2004

Standard blog entry #45

I've actually taken the weekend off from dogwalking. Even when I was doing it years ago, I think I allowed myself weekends off. I usually make up for it on Saturday with several hours of lawnmowing, but Sundays are generally a strict day of rest, focused solely on making other people work.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but my churchgoing habits have been forcibly changed. The diocese has eliminated Sunday masses at the nursing home (the place where I've attended mass since my grandmother was a resident there), although I hear they still have mass on weekdays. This is sad news for the residents. Sunday masses provided a spiritual anchor for them, giving them a continuity with their previous lives; most of them have been lifelong churchgoers, and it seems unfair that they should have this taken away from them in their final years. Really, this is something that pisses me off quite a bit. The diocese has been consolidating parishes and closing schools all over the area. Some of this is understandable, the result of a shifting and dwindling regional population. But it seems to be being pursued a bit more vigorously than is called for. I suspect that this phenomenon is not restricted to my diocese. Perhaps this is a nationwide belt-tightening action in an attempt to subsidize the payoffs to the victims of those priests whose sexual crimes have brought the entire Catholic Church into disrepute?

Priestly sexual misconduct is hardly restricted to the United States. The shameful abuses of the Magdalene Laundries - an extrasocietal prison/slavery system for Irish girls and women - were dramatized in Peter Mullan's horrifying 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters . Recently, according to CNN, a "vast cache of child pornography and photos of young priests having sex has been discovered at a Roman Catholic seminary" in Vienna, Austria. Nor are such things restricted to the Catholic Church. Members of the religious hierarchies of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons), to name just two examples, have been accused of sexual misconduct as well. But neither presents as large or as obvious a target as the Catholic Church.

Nor is this a recent phenomenon. What is new is the fact that these things are coming out in the public, rather than being kept quiet by paying off the victim or shaming the victim and his (or sometimes her) family into keeping their silence. Now that the veil of silence has been lifted, more and more incidents are becoming known.

After my grandmother had her stroke but before she finally entered a series of nursing homes, she stayed at my parents' house where she would watch the daily broadcast of the mass from the local diocesan cathedral. A number of priests held mass here, but her favorite was one we shall call Father Ranxerox. Fr. Ranxerox was a small, young priest who looked like he was practically lost in his vestments. She called him "the boy priest", and she always enjoyed his sermons. One day I ran into him in the local mall, and I stopped him and told him how my grandmother was a big fan of his. How weird - the priest turned TV celebrity!

A few months ago, Fr. Ranxerox was busted for sexual misconduct with a minor. Just last week, a more serious series of accusations were made against him. For only the third time since she died, I'm actually glad my grandmother isn't around to see this. (The other two times were the Columbine shootings and the September 11 attacks. My grandmother was always a huge news junkie, and either of those two events would have been too much for her.)

Whew. I certainly didn't plan on going in this direction when I started to type 50 minutes ago. But here we are. Nothing really standard about this blog entry, is there?


marc said...

Is the diocese at least making some kind of an effort to get the nursing home residents to Mass on weekends? Or for that matter, is the nursing home?

Ranxerox?? D.B., your making me feel old with that reference!!

D.B. Echo said...

I'm not aware of any such effort. I think they're leaving it up to the family members who visit to turn on the Mass For Shut-Ins. I'm not even sure that's still on TV.

Ah, yes, you would probably get the Ranxerox reference, and understand why it was appropriate.

CracK MonKeY said...

listen I'm Roman catholic and personally there would not be hardly any cases of sexual misconduct between priests and alter boys or any children in the church if they would just allow them to have a normal life you know GET a girlfriend and/ or married maybe h ave some kids ... isn't that what the bible teaches share your love ??? come on now .. I relly just think that the church has gone little too far I mean no one really is doing anything about this misconduct other than a few suspensions here and there ....... people just don't want to challenge the church cuz they think that if they do their goin' to HELL ...... thats my two cents...