My Catholic lament: Failure of my faith

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office this week released the results of a lengthy, indepth investigation into previously alleged charges of sexual abuse by priests of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The grand jury findings proved to be shocking and abhorant, showing dozens of priests over a multi-decades span sexually molesting and abusing young children.

To further compound the scandalous findings, the Church leadership and their representatives appear to be trying more of the same recipe that has proven disastrous to the victims, and to the Church body: deny, deny, deny.

No, there is no denial that molestation and abuse has gone on, that would be ridiculous in light of the now incontrovertible proof.

The denial aspect comes into play when Church leaders, particularly Cardinal Justin Rigali, put out vehement defenses for Cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua, his immediate predecessors.

In the grand jury findings, the two Cardinals are specifically singled out for a failure of leadership. They are accused of handling the problems as they surfaced over the years largely by sweeping them under the rug.

As the allegations would come to light and be found credible, priests were shuffled from parish-to-parish in a sort of shell game that did nothing to solve the problems, only serving to expose even more individuals to the predator priests practices.

It is long past the time for the Church to stop playing the same old game of denial, and instead it is overdue that the Church and it’s leaders take on the full measure of their responsibility for these grave sins against it’s own membership.

I am a lifelong Catholic, and from what I can gather from speaking with and observing my own family and friends, a fairly typical one. I go to Mass many weeks, but not every week. I donate funds to my Church, but probably not as much as I could, and certainly not as much as the Church would like me to donate.

I consider myself a good Christian, but sin continuously, only infrequently turning to the Church’s provisions of Confession/Penance to make my amends.

But the fact is that the Church expects these things of me. They expect me to live a Godly life. They expect me to resist temptation and the occasion of sin, that act of continually putting myself in potentially sinful situations, let alone the commission of sin itself.

They expect me to follow the Church teachings and leaders, to make appropriate donations to the Church causes, and as much as possible to evangelize on behalf of the Church by my words and deeds, particularly with my own children and family.

And you know what, I don’t mind. I don’t mind one little bit. In fact, I have come to expect all of these things of myself over the years. I have come to know that the Church is right in all of these expectations.

I don’t do it all, I don’t make the grade. I often fail, sometimes miserably. But the point is, I never give up. I never throw in the towel. I never throw up my hands and say that it’s all just too hard. I never abandon the Church.

And I won’t now either.

But the fact of the matter is, the Church owes me now. It owes us all something now. It particularly owes those who have been directly victimized by it’s priests over the years, and those people’s families.

The Church now owes every one of us it’s own transparency. For far too long, the game was one of cover and conceal within the Church walls.

If a priest had a problem in St. Gabriel’s parish, transfer him to St. Christopher’s parish, for example. Rather, every single priest who was found to have molested and/or abused any child should have been immediately removed from the priesthood. Period. And the authorities should have been notified of any charges, allowing a full and proper criminal investigation to take place.

Church leadership has tried to make the argument that it’s previous leaders, including Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua, acted in the ways that were most appropriate for their times, saying that things we now know about conditions like pedophilia were not known back then, and that the previous leaders handled the situations appropriately based on what they knew at that time.

That previous leadership did not recognize the obvious, outlandish, soul and life-destroying evil in the act’s of it’s dozens of pedophile priests is the biggest piece of lying garbage that the Church has tried to spew this past week.

It doesn’t matter what any current psychology or psychiatry of any particular era knew at that time. If you have a priest who is having sexual relations with a child, that is wrong, that is sick, and that is evil. Period.

The Church knows it now, it knew it then. To say otherwise is hogwash, and shows that the current leaders have a long way to go before winning back the full trust of it’s own faithful, let alone the good will of outsiders who don’t share that faith.

The Church needs to immediately take a number of steps to begin to turn around.

It first needs to fully acknowledge it’s own sinful past as an entity. It’s priests are it’s direct representatives to it’s parishioners, they are supposed to be direct representatives of God Himself.

Next, the Church needs to spell out exactly what steps it will take to handle any future accusations of this type. These steps must include immediate removal of accused priests from the care of children, a full internal investigation into any allegations, and a reporting to and full cooperation with law enforcement agencies. And when charges are substantiated, priests must be defrocked.

All of these steps in the process, when allegations are proven true, must be public and fully transparent.

Also, the Church must not stop at pedophilia. Any type of sexual activity by a priest or nun should be cause for removal from their position. The Church teaches that these individuals, it’s shepherds to the flock, are to be chaste. That covers both homosexuality and heterosexuality. You can’t live up to those expectations, don’t be a priest. Period.

My Catholic Church, Catholic meaning “One”, is supposed to be one full body, the one directly descended group of followers of Jesus Christ Himself, it’s leaders the direct descendants of Peter. We are one body as a group, the one anointed Church. As such, we are all culpable in this dark period. We all have sin to lament, atonements to make.

One morning this week, immediately after the grand jury findings were released, local Philadelphia talk radio icon Michael Smerconish related a story of how his children had made their Sacraments, and had received congratulatory letters from the Cardinal, and he asked “What am I to think now?”

He previously had looked on these letters, and the meaning behind them, with pride in his kids and respect for his Church.

I would say to Michael Smerconish that you should continue to look on those letters, but more importantly look on the attainment of these milestones of faith by your children with both love and pride. I would say to him that you should continue to teach your children the positive messages of Christ. I would say to him that you should remain faithful to the Church and all of it’s teachings.

I would also say to him, and to all Catholics across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and around the world, that you should, while continuing on your own sinful journey through this life, realize that the Church is led by men.

Wherever there are men trying to spread the Word of God, wherever there is that shining light, there will be a creature of darkness trying to snuff it out, using the weakness of man to accomplish that task.

Forgive yourself and your Church. Stay true to your faith. Never turn your back. Never
surrender to darkness. And don’t allow your Church to do it either. Hold the Church, and it’s leaders, accountable for their actions and inactions. By your own demands and expectations, show the Church that you support it’s demands on yourself.

May God fully heal the lives of the victims of this dark tragedy. May He heal those who have perpetrated this evil on those victims. May he enlighten our current and future Church leaders to change. And May He heal us all as one body. May he heal His, our, Catholic Church.

Team Eddis as Mike Tyson: FOP or Bust-er

There is a fight brewing within the ranks of Philadelphia’s police officers, one that likely will be battled across the state and around the country. For the first time in over a decade, we have “union” trouble, and as with previous bouts of this type, the likelihood is that the bout will end in a knockout.

The Executive Board of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, representing thousands of Philadelphia police officers and retirees, has suddenly found itself in an unusual position, back on it’s heals and being used as a punching bag, ala Mike Tyson in his famous 1990 bout with Buster Douglas.

In that bout, fought in Tokyo, Japan on February 10th, 1990, the previously unbeaten and seemingly invincible Tyson, a boxing machine, a man seemingly born and bred to be the heavyweight champion of the world, an animistic monster, came in typically disrespectful of his opponent, the journeyman Douglas, but also uncharacteristically out of shape.

Coming into the bout, Tyson was 37-0 with 33 knockouts and 9 successful defenses of his heavyweight crown. He dispatched many of his opponents so quickly, that fans were becoming almost disinterested in his fights, one of the reasons for the move overseas.

Tyson went down that night, a victim of his own largess, and of making the classic mistake of underestimating his opponent.

The still unbeaten, and previously untouched, regime of President Bob Eddis, handpicked successor to the lodge’s longtime bombastic leader Rich Costello, is used to feeding on lesser opponents, such as the game but outmatched lightweight Donnell “Homicide” Hobbs.

Hobbs, a scrappy little fighter, has jabbed and jabbed at Team Eddis over the years, but has been unable to come anywhere close to landing a glove on them, and has been knocked to the canvas like one of Tyson’s late-80’s opponents.

But in this bout, Team Eddis’ (referred to hereafter as ‘TE’) punches are uncharacteristically weak, and they suddenly find themselves in the ring against a bigger, stronger opponent. Not only that, but the opponent has motivation, and is fighting hard. And now, the fans in the peanut gallery who once marveled in awe at their strength and skill, are turning on them with boos and jeers, and rooting on the opponent.

TE came out looking solid in the early action, but suddenly took a devastating blow when former National FOP Vice-President Ken Rocks was knocked out of the ring in his early August bid for re-election. TE fought back, reportedly counter-punching with behind-the-scenes threats to the National Lodgers. But once the involved fans, in this case the membership of Lodge #5, began to grasp what was happening in the ring, they quickly turned on TE.

Stunned and reeling, TE attempted to answer with a letter to membership spelling out their proposal to renounce our longtime fraternal affiliation with the State and National Lodges of the F.O.P. But the letter only yielded more questions, as did meetings with membership at the union hall.

Some from TE even began to attack their own members, blasting a popular, controversial and widely-read website, “Domelights”, for its posters largely negative response to TE’s plans.

The National Lodge then began to go on the offensive with an effective brochure titled “Why Now?” sent out to all Philly FOP members from National President Chuck Canterbury. The brochure spelled out the value of FOP membership, and questioned the reasoning and motivations behind TE’s suddenly anti-FOP strategy.

TE now finds itself on the ropes. It has paid out millions of dollars over the years in dues to the FOP in order to remain fully involved with the National and State lodges.

By its own reporting, approximately $400,000 per year was paid. With the current team and its immediate predecessors in charge for over a decade now, that equates to approximately $4 million of our hard-earned dollars.

Yet TE now says that this money is wasted, that it is not necessary. In their own August 2005 letter to membership, President Bob Eddis asks “What do we get through our affiliation with the State and National FOP Lodges?” Eddis then supplies the answer: “A yearly bill of over $400,000.00.

Eddis and TE thus have put themselves in a very bad position, as did Tyson when he chose to go into that now-legendary bout out of shape, with a bad game plan, and underestimating his opponent.

TE is either outright lying to membership, and there actually is value to our FOP membership, and we do get more than just a bill each year, or they have knowingly wasted millions of our dollars over the years.

When I first became a police officer in 1990, I was assigned to the 6th police district. At the same exact time, a Sergeant from the 6th by the name of John Shaw was running for FOP Lodge #5 President, and many on his team also had ties to our 6th district, which was nicknamed as “Hollywood”.

As a young, impressionable rookie with no real knowledge of the players, I went along with the overwhelming sentiment of my co-workers, and voted for Shaw. So did a lot of other folks, obviously, as he won the election, and then won re-election two years later. We all know what eventually happened.

Well, I am no longer a rookie. As the saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I have voted for TE, but I will not blindly follow anyone, any regime, especially one that attempts to insult my intelligence.

TE is either lying to us, and there is personal animus and/or a political power play at the root of this fight, or they have knowingly wasted millions of dollars. Either way, they have shown that they are no longer deserving of our trust.

It is my personal opinion that the membership of Philadelphia Lodge #5 of the Fraternal Order of Police should remain fully fraternal with the National and State Lodges.

As former VP Kenny Rocks himself said as recently as months ago, before losing the recent election: “No matter what the problem, members must know that if they call, the FOP will be there to help. NO MATTER WHAT!” and “Don’t go outside the FOP – change from within”.

In the 10th round of that legendary February 10th, 1990 bout in Tokyo, Japan, Buster Douglas floored the formerly invincible Mike Tyson with a flurry of blows, knocking out the former champion in one of the most stunning moments in boxing history.

But it was just as much Tyson beating himself on that night, as it is now Team Eddis contributing to its own KO.