Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

South African Handshake.... could save your life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gee, I hope this doesn't offend any blind people who read my blog.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In which I (Kathleen) get Dreherrific

"For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." Matthew 23:4

I volunteered to help teach music at a Catholic school, so on Saturday I was required to attend a training session called "Protecting God's Children". They didn't show the film credits to my class, but it looked like it was produced by the Catholic diocese in Kansas or Oklahoma . Much of the session consisted of watching a film with the usual plot points -- horrible stories narrated by survivors, previous offenders detailing how they groomed children, and apologetic bishops confessing they didn't do enough to prevent child sex abuse in the church. OH, WAIT. Scratch that last one.

The film presented about five examples of child molestation, which were as follows:

male skating teacher molests underage girls
female teacher molests female student
male camp counselor molests male student
ten year old boy molests five year old boy
priest molests underage girl

In other words, according to my diocese and any diocese who shows this film to lay Catholic employees/volunteers, anyone -- even a ten year old -- can be a child sex abuser. And I suppose technically this is true; the nice kid next door could indeed be a predator fiend. But in light of recent events, is this REALLY the message Catholic dioceses want to send to lay people involved with the Church? "You're just as suspect as we are"? Were bishops frantically covering up for Catholic *lay* people accused of molestation, assuming there were any accused in any significant number? There was a very brief, watery mention of how American bishops and clergy fell short protecting children for, oh, several decades (interestingly it was stated in the passive tense, e.g. "not enough was done…") Frankly, I find it pretty rich that lay Catholic volunteers are forced to sit through a three hour training which not only makes barely any mention of how Catholic bishops nationwide have fallen short protecting children, but points the finger at everyone else in the community as possible culprits.

The training then went on to discuss observing signs of sexual abuse in victims' behavior, and how to avoid being accused of molestation. For example, if a child wants to hug you, you are supposed to "swivel" to the side and just leave your arm across their shoulders. In other words, an entirely new level of paranoia and distrust is introduced before any interaction with children has even taken place. It's very easy to argue this training is unfortunate but necessary. However, I wonder at what point things become so unpleasant and tense people just stop interacting with children anymore. Certainly, given the atmosphere created by "training sessions" like this, if any child were molested, he'd be hard pressed to get a private moment with a paranoid but innocent adult who might be able to help him out. That sad fact alone makes the training somewhat counter-productive.

Obviously the filmmakers went out of their way to illustrate every possible permutation of child sex abuse. Nothing, according to this film, is typical of child sex abuse. But as we know from priest abuse cases, there are patterns. For example, in the case of priests, 80% of the sex abuse was against underage males. So, is it an unhappy coincidence that in the film the only example of priest sex abuse shown involved an underage girl? Seriously?! The one case you are going to cop to in your training, O Catholic poobahs, is going to be totally atypical? WHY IS THAT, EXACTLY? To quote Led Zeppelin, "oooh and it makes me wonder…"

The training leader failed to mention that the Kansas City bishop was just indicted for concealing the fact that a priest had child porn on his computer. I find it amazing that this recent news story wasn't brought up, even though it was completely topical. I guess it's not a fact the bishops want advertised -- but that's just the problem isn't it? They want this stuff to go away. It's pretty clear that for American bishops, concealment and deflection is still the order of the day.

I can hear the plaintive cry now: "But what are the bishops supposed to dooooo? They are between a rock and a hard place." Here's a start: if bishops insist on making the primary thrust of their training "everyone does it", include a big old dose of mea culpa and "here's what we did wrong". This would necessarily amount to more than half a sentence in the passive tense per three hour training session. Also, they should consider hiring a public relations firm that knows what the hell they are doing. It's a sad day when Madison Avenue has more self-awareness than Catholic clergy, but here we are.