Hard questions for church hierarchy
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#1 Jul 9, 2008
These are excellent questions by Mr. O'Brien that boil down to one imperative: Catholics, start talking to one another. Take responsibility, and vindicate rights.
His points about victims are particularly kind and just, especially since these 61 people with credible claims (30 of whom have been waiting since 2004) have been re-victimized by the stalling strategy that the Diocese pursued.
Lay Catholics have a right and a responsibility to know where every penny of the 8.5 million is going, and why, since it is the parishioner's money in its entirety, and is merely administered by the clergy in Springfield.
However, I know I am not alone in my belief that because of yet another settlement (rather than a day in court), the real story of the scandal is now more likely than ever to go untold. Meanwhile, what we do know and remember about the shortcomings of the system is likely to begin to fade into the background, at the very moment when the laity may finally be motivated to find out more. This, too, is a reflection of the strategy to make bad decisions go away, rather than dealing with them.
But, the reasons why it is difficult for the parishioner in the pews to grasp the facts of the insurance case also has to do with communication. After all, when was the last time Catholics saw anything about this in their parish bulletin, or heard anything from the pulpit?
The local press, and above all, the Republican, have been providing good coverage. The problem is that the scandal has dragged on so long, with stories appearing only every 7 months or so, and promptly disappearing from memory as quickly as they came, that Catholics and many others have a sort of scandal-fatigue. I think that if you asked the average church-going Catholic to explain the 8.5 million settlement, that rather than hear an animated opinion of the rightness or the wrongness of it, you would be more likely to get a blank stare.
This makes our homegrown scandal resemble a sort of dark side of the Boston one. There, there was a Pulitzer-prize winning series of front-page articles leading the way, exposing thousands of documents that church officials were unable to keep secret. Here, the secrecy has prevailed. Although the lawyers for the Diocese lost several key arguments in front of Judge Agostini, they were largely successful in keeping documents in chancery files out of the sight of nosy reporters - and the Catholic laity.
As a small contribution to Mr. O'Briens suggestions, I will shortly publish an essay which will compare coverage of the insurance court case in the Republican and the Catholic Observer, and provide a timeline of important steps in the case. This will appear soon on the following web site: westernmasscatholics.org
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