Saturday, December 31, 2005

West Coast Bankruptcy Ruling Can Have Widespread Implications

John Shuster Writes:

There are a lot of upset Catholics in Oregon this morning.

Their wonderful archbishop Vlasny has gambled away their future. His previous sex abuse handling experience in the diocese of Winona counted for nothing. The priests in good standing of the Archdiocese of Portland also helped to cover up sex crimes against children for decades because they did not act to support victim survivors and their families when they could have done so definitively. Well, those violated children grew up to be adults and now they're back in force, with lots of friends and supporters, and they're achieving the justice and reconstructive compensation they deserve.

The Portland archdiocese voluntarily became a business when it incorporated itself in the State of Oregon. Vlasny and his dream-team lawyers voluntarily chanced a bankruptcy/First Amendment legal scheme to stop public disclosure of all the details of the cover-up and to water down the probable millions in payouts.

Well, Vlasny gambled and he lost. Big time. I believe Catholics would have preferred to deal with the raw truth of the sex abuse atrocity in their own archdiocese rather than be in the current position where they are about to lose their parishes to liquidation.

Judge Perris has made it clear that Canon Law is not the law of the land in the USA. Vlasny has learned that being a big rich religious organization with churches and hospitals and universities and credit unions and billions in diversified investments is not a license for the Roman Catholic clergy to enjoy sex crimes against children then act like it is no big thing to handle when the truth comes out. All the good works of the Roman Catholic church throughout all of history do not minimize or justify the violation of even one innocent child. It doesn't work that way in the eyes of God. We married priests won't let this atrocity slide into the past. We'll stand with the survivors and their families until the last survivor dismisses us from duty.

This morning, small parish communities in Tillamook, Seaside, Cottage Grove, Corvallis, Sandy, and scores of others are all wondering if they'll have a church to go to in the near future. Will St. Anthony's in Waldport become the new Assembly of God church? Will Catholics have to drive by their old churches every day and be reminded of what is no longer theirs, even though they built them and sustained them for generations? All they will have is their memories of the good times and a deep and depressing feeling of loss - not unlike most survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

The Vatican, with its district manager bishops, had the international spotlight opportunity to do the right things for survivors in 2003, but they continued the cover-up as best they could with expensive public relations firms, abdicated their moral authority, and instructed their local bishop managers to bring in the hardball lawyers and go the legal route. The secret-laden clergy of Portland has finally lost the big wager and now the little people like those at St. Rose of Lima in Monroe, Oregon will have to pay with their spiritual lives. Joseph Ratzinger and his Vatican machine approved of all of this, but he doesn't have to worry. He not only has diplomatic immunity, he's sitting on THE mountain of Roman Catholic money, replete with international art work, safe in his own little country.

The Vatican and its hierarchy set things up from the beginning so that they own and control everything in every arch/diocese - legally. Now they know that in America the law goes both ways. They, their sexual jolly roger bishops and clergy have poisoned it all for the little people who had no choice but to trust them with the future of their parishes. This morning, for so many Oregon Catholics, a big part of the magic is gone. Reality has arrived in an undeniable and unavoidable manner for Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Catholic. And there's little they can do at this late point in the legal process. Instead of following the church's public relations program of blaming survivors for their courage and integrity, perhaps they will start questioning their own church leadership's true motives for gambling away their religious past and future. Perhaps Catholics in other arch/dioceses around the world can learn a lesson here and act before it is too late for them.

I believe our little married priest Home Masses will become a bit more popular in the days ahead. Disillusioned Catholics will be able to enjoy the pure Roman Catholic liturgy that was closest to the original unincorporated church gathered around the memory of Jesus. They will be able to rely on a married priesthood of integrity they can trust with their children and vulnerable adults. We're not about big money and big corruption. We're about local small parish community and living the love and values of the carpenter of Nazareth who always did the right thing no matter what. The religious leaders of his time had Jesus killed, but God brought him back from death. That is the source of our hope and one of many reasons for our perseverance in service to the families of our Roman Catholic community world-wide.



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