The Catholic Church Has to Open All the Records Everywhere

New Orleans    The grand jury reports from Pennsylvania, based on its investigation into the records and archives of six of the eight dioceses in the state, have been horrific.  Over 1000 cases of sexual abuse of young men and women, children really, have been identified.  Another 1000 are thought to exist but could not be identified clearly in the records or did not come forward during the investigation.  The list of priests involved has been in the hundreds almost invariably not known publicly to their congregants and within the parishes where they served.

The head of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops has gone to Rome following church protocol to ask for an apostolic investigation of the church in the United States, which in lay terms means a papal approved oversight into the US church’s handling of these matters.  Pope Francis has more clearly than ever expressed that he stands with the victims.

This has been a long running horror for the Catholic Church in America – and in many other countries – and all of us.  After years of resistance and denial, payments by various units of the church in the US have reportedly reached over $3 billion forcing the sale of assets and even bankruptcy by some jurisdictions.  But, no matter the recognition of the widespread nature of this scandal, it has not gone away because despite the many apologies, it is still shrouded in darkness.  The credibility of the church still exists in some scattered locations, but the credibility of the institution and its leadership has been shattered and for all practical purposes does not exist, even as one Sunday continues to follow another and some, though fewer, believers continue to attend and contribute.

This is not a scandal that can continue to be “weathered.”  There is no way not to believe that one shoe after another of the same brand and similar size will continue to drop in different locations around the country.  Other grand juries in other states and localities are inevitably going to begin similar investigations in the wake of the Pennsylvania revelations.

The Church needs to embrace transparency and change, if it is going to survive and rebuild as a moral factor in the United States.  The archives of all dioceses need to be opened to other leaders, historians, and objective eyes and voices, if the Church is going to get a step ahead of the prosecutors.

The time for apologies is over.  A house cleaning is in order.  A cultural shift is necessary.  Internal reforms are needed from top to bottom.

The Church has survived many cataclysmic events from the Reformation to the Inquisition to their role in colonial imperialism.  It will survive this at some level, no matter how crippled, but why not follow its own theology and fully confess in order to achieve both mercy and atonement?

Words have failed.  Sweeping and comprehensive action is imperative.


New Zealand for All of Us: Maori, Equal Pay, and More – Part II

Maori war canoe replica at Waitangi Museum

Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand is no perfect pearl.  There’s a bounty of issues.  Inequality is rising dramatically.  Sprawl around Auckland is a huge issue.  Environmental impacts on some of the island is devastating.  There are interesting signs of progress though, and they are worth looking at closely.

There are too many reminders of the American experience in colonialist land grabbing abetted and rationalized by religious evangelists in the subjugation of New Zealand’s native people, the Maoris.  Making rights wrong and eliminating discrimination and racism is an ongoing project with miles to go, but reading any of the history there seems to be a more concerted effort in recent decades to make New Zealand multi-cultural.  Of the major unions, five of the six have Maoris in key leadership positions. Translated signage in Maori is everywhere.  At 15% of the population and coupled with the island Polynesian votes, they can decide elections and were critical in putting the current, more progressive Labor-Green coalition into power.  Change is coming.

A museum at the seminal location where the Waitangi Treaty was signed between the British Crown and some of the Maori tribes promising them lots, including continued control of their lands, which were honored in the breach was educational.  The museum though acknowledging some of this horror and now turned over to Maoris to run and administer still treats the whole sordid deal as a “partnership” from then to now, which is a bitter pill for many to swallow, I’m sure, and raised eyebrows from us, even as we learned from the experience.

More encouraging perhaps were new amendments to the Equal Pay laws in New Zealand recently.  In the public sector workers in largely female job classifications that low paid are now able to bring claims that their job duties and job content is equivalent to other workers in largely male classifications that are paid significantly more.  While visiting in offices of the union, E tu, with their campaign staff I heard about their huge victory where the equivalent of home care workers was able to challenge their pay discrepancy with prison guards and win a judgment raising their standards to that level costing millions.  What a wonderful tool for finally achieving pay equity!

women’s exhibit in Auckland Art Gallery

Have I already mentioned the best-in-class Auckland Botanical Garden?  Yeah, I guess I did, and it ought to be on everyone’s list who ever has the opportunity to pass through Auckland and the North Island.  My team were also fans of the Auckland Art Gallery, the big museum there.  The downside though on both the Maritime Museum, which I enjoyed, and the Art Gallery and the Waitangi Museum, was the fact that these institutions were free to locals but charged $20 NZ for foreigners with no breaks of any kind, which I found obnoxious for institutions that want to be compared to national class museums in the US and other countries.  It goes without saying that the Botanical Gardens were free.

I wish you all could have been with us.