Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

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.


Scientists Say Our Nuclear Power Plants May Be Fire Bombs Waiting to Explode

plant at Peach Bottom

plant at Peach Bottom

New Orleans  There’s a lot of talk about solar and other renewable energy sources, reduced electricity demand, and even some environmentalists saying that nuclear power might be the way to go to reduce the risk of climate change. You start to think to yourself, well, it’s been a long time since Three Mile Island, maybe I should take a look at this again and update my viewpoint. My stumbling block more recently was a visit in October of 2012 to Japan in the area devastated by the earthquake there in March 2011 and the continuing problems at the Fukushima plant. A more recent article in Science magazine on reports issued by scientists still unpacking the risks of a total meltdown at Fukushima and extended by other researchers to the ongoing latent dangers in US nuclear plants with the same characteristics, once again scared the stuffings out of me.

Pretty much the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in their report claim it was pure luck that saved Japan. Here’s why. Nuclear plants store spent fuel, which is highly radioactive obviously, in huge cooling ponds. In Japan, the earthquake and tsunami shut down the pumps that move coolant in the reactors and cool down the water in the spent fuel pools. Pumps go down, meltdown follows. But, as Science detailed, “the water was evaporating away because of the hot fuel,” meaning the risk of fire and conflagration was imminent, and only averted because, “Separating the well and the spent fuel pool is a gate through which fuel assemblies are transferred. The gate leaked, allowing water from the well to partly refill the pool.” That could have been the big one in Japan!

The study also points out that this potential problem should be a “wake-up call for the industry,” but if so they must be sending encrypted messages between each other, because this was the first warning I had seen. Unpublished modeling of a nuke plant in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania in the southeast portion of that state not far from Washington and Philadelphia, indicated that a spent-fuel fire there would have “trillion-dollar consequences” according to a Princeton University nuclear security expert. Other Princeton researchers published a report saying that depending on when such a fire occurred at that plant and the prevailing winds during that season, the contamination could spread from Maine to North Carolina, and cause the evacuation of 43 million people. And, believe me on this, there are areas in Japan where people will never go home.

Should we worry about this? Well, yes, because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, often derided as an industry lapdog, concluded that these reports were essentially no “immediate” problem. The solution would be costly and involve a $4 billion conversion to concrete containers called “dry casks” which would reduce the chances of a spent fuel fire, and the NRC doesn’t want to saddle the nuclear energy gang with this price tag. But, “the benefits of expedited transfers to dry casks are five-fold greater than NRC has calculated, the academies found.”

What, me worry? Heck, yes!