Touchstone Magazine HomeHome
Touchstone's Editors on news & events of the day.with Patrick Henry ReardonOrder our publications...Speakers bureau, Chicago Lecture Series, and more...Browse back issues...All the information you need


Touchstone's editors on news and events of the day.

E-mail your comments

Saturday, August 17

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN: Eugene Kennedy in a recent essay takes a swipe at the bishops for the Dallas Charter. He thinks it legalistic and inequitable, and is a CVA exercise by bishops who want the public to ignore what the bishops have done and failed to do, and to direct anger against priests who have committed real or alleged offenses.

Kennedy is right that law is a clumsy instrument at best, and must be tempered with both equity and mercy. The scandals in the Church are like the terrorist attack: no good can come of them, because both lead to an expansion of the powers of the state. The expansion is necessary, but the state can become even more murderous and criminal than terrorists and child molesters. The bishops in turning to the law and the organs of secular justice have created a Frankenstein.

The bishops have lowered the drawbridge and let the Law in and they will have a difficult time ever getting it out of the church. They feel that they have used the Law as a shield for their impaired integrity, to prove that they abide by it, and to use it as a substitute for their lost moral authority. The monster has already taken a seat at their own table with them. Can you explain, Bishop, how you transferred a known pedophile from St. MaryÍs to St. JohnÍs? Just what did you know, when did you know it, and have you ever heard of obstruction of justice?

They have done this because they have shown themselves incapable of exercising good judgment in handling sexual offenses by their priests. A 72-year-old priest who had a consensual affair with a 17 -year-old girl when he was 28 and on vacation will suffer the same penalty as a priest who raped a 5 year old.

Kennedy is however not accurate in his portrayal of the penalties that offending priests have suffered:

In many of the cases, the priests have made amends and have served well for many years.

In almost all the cases, the offending priests have NOT made amends. They were never reconciled with their victims. They were at worst shuffled off to a treatment center and then reassigned and their careers went smoothly until the current ruckus. They have not done serous penance: fasting for years, being barred from the sacraments, and the other penalties that the early church made serious sinners go through to expiate sins.

KennedyÍs style is a bit overwrought ¿ he carries on the Frankenstein metaphor for several thousand words past the point at which it became tedious, but his essay is worth reading. It raises (in a glass, darkly) the problem of the role of law in the Christian life.

I am not happy with the legalism of the Latin Church. Too many of the Latin Fathers were lawyers, and too many Catholics (conservative, traditionalist, liberal, progressive) view the Christian life through the distorting glass of the law ¿ what are my rights? what can I get away with?

Law is necessary to deal with practical problems and to keep some order in the public life of the Church, but it is too clumsy to deal with the mysteries of sin, grace, repentance, and redemption.

(The ironies of history ¿ the name of the Archbishop of Boston, who precipitated this mess. He probably never violated the letter of canon or secular law, but how profoundly he violated its spirit.)


6:39 AM


Thursday, August 15

THE WAGES OF SIN IS A LAW DEGREE: Robert Peebles cost the diocese of Dallas several million dollars because he molested boys.

The diocese also paid for his law degree.

The Dallas New reports:

Mr. Peebles, now a lawyer, said in sworn testimony and medical records that he sexually abused seven to 16 boys during five assignments from 1979 to 1986. One of those boys was Mindi Galland's husband, Christopher Galland. The diocese settled a lawsuit with Christopher Galland in 1998.
Mr. Peebles was forced to resign as a priest
He entered Tulane law school in 1987. The diocese paid $22,000 toward his tuition, plus $800 monthly for his first two years. He joined the state bar in 1990.


What had Peebles done to earn his transitional money from the Dallas diocese?

The plaintiff who received the largest amount was sexually assaulted in 1984 at age 14 by Mr. Peebles after he became an Army chaplain at Fort Benning in Georgia.
The man, whose younger brother was a Kos plaintiff, said he was violently sexually assaulted for several hours after Mr. Peebles gave him more than a six-pack of beer to drink.
He said he has had nightmares continually since the incident and has physical scars from the attack. Mr. Peebles, his confirmation adviser at All Saints, had invited him to the Army base to take a tour and go fishing.
(Dallas News, 2/12/98, paid archive)

Hughes and Peebles cost the Dallas diocese $5 million, a lot less than Rudy Kos, who nearly bankrupted Dallas. They all know each other, in the sort of arrangement that gives Catholic parents the willies:

Mr. Peebles and Mr. Hughes, who were defendants in the lawsuits, could not be reached for comment. The two of them and Mr. Kos all briefly worked together in 1981 and 1982 at All Saints Catholic Church in North Dallas. (Dallas News, 2/12/98, paid archive)

Dioceses usually cut off priests who leave to marry; but they seem to want to do everything possible to keep (and in KosÍs case, recruit) child molesters, and if the molesters have to be separated or put out to pasture, they are set up with tuition and other transitional money.

I agree that priests should keep their promises of celibacy, but a violation of that promise is far less serious than a violation of the commandments of God. Bishops seem to regard the violent rape of a child as less serious than contracting a marriage. Why the sympathetic treatment of homosexual child rapists, and the hostility to heterosexuals who want to marry?


5:29 AM


Wednesday, August 14

FOGGY IN BOSTON: I just read through day one and day two of Cardinal LawÍs deposition.

He is evasive; he is reluctant to admit that he knew child molestation was a crime. He blames poor record keeping (not guilty by reason of incompetence) and bad advice from subordinates and doctors. He does not like to take responsibility for his actions.

When he was vicar general of Vicksburg and a friend of his, Father Broussard, molested a child, Law disclaimed any responsibility for handling the case. It was handled by the bishop. When Law was archbishop of Boston and his priests molested children, he disclaimed responsibility, because he acted only on the advice of his vicar, who handled the cases. Wherever the responsibility was, Law was not there.

He kept changing a statement about whether he ñbelievedî he had seen a document concerning Shanley. He said it all depends what the meaning of the word ñbelieveî is (he has studied ClintonÍs depositions carefully).

Boston got numerous complains about Shanley, and Bishop Daily answered them

Law was asked about his appointment of Shanley as pastor:

Would you agree with me, based upon the materials that we've reviewed, that you appointed him pastor despite the fact that the records of the Archdiocese contained the last letter of 1966 accusing Shanley of masturbating a boy and bringing other boys to his cabin in the woods; Father Shanley -- the Stevens letter from 1977 reporting that Shanley believed that sex between men and boys was appropriate, and that bestiality and incest and other sexual acts cause no psychic can harm; the four -- I'm sorry -- the McGeady letter and the man/boy love article from 1979, which contended that Paul Shanley attended the NAMBLA conference and spoke in favor of man/boy love relationships; the two Weston letters that we've reviewed in 1983 regarding Paul Shanley's attendance at the organizational meetings of NAMBLA as reflected in the book, the Homosexual Network; the Moynihan letter in 1983; you appointed him pastor, as we now see, with all of those records in the files of the Archdiocese of Boston. Is that correct?

Law replied:

I did not go back to the previous file in making these appointments. I was not aware of those materials and they were -- and had I been aware of them, I would have certainly wanted to have had some knowledge of how those reports had been dealt with, and what it was that resulted in the ability of his being appointed, first, as an assistant and then as an administrator. I did not do that. That's correct.

Law knows that his questioner is succeeding in building a case for negligence.

Law gives the strong impression that no one in Boston took any of the complaints seriously. They were given cursory replies, and then filed away, never to be looked at again. Law and his subordinates did not place the protection of children very high on their agenda. The records were a mess because no one took the allegations of abuse seriously. If Boston had handled its finances with similar nonchalance, it would long ago have gone bankrupt.

Only relentless publicity forced Law to begin to operate in a competent and decent matter. If the Globe (against whom he thundered) had not printed the truth, clerical abusers would be far freer to attack children in Boston.

DailyÍs depositions will be very interesting. Law wants the blame pinned on Daily for tolerating Shanley, but of course that will not absolve the Archdiocese.


9:18 AM


Monday, August 12

MCGILL NOT RANDY:Whatever the undergraduates may be doing at night, McGill maintains standards of philosophical rectitude.

The National Post 7/27/02 reports that McGill rejected an endowed chair in the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Gilles Tremblay, a 1950Ís McGill graduate, offered 1,500,000$ in his will to ensure that undergraduates would be exposed to the philosophy of selfishness. A nameless professor objected:

ñI was shocked to learn that my department had even considered an offer to endow an Ayn Rand chair. Imagine the department of political science considering a offer to endow the Adolph Hitler Chair in International Politics, or the department of psychology discussing whether to accept an offer to endow the (H.S.) Chamberlain Chair in Eugenics.î

Dean Carman Miller had discouraged Mr. TremblayÍs efforts, and the Principal of McGill, Bernard Shapiro, said that the chair was too restrictive, and that ñWe canÍt just sell our souls just for the sake of being richer.î

McGill should be commended for refusing the money. RandÍs philosophy has done less political harm (so far) than the ideological collectivisms that have devastated the world and remain popular in academia, but it is pernicious nonetheless. Rand is called right-wing, because she is anti-collectivist, and promotes ñself interest, minimalist government and laissez-faire capitalism,î but she is radically anti-Christian, because it has the quest for power at its heart.

Rand is popular among libertarians, but her novel, We the Living was made into a movie in MussoliniÍs Italy. RandÍs affirmation of self has strong affinities with fascism and especially ducismo, the worship of the strong man. Collectivism in abominable, but extreme libertarianism dissolves the glue of society and prepares the way for the man riding a white horse or wearing a black (or even worse, brown) shirt.


12:46 PM


Sunday, August 11

<FUN FUNERALS: Our trendy Canadian neighbors have found the right touch for the post Christian funeral. The Globe and Mail reports:

Traditional funerals, all sombre hymns and scripture, are fading, replaced with an atmosphere more akin to a pop concert.

No more dreary references to death and heaven and God.

"Today, you can have a little more fun at a funeral," said John Kane, owner of R. S. Kane Funeral Home in Toronto.

The music is a tribute to the deceased's tastes:

More and more families shun traditional hymns at funerals to turn, instead, to pop ballads, punk songs and even that stoner standard, Stairway to Heaven.
"We had a family request Ozzy Osbourne a little while ago," said Paul Wright, director of Schoening Funeral Service in Kamloops, B.C. "I was a little taken aback, but we played it in our chapel."
In that case, the deceased had been a fan of Mr. Osbourne, former lead singer of heavy-metal band Black Sabbath. His wife chose the headbanging anthems as a tribute to her late husband.


Flowers are out; mementos are in:

Families are burying their loved ones with everything from cigarettes and pints of beer to golf clubs and fishing rods.

As fans of The Arrogant Worms know, cows are important in Canada: "I Am Cow Hear Me Mooî
About four years ago, Arthur Funeral Home in Sault Ste. Marie., Ont., held a funeral for Dick Pollard, a dairy farmer who died in his mid-fifties.
For years, Mr. Pollard had a life-size plastic dairy cow sitting on his front lawn. Every morning he would move the cow to another spot on his yard to give neighbours the impression it was real.
Mrs. Pollard wanted the visitation and funeral to reflect her husband's personality, so the funeral home was transformed into a corral with bales of hay; the plastic cow was set up in the chapel, manager Bruce Cooke said.
Lock City Dairy employees who worked with Mr. Pollard brought another plastic cow with a wreath around its neck to express their condolences to the family.


Rev Jackie Harper goes with the flow:

"I think what people are looking for is something that feeds them spiritually. When they're asking for a song that reflects pop culture, it's not a move towards secularization, but maybe it gave them spiritual strength or got them through a difficult time," said the United Church minister.

The sentimentaization of funerals is not confined to Canada. Most of the funerals I attend are Catholic. The Irish have long insisted on Danny Boy; and everyone insists n a eulogy of the deceased, which concentrates one the fun aspects, his life: usually his drinking.

I long for the old Requiem Mass, with black vestments and the Dies Irae; it was recognizably Christian, unlike many funerals today. As a Catholic, I believe that the prayers of other Christians can help me as I stand before the judgment seat of God, and I want people to reflect on how desperately I need them, not on what a cheerful boozer I was, or which teams I followed.


2:51 PM




For previous blogs, click here.


Home - Mere Comments - Daily Reflections - Store - Speakers & Conferences - Archives - Contact Us

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?