Saturday, June 14, 2014

US bishops staying the course...

What a curious week.  On one hand I read that the US bishops voted in their annual spring meeting to “stay the course.”  My initial reaction?  Oh goody!  We can look forward to yet another year of bishops trying to expand their theocracy’s marginalization of women and homosexuals further into secular government.  And, we’ll be treated to an encore performance hearing them intermittently and indignantly ejaculate “Religious liberty!” while they do it despite them trouncing on others’ religious liberties in the process. …Something about “self-awareness” keeps popping into my head.    

Wait a minute…I’m also getting a reading from my psychic barometer.  It predicts these ejaculations will increase in frequency and volume the closer we get to the US’s mid-term elections.  Yippee!  Can’t wait.

On the other hand, this week I also listened to one of my friends describe how his kids’ Catholic school enrollment has been cut almost in half after experiencing a raging alcoholic pastor followed by one who is a Protestant convert still enveloped in Protestant charismatic preaching styles.  Now, this is a new trend it seems…the iconic mega-church fundamentalist Protestant preacher in Catholic priest’s clothing.  Don’t say the old dogs can’t learn new tricks sometimes.  But, since this trend began before the bishops decided to “stay the course,” I think that means this new tactic is part of the course they will keep.  I can only guess that the objective is to cut Catholic school enrollments in half again. 

On yet another hand, this week I also read the deposition of Robert Carlson, a man some people call “archbishop” but for whom I cannot choke out that word since “bishop” means “overseer” and when I read his deposition he exhibits no behaviors associated with tending his flock like a caretaker.  His favorite three words in the deposition were “I don’t remember.”  It is so prevalent that I wonder if the man can remember what color pants he wears, though presumably it is standard clerical black … every … single … day. 

Here’s a selection of his responses from just the first ten substantive questions in the deposition.

  1. “I do not.” (In reference to if he recalled something.)
  2. “I don’t remember, but I really can’t say.”
  3. “I really can’t remember with any accuracy.”
  4. “I don’t remember.”
  5. “I don’t remember with any accuracy…”
  6. “I don’t remember…”
  7. “As I remember, no information came to me about him that I could say with any accuracy.”

Yes, 7 of Bob’s responses to the first 10 questions were variations on “Bob Can’t Remember A Darn Thing.”  I haven’t tallied the responses for the deposition’s full 156 pages, but having read the entire document, I’d guess that the 70% forgetfulness rate is a pretty close estimate if not conservatively low.

I found myself puzzling over this.  If Bob struggles to remember things, how can he remember the teachings of the faith?  Bishops are entrusted with teaching the faith.  How can he teach what he doesn’t remember? 

How can he remember the subtleties associated with tenets of faith when he can’t remember major traumatic events like a priest sexually assaulting kids…repeatedly?  Wasn’t it important enough to carve out a storage location in his brain? Most compassionate people would have a seared permanent image from it, I suspect.  Maybe Bob once stored that info but has subsequently overwritten it with fascinating notions about “religious liberty.”  I don’t know.

Is Bob an incompetent bishop due to his memory issues?  Call me a skeptic, but I think Bob is not being 100% truthful.  I think he’s having selective court-induced memory problems (SCIMP).  If that’s the case, then he is even less competent to be a bishop than if he were suffering early-stage dementia symptoms because selective memory failure falls into the category of “bearing false witness,” one of those pesky Ten Commandments.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of letting humans be human, including bishop humans.  But, since bishops declare themselves to be THE penultimate guardians of truth, they force us into holding them to a zero-tolerance standard for their deviating from it.  Ergo, if Bob was playing selective memory-loss games with a severe case of SCIMP, he is truly not competent to serve as bishop.

But wait! There’s more!  In addition to forgetting just about everything except his name, Bob expressed during his recent deposition that some years back when handling abuse cases, he didn’t know that sexual assault of a minor was a crime!

Attorney Jeff Anderson: “Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?”
Bob Carlson (St. Louis’ current sitting archbishop): “I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not.”
Attorney Jeff Anderson: “In 1984, you are a Bishop in the – an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul / Minneapolis.  You knew it was a crime then, right?”
Bob Carlson: “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”
 (Pages 109 - 110 of the Deposition dated May, 2014)

Good news!  Bob did admit he now knows that raping kids is a crime.  He just doesn’t know when he came to this understanding.  I don’t know what device we have to thank for Bob’s enlightenment either but let’s give three cheers for him grasping this concept sometime before his upcoming 70th birthday. 

However, despite his eventual enlightenment, this exposes a certain appalling and unacceptable callousness that might justify finding him supremely unqualified to be a bishop.   Please do not suspend your activities awaiting his resignation or apology, though.  No, he is already implementing the brotherhood’s “Stay the course” strategy and issued a statement defending himself instead.  He joins the ranks of so many other bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes in taking this evasive approach regarding sexual abuse, I’m sure he feels it’s a winning strategy.

As an aside, according to Bob’s statement, it seems he, who possesses the intellectual capacity to earn multiple advanced degrees, just didn’t understand the question despite one of those degrees being in … wait for it…. CANON LAW!  I guess Canon Law must be a lot easier to understand than secular law, at least maybe when one is imbued in the culture that produced it.  You saw how confusing the questions were…very tricky in that special, direct, straight-forward manner.  Maybe he’s so used to clerical obfuscations that clarity is just downright unclear for him.  We feel your pain, Bob.  You guys are making less and less sense to most of us faithful, too.  Right back at ya, buddy.

Tying all these strange things together, I realized that the Holy Spirit is working in her mysterious way.  The bishops “stay the course” not only on culture war matters but on accountability and truth-telling too, thus continuing to endanger children in their care.  Coincidentally, they forsake many Catholic traditions, theological teachings, and gospel messages in favor of attracting and ordaining mega-church iconic personalities.  This in turn inspires parents to protect their kids by yanking them from Catholic schools.  Perhaps eventually, the clergy’s sexual assault of children and its cover-up will end when there are no more children in their system?  Can't we please get rid of the incompetent bishops instead? 


  1. I disagree. The Bishops are not incompetent; they have the knowledge to make the right choices. But they didn't. So they are criminal, not incompetent.

    1. I think the point is that being criminal makes them incompetent as bishops.

  2. Thank you Our God The Trinity, for the scales fall away. Many billions of Your ewes and Your lambs can see and hear and read and understand, "The secret hearts of many men to be revealed".
    Thank God for you, Ewe.

  3. This just reminded me of how hypocritical our understanding of lying seems. We have the whole philosophy involving how certain things are intrinsically evil, and it is immoral to act evil to obtain a good outcome. Then you ask a question like, "so if the Nazi's were looking for people hiding in your house and they came and asked if anyone else was there, is it moral to tell them?" Instead of admitting that the philosophical premise is flawed, instead a whole bunch of loopholes are invented:

    (1): When a statesman, or a doctor, or a lawyer is asked impertinent questions about what he cannot make known without a breach of trust, he simply says, "I don't know", and the assertion is true, it receives the special meaning from the position of the speaker: "I have no communicable knowledge on the point."

    (2): The common Catholic teaching has formulated the theory of mental reservation as a means by which the claims of both justice and veracity can be satisfied.

    (Which is of course nonsense as veracity is not satisfied.)

    And because of the Pharisaical, legalistic way we have decided to interpret the meaningful teachings of Christ, people like this bishop attempt to justify themselves and the witness they bear.

  4. 193 times he could not remember. I read that number in 2 other stories.
    Do not think I could read the deposition myself.