Friday, July 27, 2012

Vatican Spring

In Nenana, Alaska, people pay $2.50 apiece for tickets that that allow them to predict the exact time the winter ice will let go in the Tanana River. A tripod with a clock tethered to it is set out on the ice. When the ice breaks, the clock is immersed in water and stops and allows judges to tabulate the winner.

I wonder if now might be a good time to put a tripod on the Vatican's front stoop. When the edifice collapses in what may become known as the Vatican Spring, the clock will be smashed enough to stop, but not so badly that someone, at long last, can receive a little donation of his or her own.

Alaskan spring ... Arab Spring ... Vatican Spring ...

When the winter ice melts in Alaska, the breaking ice can create cannon-sized explosions of sound. Small fissures and large begin to appear. At first, dangerous chunks clog the river flow, but bit by bit they melt away into a smooth and watery obscurity ... as if saying a heart-felt "amen."

Bill Wright
In Australia, Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Bishop Bill Wright said publicly yesterday that he would support a public inquiry into sexual assaults by priests. Lord hope the man owns a sturdy suit of body armor!

The Newcastle Herald promptly wrote an editorial Friday applauding the bishop and observing further:

There was a time, when the first shocking revelations of abuse began to emerge into the public eye, when many probably believed the matter could be satisfactorily dealt with by the churches and the police. But since that hasn’t been entirely the case, and since – on the contrary – more cases of abuse by more priests keep surfacing along with distressing evidence of church cover-ups and failed police investigations, public opinion has dramatically altered.
"There was a time...."

There was a time and that time is fading....

There was a time when the Vatican might have made lemonade out of the lemons of the systemic dysfunctions that allowed priests to abuse and their superiors to cover it up. There was a time when the icy fingers of power held firm and no one questioned a fixed and frozen and exalted authority.

On Tuesday, Monsignor William J. Lynn was sentenced in Philadelphia to 3 and a half to six years in prison. He was not convicted of molesting small children but rather of covering up the actions of those who did. The conviction was a first of its kind and a cannon shot of sorts: No longer was it possible for the Vatican to deny complicity in this worldwide heinousness. The links in the evidentiary chain grow longer and longer, threading their way towards an ornate destination in Rome.

Andrew Nicastro and wife Leigh-Anne
In Springfield, Mass., twenty miles to my south, an apparently exhausted Andrew Nicastro accepted a $500,000 Vatican payout as the price for ending his suit against two retired Catholic bishops who, Nicastro alleged, should done more to protect him from the molestations by now-defrocked priest Alfred Graves.

[Nicastro's lawyer, John] Stobierski said, “We thought that we were having a very successful trial” but even if there had been a verdict in Nicastro’s favor, lawyers for the two bishops were going to appeal.
If there was success in the appeal for the 42-year-old Nicastro, “then we were told we would in all likelihood have to sue the insurers for the money” and that would mean there would be a three- to five-year court battle altogether.
There was a time ....

But to imagine that time is entirely over would be a mistake. One look at the endless, endless cases on Abuse Tracker makes that apparent. Abuse Tracker and other sources show that the ice may be cracking, but it is far from melted.

Even the presentation of the Nicastro story makes clear that the Vatican elephant in the living room still has the ability to discomfort and overshadow other company.

The first story in The Springfield Republican (linked above) is fairly straight-forward: Nicastro dropped his suit against retired bishops Joseph M. Maguire and Thomas L. Dupre for $500,000. A note at the top of the story says Maguire has issued a statement acknowledging that Nicastro suffered, though of course, in Vatican fashion, there is no mention of why or at whose hands he suffered -- no acknowledgement of institutional responsibility.

The second story -- and I can't tell if it was a second separate story on the same topic or if it was used to replace the other story -- is top-heavy with Maguire's statement. Nicastro's role is minor. In either case, The Springfield Republican gives plenty of room to the former seat of power, McGuire. There is no question and answer format ... it's just a story based on a statement issued by the diocese. No reporter's excuse, "The former bishop was not available for comment." Here is the Associated Press version of the story.

The above incidents do not constitute a genuine thaw as yet, but there are cracks in the Vatican ice.

Place your bets: Isn't it about time someone got back a little something from a wintry hand that has, over the centuries, taken so much?

1 comment:

  1. tin foil hat Chomskyesque reading and reading way way too much into it for a old zen hand. What is the meaning of the wind or the beginning of the Grapes of Wrath or a fine piece by Chopin. Nothing you say. How about the meaning of the murders in Aurora or the twin towers falling down. No meaning. Calm down. Take a deep breath.