Putting the check on bishops

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Sometime ago there was much hullabaloo about a politician eavesdropping on a phone conversation between other politicians and their legal counsel. Now that’s terrible and the newspapers jumped on it, commentators went wild, columnists had a field day.

But everyone involved had to be old enough to remember the telephone party lines. One ring was for us, two for the neighbor half a mile down the road, the family with three rings we didn’t know, but we heard a lot of very interesting conversations. It was not uncommon for one of the three parties to suggest the other two hang up, knowing there was so little going on in the world they wouldn’t miss a chance to hear anything. Especially irritating were sniggering kids who weren’t smart enough to hide the fact they merely clicked the handle but were still listening. And if you wanted to call your neighbor you had to tell the operator, hang up and wait for the neighbor’s two rings, and then jump back on when they did. Life was much simpler back then.

I think they finally dismissed all the charges and the politicians, having had their day in the papers and on TV, decided it wasn’t worth the cost of proving the perpetrator guilty and sending him to life in prison.

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Then the Virginia Speaker of the House outshined that bunch of politicians by slipping some lady and her lawyer a hundred thousand to keep their mouths shut. They didn’t, and the press and TV people went wild, picking up the scent and trailing the speaker until they had him up a tree. He resigned and the case was closed. Simple as that, case closed.

Then chess pieces, the ones with the pointed hats called bishops, got together to decide the fate of bad little pawns who had merely ruined the lives of hundreds of young boys and girls by exploiting them with their diagonal moves that escaped the eyes of both the Vatican and police forces around the planet.

In anybody’s eyes these acts were among the worst of crimes, cannibalizing their young, ignoring their remains, and moving on as though it was normal practice in a weird world. Apparently the word guilt was removed from religious conversation because the stain could be easily removed by merely confessing the transgression, or not. Others only of late realized their actions were reprehensible. Many ran up quite a score before the lights came on in the brains of the trangressees telling them that this was not part of catholic religious doctrine.

Why are not TV people and the press screaming for their hides? Why are law enforcement departments allowing this circus of bishops to continue? Why in hell is it up to the Vatican to decide anything?

The law used to read that molestation was punishable by a lengthy prison sentence. Surely most priests are honest enough to admit what they did to others and face whatever nation’s law that is applicable to them. To me it seems the man in Rome believes the fate of his &uot;children&uot; is up to him or his chesspieces some of which are probably also guilty of crimes.

My simple mind has never witnessed a more cut and dried situation; you are guilty you go to jail and have your fun there. Perhaps prison would be ideal for there they probably would get a taste of their own medicine. What they did was no white-collar crime and, unlike white-collar transgressors, should get no special easy prison. It’s a wonderment and I must be missing something.

I guess for years the cardinals and bishops have been covering up the stink with payouts to those who finally figured out they had been wronged and wanted some sort of compensation.

Some insist the church is about to run out of money and can no longer continue this form of recompense. But if money is the balm that heals, the Vatican can sell some of the gold, silver, art work, and valuable properties they have piled up for decades at the expense of tithers around the world. Of what value is it just sitting there when people all over the world need all kinds of help? What is the ultimate objective of any religion that accumulates wealth for the sake of accumulating wealth? Payouts to victims are a lawyer’s mild form of extortion and obviously have not served to end the wave of crime, which is still being uncovered almost daily. But if a crime cannot be undone, then the money can at least provide some with satisfaction for the mental pain endured. But, surely, at least make the guilty priests wear a red collar.

Robert Pocklington is a regular columnist for the News-Herald.