People who don’t know Indians or reservations are having trouble believing the things I’ve been blogging recently. I refer them to this video report so they can actually see the people they have a hard time believing. Maybe body language will be more persuasive. In this story the Bishop actually acts like a Christian. You need to see that, too.
Mark Trahant is an American Indian journalist of considerable stature and accomplishment. We were on the same “bulletin board” back in the Nineties, so his name always catches my eye. I admire his work and am eager to see his book on "austerity." (His glasses are just like mine!)
So far I haven’t located a thoughtful piece about what a kid ought to do if he or she has been sexually abused, whether or not the kid is on a reservation or even whether or not the abuse is by a priest. Two phases of this: an immediate response and then the aftermath. Neither do many adults know what to do if a child tells them they’ve been molested. If a parent doesn’t respond or responds by punishing the child, then what? Normally one goes to a priest or a cop for help, but what if they don’t help? If you’re a kid, you can’t very well go to a lawyer for help. Kids end up resorting to other kids for help, which can at least get them emotional contact, but what do you do if you’re a kid and another kid confides in you that they’ve been molested?
I’m impressed that in Mark’s Frontline story, the woman who is more-or-less the protagonist of the story has not only left and recovered (she appears to be both prosperous and educated) but has gone back to her roots to do something about it. One is first a witness, then a testifier. I also spot another role, which is the person who stands with the testifier to support testifying, physically and emotionally.
There is a role for the website that simply accumulates evidence.
http://www.rickross.com/groups/clergy.html The list of cases on this website is stunning. Most of them are from the media. Since newspapers like big money amounts, there are a lot of accounts of settlements. For those who think the people molested as children are simply milking the system for money, consider that the church could just as well “disown” convicted priests, set them out on the street, and telephone the police to come get them. Of course, that would lead to even more questions. But maybe they need to be asked.
The following document includes excellent and explicit information about reporting child abuse, detecting child abuse, and the actual law. It's specifically for Montana where there are enough Indian reservations to sway elections.
If you’re not in Montana or even in the United States, it will take a bit of research to find the equivalent and there might not be one. I must warn you that when I’ve turned in cases of sexual abuse of children, I’ve had to kiss the job goodbye, but in those days I didn’t have tenure and there was no hotline.
MONTANA’S STATEWIDE TOLL-FREE CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE at 1-866- 820-KIDS (1-866-820-5437). This Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you’re a kid reading this or if you’re an adult who is wondering what’s going on in some kid’s life, I encourage you to keep a journal. Date it, note the time, keep it as fact-focused as possible. Over time it might very well form a pattern that can be reported, and even prove to be valuable evidence in court. Be careful where and how you keep it -- maybe online in a “cloud” of some kind. I use blogs, which can be set not to allow access by anyone but yourself. Be careful where you record your password.
If you are being bullied or cornered, I recommend a “screamer” that’s about the size of a chapstick, easy to carry in a pocket or attach to a keychain. It’s VERY loud and will often make a dog run away, which is how I started using them when I was an animal control officer. No one has to monitor as with a GPS or "smart" phone. Screamer false alarms don’t cause as much trouble as bear spray or MACE. As some friends have pointed out, MACE won’t phase an attacker full of meth. Even a canister stored in a locker can go off accidentally and clear a school. At the level where a taser or gun might be necessary, the police need to be involved.
If the Catholic church wants to recover its credibility, it will, as Father Fitzgerald advised, carefully identify those who are molesting children, immediately laicize them (this is asking a lot), and set them outside the gates for secular authorities to process according to the law. Then they should follow the example of the Bishop in Alaska who went to the victims and asked their forgiveness, anointing and blessing each one. No doubt the church is afraid that if all the pockets are turned out, they will no longer attract either parishioners or priests. This is probably true. But then those looking for a safe place with a true message can come back.
Evidently a deadline has passed -- the big ads from the lawyers soliciting clients seem to be gone. I’ve said about everything I have to say. Probably unless there is another local incident I’ll be quiet on the subject, except that as I turn up movies that seem relevant to the public understanding of priesthood, I’ll review them. I’m also looking for books about Indians plus professional religious people. Why has no one made a movie from one of the Louise Erdrich books? Law & Order SVU has had an American Indian cop (Adam Beach) but never a religious molester. Too hot, I expect. Was it an echo that the Adam Beach character was overwhelmed with anger and left the SVU unit or did the actor just get a better offer so the scriptwriters needed an excuse to drop him? Where is a script about Native American officers on a reservation trying to cope with sexual abuse of children? Maybe a priest should write it. I hope it won’t be a lawyer.