Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Editorial: Mud by any other name

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the July 3, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Transparency. Integrity. Honesty. Accountability. Compassion.

Words that have been tossed around quite a lot in the last 18 months or so. Most of the time, associated with what’s described as the sexual abuse scandal gripping the Catholic Church. After the meeting a year ago in Dallas, when the U.S. bishops dedicated themselves publicly to institutional reform and protection of the vulnerable, those words – accountability, transparency, integrity, honesty, compassion – were used over and over again. With good reason.

In our own diocese, Bishop Skylstad has stated repeatedly – in this publication, in public meetings in parishes, in secular publications, at press conferences – that he is dedicated to resolving the situation, dedicated to caring for the victims. That he is working to assure, as much as possible, that no child or vulnerable adult is ever again the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of priest or other church minister.

It’s rare that he makes any of these very public promises but that someone doesn’t launch a pointed, often personal, attack on him, his integrity, his record. By assaulting the bishop and, by extension, the Church itself with lies, half-lies, or carefully constructed omissions of fact, these individuals – sometimes speaking for themselves, sometimes representing themselves as spokespersons for groups – hope to accomplish – what?

Good question.

Several groups have stated or implied a desire to work with the diocese to help bring hope and healing to the situation. Unfortunately, in some instances, this seems to translate into their desire to restructure the church according to their own whims. The argument’s extension is, “If this isn’t being handled the way we want it to be handled, then it isn’t being handled.” Which is not, perhaps, a helpful, or even valid, argument.

And when progress is made, the response is almost immediate: “It’s not enough.”

And then the vitriol emerges. Accusations based on half-truths (if the glass is half full, as opposed to half lies, with a glass half-empty) helps no one. Slinging mud created by mixing rumor and other mistakes made by other individuals in other parts of the country does no one any good and reflects badly on those engaged in the business of slinging. Spreading rumor and encouraging misery; refusing to acknowledge progress; denying efforts to reach out: How does this bring about healing? How does this give hope?

The end, no matter how noble, does not justify the means.

Presenting oneself as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse does not guarantee a pass on the truth. The whole truth. Not selective slices of veracity. To hold such advocates accountable for truth does not re-victimize victims. It makes the same demand as that being placed – and rightly so – on the Church’s ministers, its leadership, its existence as an institution.

There is no question that people have been hurt, and badly. There is no question that the abuse of children is heinous in the eyes of any human being with even half a heart. There is no question that work remains to be done.

Neither is there any question that this bishop and this diocese are performing that work right now and are dedicated to continuing that work for as long as it takes – with integrity, with honesty, with transparency, with accountability, with compassion. Other bishops, other dioceses, throughout the country, throughout the world, are doing the same. With the same integrity, with the same dedication.

And with a notable lack of mud.

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