Truth over power: Public figures and church officials occupy positions of public trust

TRUST is a tower built stone by stone. Lies remove stones from the base and can topple the highest tower. When trust is important there are no little lies. – Michael Josephson 

Michael Josephson is a former law professor and attorney who founded the non-profit Joseph and Edna Institute of Ethics from which he operates as a speaker and lecturer on ethics. He speaks on six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, citizenship, responsibility, caring and fairness. 

At St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, the students learn about and behave towards caring, respect, trustworthiness, citizenship, kindness and responsibility.  Since 1999-2003, St. Genevieve pursued character education. On October 17, 2003, it became “the first high school in California and the first Catholic school in the nation designated as National School of Character from the Character Education Partnership based in Washington, D.C.” These lessons on what constitutes good character are practiced by all: parking lot attendants, students, teachers, principal and pastor that this high school proudly displays a banner on its front door, “National School of Character.” It also proudly has undertaken this cultural change by the legacy left behind by the Class of 2000, “who decided that instead of bullying the incoming strangers, they would make them feel welcome in their new home, “ Principal Dan Horn wrote in his book, “Anointed Moments.” Character education continues to the present with inspirational speakers that come regularly to impart their knowledge and wisdom.

 Perhaps our revered Catholic Church, headed by Pope Francis can rebuild the Church from these simple pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, citizenship, responsibility, caring and fairness. 

I write this not to be sanctimonious but to embrace the darkness that has plagued the stewards of God with cases of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse by the way is not about abuse of sex, but abuse of power. This abuse of power from the priests, enabled by hiding of the bishops and higher up administrators has cost the U.S. Catholic Church, according to National Catholic Reporter’s Jack and Diane Ruhl on Nov. 2, 2015, “The U.S. Catholic Church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR investigation of media reports, databases, and church documents.” The meter of financial exposure is still ticking as Brooklyn diocese reached a record settlement of $27.5 million with four victims of abuse by lay educator as reported by New York Times on Sept. 18, 2018 by Sharon Otterman.

The Vatican owes it to its 1.2 billion Catholic parishioners to come clean, to fully account for all these crimes. Yes, these are crimes that should not be enabled nor should have been facilitated by secrecy. Instead, a full accounting of all the predators who were hiding inside the institution, and pretending still to be God’s servants, when they have in fact dislodged themselves from being aligned with God and have embraced darkness as to perpetuate the abuse on these young men who are now grown up and can speak of their trauma. We must fully make an accounting, and display the names of these men, some of whom got imprisoned and died while in prison. But more than names, their methods of luring the children and young adults, like Fr. Brendan McGuire, so called “grooming” must be exposed.

Do you recall reading California priest, Fr. Brendan McGuire, who shared his trauma of being a victim of abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was 18? It was a secret he held for 35 years, according to Mark Pattison of the Catholic News Service of Sept. 20, 2018.  His verboten story was finally shared to his congregation, at five weekend masses Sept. 8-9 at Holy Spirit Church in San Jose, where he is pastor, Pattison continued.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Fr. McGuire related, “he has heard from 45 men who told him they also had been abused. Five of the men were priests, he added, and four of those had been abused while they were seminarians. ‘One man was 95 years old. He’d been holding it for 60-plus years, 70-plus years,’ the priest said. ‘I thought 35 was a lot.” 

 By the way, this incident of sexual abuse started in Bray, Ireland when he was just 14 years old and he did not recognize the “grooming” by the priest for his final play until he was 18 so “it wouldn’t be child abuse,” Pattison reported.

Truth over power

 I write this not to dampen your enthusiasm as a Catholic churchgoer but to hold this as an example of healing. By embracing this systematic darkness where upon the Holy Spirit has not been illuminating parts of the Catholic Church, we need even more so now before the scheduled summit called by the Vatican in 2019 to implore its presence to heal the Catholic Church under Pope Francis. It is not an accident that Pope Benedict resigned, given this litany of sexual abuses by hundreds and perhaps thousands of priests, that must be fully accounted for and be dealt with numerous candles lit, candles lit to exorcise the darkness of abuse of power of these church leaders and lay workers.

 Until Fr. McGuire shared his personal truth to his congregation, he felt imprisoned by the abuse of power that he suffered. Until he spoke, 45 other men could not start living a life of truth as they hid their lives of trauma from their families. Until Fr. McGuire spoke, the memory of ‘’illicit grooming” by this Irish priest could not be expunged from his being. Abuse lives in this priest’s molecular cells and he needs to talk about the trauma in order to fully heal. He said that his healing starts when his trauma is acknowledged and when he is heard.

 So now we also find that it is not just the institution of the Catholic Church, it is also the executive branch of the United States, personified by the thousands of lies coming from the mouth of the 45th U.S. President. One mainstream newspaper has employed fact checkers and as of Sept 4, 2018, Fact Checker has reported Mr. Trump has made 4, 713 false or misleading claims in 592 days in office. It is now Sept. 22, 2018, he has had 18 days more that he has lied while in the august halls of the White House, once revered as the seat of power, where truth is the currency.

This same president has just nominated Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose court opinions have been withheld by the National Archives, once a neutral body of source of information, which now claims they report to the National Executive, meaning the President and released 7% of this judge’s past records. 

Do you recall a similar withholding of information from this President, who did not disclose his federal tax returns? We now know why, as it would reveal his many entanglements with Russian banks and Dutch banks who loaned him their currencies to keep his businesses running. 

 But we are not simply talking of the U.S. President’s duty to tell the truth at all times, nor of the U.S. bishops to tell the truth of 65 years, even 68 years of sexual abuse. 

We are now faced with this judge who is accused when he was at his drunken 17 year old condition, of attempted rape of then a 15 year old minor.

This minor is now Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology and statistics, a holder of four degrees from four different universities, including Stanford University and the author of at least 50 scientific journals, who called for an FBI investigation of this incident. This is not a case of “he said, she said,” like Anita Hill who came forward to testify about Judge Clarence Thomas’ sexual harassment actions towards her. 

 My point is that trauma has a far-reaching impact and effect. That the victims are never really liberated from the harm and that they get to relive their “dark episodes” even 35 years, even 60 years, even 70 years later, when the national news turns on the light on another victim in the past, just like Dr. Ford and Fr. McBride.

The male U.S. Senators are now mistreating her with comments like, “she is confused and mixed up,” and Judge Kavanaugh has offered a bait that there might be another person responsible for the incident, and even shared a photo of someone like him, except that someone like him is known to Dr. Ford and she asserted it is not him, but Judge Kavanaugh.

The U.S. Senate, an august body known to be the conscience of the nation, has placed an arbitrary deadline of Monday, Sept. 24 for both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eleven white male in their winter years. Why do I bring this up? Can you imagine if you are Dr. Ford being questioned by eleven white males, with no woman in the committee? It speaks loudly of the lack of diversity and even the silencing of women’s voices in this once august institution that Americans respected? What has happened that the leadership in the Republican Party’s hands has concentrated power in only one gender? Is this not abuse of power as well?

 Why is this U.S. Senate showing presumption of bias: “Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh. #ConfirmKavanaugh #SCOTUS,” Mike Davis, the confirmation panel’s top staffer for judicial nominations, tweeted late Wednesday, as reported by “Roll Call” and “The Rachel Maddow Show”.

 Mike Davis wrote, as reported by New York Post’s Bob Fredericks on Sept. 20, 2018, “I personally questioned Judge Kavanaugh under penalty of felony and 5 years of imprisonment, if he lies. I ‘m still waiting to hear back from the accuser’s attorneys, who can’t find time between TV appearances to get back to me.” In the first place, Mike Davis is not a skilled FBI investigator, he is Chuck Grassley’s lawyer who should show neutrality and perhaps even a semblance of professionalism as to not reveal his bias and instead, his commitment and conviction to get at the truth.

It elicited a tweet from Brian Fallon, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer, “Does he sound unbiased to you?” as reported by New York Post.  

It also elicited an enlightened response from Fr. Christopher J. Devron, S.J. who wrote on Sept. 19, 2018 about Brett Kavanaugh and Toxic Masculinity: lessons from another all-male Jesuit high school. At first, his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was a high point, particularly when he said that the motto of his Jesuit high school was ‘men for others,’ and claimed he has tried to live that creed, Fr. Devron wrote.

 They have then descended that roller coaster with the revelation that in one speech, Judge Kavanaugh quipped: “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,” alluding to the weekend drinking, boozing, partying that happens in this suburban school in North Bethesda, Maryland.

Fr. Devron writes that their euphoric feelings about this nomination have changed since these new revelations.  He writes that he is the president of Fordham Prep, a 177-year old all male Jesuit secondary school in Bronx, N.Y. with nearly 1,000 current students and 12,000 living alumni and “been privileged to witness the mission of all-male Jesuit education — to develop men for others, who dedicate their lives to God’s greater glory — as a powerful and transforming force.  I believe this force can challenge the prevailing cultural forces that pressure young men to adopt values that reflect a vastly different posture toward the more vulnerable members of our society and those who are different than themselves. God’s spirit helps our students see and know the dignity that resides within each person. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the term “toxic masculinity” has entered the popular lexicon. Toxic masculinity, we are told, springs from a society that inculcates young men with a “bro mentality,” leaving them devoid of empathy, sensitivity and compassion and leading them –especially when they are together—to objectify and disrespect girls and women.”

 Is it any surprising that after 35 years Dr. Ford is now just coming out to reveal her trauma? You, our readers, are at the best vantage point to make your own conclusions.

For me, I believe Dr. Ford as she has revealed her trauma to her therapist in 2012, even passed a polygraph test and told her husband decades before, as Francey Youngberg, a former federal employee and lawyer, posted in her Facebook page. 

But more than that, I believe Dr. Ford, as she is the first one to ask for an FBI investigation knowing that lying to the FBI is a felony. She has put herself at a disadvantage, and chose to speak up as a citizen to ensure only a judge to the U.S. Supreme Court has good character, for example, trustworthiness and his ability to tell the truth is displayed at all times.

 Even the trait of good citizenship as in not preying on minors, even if that happened in his teenage years, and of course, responsibility, Judge Kavanaugh can now stand up before the U.S. Senate and admit to what he did then, when he was stone drunk and what he did then so as to pin Dr. Ford to the bed and to control her, and placed his hands over his mouth and started to undress her and grope her. Hardly the mannerisms we expect from a jurist that will be in lifetime position of public trust. In fact, as a federal judge of the appeals court, he does not deserve to be in this lifetime position of power as well. 

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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