Sexual Abuse and 550 Souls

Some bit of personal disclosure to start:

First, in my professional life as a communicator, I have numerous times been retained to work with institutions and individuals accused of sexual abuse. I understand how difficult it is to communicate well about cases such as these.

Second, I come from a place of deep respect for the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian faith and the institutions of organized religions of all traditions. For several years, I worked for a Christian, though not Roman Catholic, church in a professional leadership capacity and was proud of the work and the institution. Further, I respect the priesthood; my uncle Anthony was an almost-universally beloved, pious and respected priest for over 55 years. I have seen firsthand the good works the church has done for the world’s poor and sick, people who would otherwise have been forgotten, neglected and left for dead. I am not a person who thinks organized religion to be an inherently corrupting or villainous influence on humankind, and I’m waging no war against religion, Christianity, or even Catholicism.

All that said, I am repulsed down to my bones by the latest reports from the bankruptcy settlement process in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, reported here by CBS News. People who were abused by Roman Catholic priests, as youth for the most part, are bargaining now with lawyers for the appropriate level of recompense for the damage done to them – not just by the priests themselves, of course, but by church leaders who systematically and consciously denied their accusations (though they knew them to have substance) and sheltered their abusers. And their claims are being treated, more or less, like those of other Archdiocesan creditors.

“The creditors committee, archdiocese and its insurance company will negotiate a dollar amount. After that, those who filed [abuse] claims will negotiate between themselves on how to divide the money.”

In other words, those 550-odd people who were callously mistreated by priests who put their own sexual desires above the spiritual needs of their parishioners, then were further and publicly abused by church leadership, have no greater standing in obtaining justice from the Milwaukee Archdiocese than, say, the phone company, or parish-luncheon caterers, or Kinko’s.

That is, in fact, how little this institution sometimes thinks of its people. If that makes you more than a little angry, write this man.

A Don With Style and Class

Sadly, I have to note the passing of Don Cornelius, father of TV’s Soul Train, the show that introduced many a young person of my generation to some of the greatest music being made that wasn’t always available on the crappy AM radio of the type I regularly listened to.

‘ “Soul Train” was one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history and played a critical role in spreading the music of black America to the world, offering wide exposure to musicians like James BrownAretha Franklin and Michael Jackson in the 1970s and 1980s. ‘

– from the New York Times obituary, 2/1/12

Watching Cornelius’ program formed in many, myself certainly, a deep and lifelong appreciation for new and alternative musical forms, including: soul, funk, jazz and the blues. (In my particular case, credit also goes out to my old friend Melecio Magadluyo.) Soul Train also showed me how to dance, something I’ve still not really mastered.

Cornelius and his show were both international style icons. His voice (Here, in a clip from Soul Train, interviewing James Brown and a very young Al Sharpton.) was often heard being imitated to hilarious effect by cracking-voiced junior high school boys but his connection to his community, his business acumen and his appreciation of the era’s uncertain economic and political conditions were taken very seriously.

Rest in peace, Don Cornelius; I’ll listen to some very hot music today in your honor.