"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Movie "Spotlight" (2015) shames Catholic Church

Life in America can strain credulity. Belonging to the Catholic Church can expose your child to severe, unreasonable risk. Why do adults choose to belong to such a church?
The movie "Spotlight" is instructive on how serious the problem got. There must have been whispers out and about back in the day. Given the knowledge of risk, how could adults of sound mind allow their kids anywhere near Catholic clergy? Watch the movie "Spotlight" and answer this question for me.
Belonging to the Catholic Church is not compulsory for anyone. Belonging to any church is not compulsory. One can easily live life without church at all. The children of atheists are safer than the children of Catholics, one readily concludes after watching "Spotlight."
We assume progress has been made since the Boston Globe's investigative series. The movie "Spotlight" is all about the gallant journalists who had to painstakingly break down doors to get revelations. Why the heck are the media required for this? Maybe I should ask: Why are the "old media" needed for this? We see the Boston Globe operating just like the Washington Post did for Watergate. Media people are in an exclusive circle, crusading with the strength of a major commercial media outlet behind them.
We all know the commercial media have been pummeled or at least transformed in the digital age. Today "the media" are harder to define. Most experts think we're in a better world because of it. Non-professionals are empowered. The Internet is a meritocracy where the truth tends to win out - oh yes it does. The early days of the Internet were more like a swamp.
Remember the days when we'd hear those buzzwords "you can't trust the Internet?" It's sounding rather quaint. Of course there is suspicious stuff online. But the Internet seems set up to guide us to the truth, and people have become sophisticated enough to ferret out the truth. It has taken time.
In the past we had the "gatekeepers" of the likes of the Boston Globe and Washington Post. A sage commentator on cable news said recently the new system is better.
The movie "Spotlight," made in 2015, takes us back to the time of 9/11. A scene in the movie shows Globe staff watching the unfolding events of 9/11 on TVs. "That wasn't a prop plane," one person says. I remember that morning as we all do. I remember going to the "Excite" home page and seeing a thumbnail photo of smoke coming from the twin towers, but this photo was - can you believe it? - No. 2 as a priority at the time. The Excite page had as its No. 1 story, Elizabeth Dole announcing her candidacy for president. The 9/11 story was just breaking, I realize.
I had a hand-me-down computer at the Morris Sun Tribune shop. Yes, I was part of that old, some say "legacy," newspaper system. The newspaper world was still clutching to its old primacy. We did sense some crumbling of our world, as did characters in "Spotlight." They are anticipating layoffs. A new editor in chief, played superbly by Liev Schreiber, won't rule out layoffs.
Schreiber has such a calm and focused way of dealing with his challenges in the investigation. His character is Jewish and an outsider, two qualities that apparently were much-needed in a city with the clannish qualities of Boston.
The movie would not make you proud to be associated with Boston. How can people stay Catholic after all these revelations? How can they accept clergy who are purportedly "celibate?" What kind of people do you think you'll attract?
Ruffling feathers right here
I remember we at the Sun Tribune published a syndicated editorial cartoon focused on Cardinal Bernard Law. Revelations about the church's systemic negligence were pouring out. BTW I had no hand in publishing the cartoon. I heard the local priest came to our office and was incensed. Our publisher reacted, as he told me later, by emphasizing to this priest that we weren't commenting on the Catholic church in Morris MN. The cartoon wasn't meant to reflect on our local church, it was argued.
I think it's rather specious because all Catholics have to answer for the misguided conduct with its church. They contribute money to it. So, our company line at the paper was that while we published a cartoon about the Bernard Law situation, well my goodness, we certainly were convinced that no sexual type of misbehavior could ever happen in Morris, not out here in the peaceful prairie of West Central Minnesota. That sordid strife happened in places like Boston.
Ugh. Well, we learned years later that Morris wasn't off the grid for this kind of stuff at all. A local priest, last name of Caskey, had to be hauled off because of a child pornography interest and because of writing a letter, the letter being what incriminated him and led to the legal probe, as I recall. Ever wonder what makes newspaper people so cynical? The veneer of propriety is violated so often out in the world we observe.
It was like pulling teeth to investigate the Nixon administration. The daily Washington D.C. headlines coincided with my senior year in high school and the beginning of college. My generation didn't need that, and certainly did not need the hell hole of Viet Nam. Ever wonder why my generation got cynical?
My generation got skeptical about church as an institution. Maybe we saw too much of Billy Graham kissing up to Nixon. The captains of industry built up Graham because they saw he could nurture a docile workforce.
Why is it that when the Pope visits the U.S., it dominates each day's news cycle? Catholicism is not synonymous with Christianity. Why do our media suggest otherwise? After watching the movie "Spotlight," we nearly wonder if the Catholic Church should be outlawed.
Maybe the thing to be outlawed is celibacy? What a weird and outdated custom. It led to the abuse of an untold number of children, abuse that seriously scarred lives. And if it seems like I'm offending the church, fine, I'll accept that. You could switch and become a Lutheran, and your spiritual needs would be filled just as well. Knock off all this tribalism. It's inconsistent with our new digital age. Be reasonable.
"Spotlight" suggested that going after the church in Boston, as the reporters did, came across as an affront to community values. On the micro level, our perfectly reasonable cartoon directed at Cardinal Law got the same reaction from the priest. Were we really treading rough water, publishing a cartoon that simply tried to affirm what the Globe's journalists were telling us? Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.
The idea was to protect children from the worst kind of abuse. And we see this idea run up against well-entrenched parochial interests. If this is what religion is about, I want nothing to do with it.
We see the so-called "evangelicals" behaving in a regressive way too, aligning themselves way too much with extreme right wing political people. We see such interests supporting the North Carolina "bathroom law," for example. You can guess all the other interests they are aligned with. I thought the idea was to prioritize the kind of love that Jesus Christ embodied.
Rise of the "nones"
We hear about the growing portion of the population identified as "nones." They check the "none" box when asked about religious affiliation. A presenter on C-Span said that people who make their living in religion know all about this problem. The problem is of young people equating organized Christian religion with right wing politics. It's a profound turn-off for many.
Between the Catholics and the evangelicals, we'll be seeing a downward arc in the devotion of Americans to any Christian denomination at all. At least our children will be protected.
The movie "Spotlight" makes all of us thankful who are not Catholic.
The movie "Concussion," which I haven't yet seen, makes all of us thankful who have never played football. Football like the Catholic Church is a huge institution promoting itself in America, even in public schools where tax dollars are at work. Talk about straining credulity. Concussions aren't even the extent of the problem - it's all the "sub-concussive" hits, cumulatively, that end up hurting these young men, with effects maybe not seen for years.
"Spotlight" and "Concussion" are movies that may be seen years from now as opening our eyes to Neanderthal approaches to life. To heck with the Catholic Church which isn't even nice enough to allow Lutherans to take communion at a Catholic funeral. To heck with all our leaders who promote football.
Let's push aside these rugged old institutions. There is plenty of fulfillment to be found without them.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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