Thursday-- May 9, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 240
Terrorism & The 5th Amendment
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 9--I about fell over
when I scanned the New York Times article this morning
on Cardinal Bernard Francis Law's (see
picture below) testimony
during a deposition regarding the aborted settlement to the
86 plaintiffs in the 1984 molestation case involving priest
John J. Geoghan.
Last week the
Church scuttled a multimillion dollar settlement because of
concerns there would not be enough money to pay the scores of
additional people who have accused priests of sexual abuse in
recent weeks, the Times' Pam Belluck reported.
The article was filled
with mafia-style answers: "I can't remember."
"I relied upon those who assisted me in this matter to
do all that was appropriate."
to see the famous 5th Amendment statement: "I refuse
to answer this question on the grounds that it might incriminate
The court acted
swiftly to depose Cardinal Law. Judge Constance Sweeney
of Superior Court, said she was concerned the Vatican might
reassign Cardinal Law to Rome soon and appoint him to a position
that would give him diplomatic immunity.
The Vatican is considered a sovereign country, afforded all
the privileges of any nation, including diplomatic immunity.
I suppose what
surprises me most about the issue is the lack of apparent honesty
by those claiming religious sanctuary. As
a Parent of Vigilance, it shocks me to think of a major leader
of one of the world's largest religions sending out signals
to children and parents that it is O.K. to have "selective
Even though Cardinal
Law's handwriting was on the envelope warning the Church about
the accused pedophile being reassigned to another parish, the
Cardinal claims no memory of the incident.
He is taking the Pontius Pilate approach, washing his hands
of any overt knowledge.
In law, there is
a statement commonly used that one either "knew or should
have known." There is a duty for a supervisor
of others to have knowledge of critical issues, and even if
they disclaim such knowledge, the law holds them responsible
under the principle of "duty." In other words,
if you're at the top you can't deny responsibility.
It's like a parent standing
before television cameras after his or her son walks out of
a school lunchroom where he or she just shot ten students and
claims: "I didn't know my child had a problem!"
Parents of Complacency try to
hide behind their lack of knowledge. Cardinal
Law is a Parent of Complacency. He's trying to shuffle
off his duty of knowledge and absolve himself of responsibility,
handing that hot potato off to his underlings.
When a child acts in a disrespectful
or problematic way and a parent is surprised or shocked or dismayed
at such behavior, it is a signal that the parent is not being
Vigilant in his or her duties as a shepherd, a mentor, a teacher,
a coach of the child's actions.
"My child would not do something like that!"
"It wasn't my child, it was the group he hangs around with
that made him do it!" "My child isn't like that!"
"There's no way my child would act that way!"
Denial, they say, is not
a river in Egypt. But it runs long and deep almost
everywhere these days. It is symbolic of our need
to avert the Truth and to shun responsibility for parenthood.
A Cardinal is the Father figure
of the Church for a particular region. Under his leadership
and parenthood are his children--the priests and administrators.
What they do reflects upon his Vigilance or Complacency.
In the deposition, it was clear
that Cardinal Law was shunning any and all responsibility for
the actions of the priest, or the manner in which the priest
was moved from parish to parish after admitting to child molestation.
The Cardinal went so far as to state, as though it were some
kind of defense for his lack of action, that in 1984 there were
no written policies regarding dealing with priests who were
accused or admitted child molesters.
There is no "authorized
manual" on "How To Be A Parent," yet each and
every parent, under the law of human reality, is responsible
for the actions of his or her children. Is the Cardinal
suggesting we need manuals to use common sense?
Perhaps we do.
Perhaps in a world fraught with
Complacency it is time for each parent to undergo a Parenting
License before having children in which they are required to
read a "manual." And, perhaps it is also time
for Cardinals to be licensed by the public and undergo "Anti-Molestation
Training" to assure they are liable for their actions in
dealing with any priest who violates those instructions.
While I tire of reading about the flaws in the Catholic Church's
Vigilance regarding protecting children from known pedophiles,
I am also aware that the issue is simply symptomatic of a pervasive
Complacent attitude coursing through our society's veins regarding
the upbringing of children. It signals a major gap
in the communication of character-building principles between
parents and their children, evidenced by the increasing ability
of turning over the rights of a child to institutions and stripping
parents' of the responsibility for a child's upbringing. It
is a slam on parenthood, a reaction to Parental Complacency.
Today, if a child wishes
ill upon his or her parents, he or she can dial 911 and bring
the wrath of the state children's welfare division to flaunt
the parents with the child's rights. In movies and books
parents are displayed as unconscious incompetents, unaware of
the child's inner drives and motivations, and are merely foreign
elements who simply provide food and clothing and amenities
for the child without moral training or emotional communication.
Divorce rates spiking upwards of 50% don't add to the dilemma
of children being disenfranchised from learning how to communicate
efficiently with their parents Half of the families involve
a step-parent, and outside forces that often provide a cleavage
between deep and honest communications. Abortion laws
that allow over one-million children killed each year signal
to a child that adults have incredible power to "kill unwanted
babies," suggesting to them the ultimate Terror of a parent--his
or her ability to eliminate a child from earth.
These underlying Terrors gnaw at the gap between child and parent,
in some cases forming chasms that cannot be bridged.
The worst part of the parenting
process occurs when a parent tries to deny knowledge of the
child's problems rather than accepting responsibility for them
as his or her guardian, friend, gene pool, coach, "other
is a striking example of such denial. His every
word tries to distance himself from knowledge of the case.
He appears on the media radar screen as one who is ducking and
weaving the bullets that might pin him to his duty as the shepherd
of the flock.
Under the principles of the Parents
of Vigilance Creed, a parent naturally assumes total responsibility
for the actions of his or her children. With that responsibility
goes the attendant duty of parent to teach a child Courage in
the face of Fear, Conviction under the fires of Intimidation,
and to take Action against the urge to accept the behavior and
become Complacent. But to achieve these anti-Terrorism
goals, a parent must first act the part of Vigilance himself
or herself. He or she must set an example and not just
preach the behavior, but live it for the child to give authority
to his or her instructions, advice, counsel.
Unfortunately, to become a Parent
of Vigilance requires hard work. It means one cannot
turn his or her head to the responsibilities of being Courageous,
being Convicted and taking Action. Cardinal Law, at least
so far, has been sidestepping these duties of a Parent of Vigilance.
He has taken the "easy way out."
But it would be too easy for us
to just point a finger at Cardinal Law and then close the book
on him. He is, in many ways, just a mirror of ourselves.
We need to learn from him, and look at the Cardinal Law in ourselves,
use him as a mirror of our own lack of parenting.
How many times do
we duck and weave the duties of parenthood? How many times
do we turn our heads when our children do things that are unhealthy
because we are too busy or too self-absorbed to take the time
to correct them? How many times do we ignore
the troubles our child has and let him or her brew and stew
about an issue behind the locked door of his or her bedroom
closet without going in and opening up the channels of emotional
communication so the child can resolve critical issues with
Waiting until a child is
a teenager or adult is a little too late.
Legally, we take
the responsibility upon conception for the well-being of a child.
Cardinal Law claims he
"inherited" the problem of the child molestation case,
and thereby feels he wasn't the "father of it."
In his mind, he sets up a condition many step-parents are shackled
with--that the child of the second marriage isn't his, and therefore
it is not his duty to manage the child's behavior.
Under the step-parent
cloud it becomes easy for half the children of the nation to
exist with half the parenthood, denied access to the emotional
wisdoms of the step-father or step-mother because of the barriers
that exist between them. If we follow Cardinal Law's
philosophy, we absolve ourselves as step-parents of the duty
for "inherited parental problems."
But who is kidding
The mission of any
parent, whether biological or through marriage, is to pass wisdoms
of life down to children that they might not be Terrorized by
life. To spurn that responsibility is nothing more
than child neglect. It is Parental Complacency.
I submit that the
duties of a Parent of Vigilance are not necessarily proscribed
on a Pledge of Vigilance which we offer here to all who wish
to become one. I believe a Parent of Vigilance is a natural
necessity--an ingrained genetic and social duty of parenthood--whether
one is acting as the biological or step parent.
It requires a Parent of
Vigilance to step up to the plate and be responsible for all
the child's actions, not just those he or she selects as manageable
or his or her "business." It means a step
parent who assumes the care and protection of a child cannot
duck or weave or weasel around his or her duties to claim responsibility
for the child's actions.
Cardinal Law would
disagree, or his actions suggest he would.
It is time parents
of all sizes and shapes stop taking the 5th Amendment with their
children's actions. The right to protect ones self from
self-incrimination regarding a child in their care is moot.
Instead, parents should have no shield to stand behind, and
be forced to stand up and admit their part in the problem, and
vow to act toward correcting it.
The vast majority
of problems in our society, or any society for that matter,
is lack of Emotional Communication with children--the honesty
of one's self transmitted to the honesty of a child.
If we assume the responsibility and liability for a child's
emotional well-being--his or her ability to be honest-- from
the day of birth or through marriage, we automatically become
Parents of Vigilance.
Only through self-honesty can Courage, Conviction and Right
Action grow among the weeds of Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation
It is time we, as
Parents of Society, acted with Vigilance.
Even you, Cardinal
Law, can change your ways. All you have to do is vow to
be a Parent of Vigilance--and, of course, practice some not-so-difficult
self honesty so that the children of the world might see the
real lesson worth learning in life--the Courage, Conviction
and Right Actions necessary to stand tall as a human being.
TO: Building A Child Of Vigilance
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