The VigilanceVoice

Thursday-- May 9, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 240

Terrorism & The 5th Amendment
Cliff McKenzie
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."
         I expected to see the famous 5th Amendment statement:  "I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that it might incriminate me." 
         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 memory."
        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.
      How absurd.
      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 half."  
         Cardinal Law 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 or closet without going in and opening up the channels of emotional communication so the child can resolve critical issues with our guidance?
       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 who?
        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 and Complacency.
        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.


G0 TO:  Building A Child Of Vigilance

©2001 - 2004,, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design