Monday, February 4, 2013

Pulling off the scabs—UPDATED

Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, USAF (Ret.)
On Dec. 12, 1963, Col. Chuck Yeager was testing a specially modified F-104 Starfighter for use in the Air Force's astronaut training program.  The fighter was showing some problems of pitch-up at extremely high altitudes, but on previous flights the problem had been overcome with the peroxide jets in the nose, just like the jets used for attitude control on satellites and other spacecraft.  On his second flight that day, the peroxide jets didn't work; eventually, the plane fell into a flat spin and rotated like a phonograph record as it hurtled to the desert floor below.

Yeager punched out.  But as his parachute deployed, his ejection seat got caught in the risers.  Eventually it fell, and the hot exhaust pipe clobbered Yeager's helmet, setting the rubber seal on fire in the pure oxygen atmosphere.  Yeager put the fire out and touched down safely on the desert floor, but sustained massive burns to his face and neck.

Let's let Chuck tell the story from there:

So it was several days before I realized how bad things really were.  My face was swollen to the size of a pumpkin, badly charred from being blowtorched.  [Dr. Stanley Bear] came in and sat down.  He said, "Well, Chuck, I've got good news and bad news.  The good news is that your lungs have not been permanently damaged from inhaling flame and smoke, and your eye looks good.  The bad news is I'm gonna have to hurt you like you've never been hurt before in your life to keep you from being permanently disfigured.  And I'm gonna have to do it every four days."
I stayed in the hospital a month, and every four days Doc started from the middle of my face and neck, scraping away the accumulated scab.  It was a new technique developed to avoid horrible crisscross scars as the skin grew beneath the scabs.  And it worked beautifully.  I have only a few scars on my neck, but my face healed perfectly smooth.  The pain, though, was worse than any I have ever known.

Cdl. Roger Mahony and Abp. José Gomez
Whenever a new revelation comes about episcopal cowardice and malfeasance, I reflect on this story.  The shame and embarrassment I feel doesn't approach the pain and suffering of the victims, or the people of the LA Archdiocese who must pay for Cdl. Roger Mahony and Bp. Thomas Curry's errors in handling their predator priests.  (For that matter, it doesn't approach the pain and suffering of spikes driven into hands and feet, either.)

Nevertheless, I get tired of having to explain that the truths of the Faith aren't falsified by the bad behavior of hierarchs.  [As Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees, "Do and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice" (Mt 23:3).]  I'm tired of being humiliated by anti-Catholics using the latest revelation as a launch pad for their xenophobia.  But moreover, I'm not only disgusted that anti-Catholics take it for granted but scared that we too will get used to it and relax our vigilance once again.

So I think of Chuck Yeager having those scabs pulled off his face and neck every four days, and realize that this is something of what we're going through, too.  Yes, it hurts to keep having these wounds re-opened ... but that's the only way that we can heal without disfigurement.  Or, as Fr. Andrew M. Greeley once said, "We wash our dirty linen in public because that's the only way to get them clean."  

When this excruciating operation is finally complete — whenever that may be — what's left may not be 100% unscarred, but will be presentable to the public once again.  Or, as the elderly Irish monsignor said, "Faith, the Barque of Peter must be divine, otherwise we boys would have kicked the bottom out long ago."

Update: February 4, 2013
Maybe this explains Abp. Myers' choice ....
Figures.  Right after I post possibly the calmest thing I've ever written about the scandals, the angel of Newark (and science fiction author), Abp. John J. Myers, appoints a confessed predator to the rather important position of co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.
Yeah, way to stay on message, Your Excellency.

I guess it all depends on what the message is.  After all, we're supposed to be all about forgiveness and second chances; and the priest in question, Rev. Michael Fugee, won't be around kids as part of his duties — the position in question oversees the professional development of active priests and deacons, not recruiting new priests.  Father Fugee is barred from unsupervised contact with children in a binding agreement with law-enforcement officials, which kept prosecutors from re-trying his case after his first conviction of aggravated criminal sexual contact was overturned on appeal.  Fugee had recanted his confession, saying he lied so he could go home earlier; given the way police operate, I find the claim not improbable ... doubtful, but not improbable.

 (Quick tip from a guy who knows: if you ever find yourself accused of a crime you didn't commit, don't say a damn word without a lawyer present; don't sign a damn thing without a lawyer to read it over first.  I love cops, but the fact is that all too often getting a confession takes priority over getting the truth ... and they're very good at getting confessions on little to no evidence.)

However, +Myers must know by now that the Catholic presbytery, for the time being at least, has to operate under the "Caesar's wife" rule: it's not enough that a priest be factually innocent of moral turpitude; he can't be so much as suspected.

The same thing happened with Cdl. Bernard Law, the prelate whose mishandling of scandals made a virtual desert of the Archdiocese of Boston; his transfer to Rome in 2002 looked like Bl. John Paul was kicking him upstairs, when in fact the pope was kicking him into a corner — archpriest of St. Mary Major, not an appointment from which papabili are made.  Props to +Myers for trying to get some use out of Fr. Fugee rather than let him stew in his self-pity and social marginalization; laicizing a predator priest sounds righteous in theory, but in practice simply dumps the problem on the general population. Yet this move can't help looking like some kind of promotion to people who don't know how promotions work in the Catholic Church.

Sigh.  Okay, Doctor Bear, again with the scabs ....