Dee's Blog
Sun 08/31/2008
No Need to Wait for Justice
Topic: coping

This week I was encouraged to look again at the 18th chapter of Luke.  It's the story of the persistent widow who continued to ask until the judge got tired of her being a pain and decided to grant her request.

How I wish that some people I know were as easily worn down as this judge!

Now, the difference in this judge and a lot of people I know is that he admitted that he didn't care about God or people either one--at least, he admitted that to himself.

It's the folks who are like the Pharisees, always running everyone else down, while claiming to love God and be so self-sacrificing and long-suffering that make me want to puke!

The passage is trying to teach us that earthly-minded judges cannot be expected to easily promote justice.  Yet God does.

Many people miss the point of this story, stopping at the idea that justice gives a person what he or she is seeking.  The deeper meaning is one that I've seldom heard taught, but here's what I believe.

We do not have to wait for justice.  We do not have to get it from ANYONE.  The most important kind of justice comes from having a pure heart.  For that's what brings peace.  And when you have peace, whatever others do or do not do really doesn't count for much.  Unless we allow it to.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 08/29/2008
Daring to Dream
Topic: spirituality

Forty years, like 7 years,  is a span of time with Biblical significance.  It's the length of time that the Israellites were free from slavery, yet wandering in the wilderness and suffering from the everyday comforts that are often missing in the desert.  All while dreaming of this unseen place where they believed those comforts could be once again afforded.

Just last night, history was made.   As many African-Americans stood crying and cheering--all in the same instant.  Crying tears of mixed sadness and joy.  Cheering for the significance of the moment.   Forty-four years after Martin Luther King, made his famous speech while daring to "see" an unseen place.

As we Americans hope to be at a much better place in our world in the years to come, so the world is hoping with us.  We know that it will take a new kind of leadership.

Yet, just because history was made last night, there is no guarantee that the nomination of a man with African roots is going to actually rise to the political level to which he aspires.  There is only hope.

Sometimes hope is all that oppressed people have.  No matter what the outcome in the election, however, nobody can take away the glory of witnessing history in the making--something that we all had opportunity to do last night.  As the pyramid of power will never look quite the same to any of us! 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:59 AM CDT
Thu 08/28/2008
A New Friend is Better than Gold!
Topic: coping

One of the greatest blessings from the SNAP conference was meeting a new friend.  A friend who will never see my face, though we have already conversed in person, face to face.

Lindy Morelli is an amazing woman, an amazing survivor, and already has a powerful passion to use her growing professional skills to help mend hearts and souls, in whatever way she can.  Somehow, using skills I cannot imagine, she is working on her doctorate, as a counselor.

Lindy will soon have her story posted on the site she manages to direct  Initially it's a story of rape by an Irish priest in Ireland).  Yet that's not the important part of the story.  It never is for those who have moved to higher ground. 

The important part is that she has managed to find resource people and the energy to overcome--not just overcome the rape, with her faith still intact and growing, but also to compensate very well for being the child of a chronically mentally-ill mother who was unable to give her many of the skills she needed to overcome what others might consider to be tragedies.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Lindy has been blind from birth!  I almost forgot. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 08/27/2008
Growth Isn't Inevitable
Topic: coping

Recently, I was reminded that crises do not insure growth.  They only insure that we have choices about how we respond and think.   Or think and respond, hopefully in that order.

If thinking and responses are out of whack and stay out of whack, growth is not inevitable with crises.  Regression is.  So I must be very careful about saying that I've grown in every way from every crisis I've experienced.  I hope I have, but there are still places I need to grow.  And probably places where I need to stop regressing. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Tue 08/26/2008
Long History of Secrecy
Topic: Power

The fact that there has been a lot of sexual abuse by priests stopped being a secret among priests in the 19th century!  In fact, in 1890 instructions were given from Rome on how to handle cases.  Because of the alarm that the mis-handlng of cases was creating.  In these thorough written instructions, it was said to be a crime even worse than murder and one that must be investigated.  Permission was given--in fact, it was expected protocol--that the "privileged communication" question was not covered by this crime.  Even back then, there was no assumption made about numbers being few.  What's more, they recognized that most of the victims were female--a fact that many of us suspect today, but it's hard to get the hard facts when so many are afraid to speak.

 All of this was presented by Patrick Wall at this year's SNAP conference.  Wall is a renouned consultant in legal proceedings that call the Church into accountability these days.  He's also a former priest, putting him in the camp with many of us who have been professionals formerly working for the institutional church in some aspect, yet unwilling to continue playing the games of collusion.

Problem was those instructions from Rome seem to have been ignored by the masses!  So much for following orders from Rome!  Maybe that's done only if it's convenient? 

As the problems grew, it seems that there was far more concern with controlling the messengers and evidence of the massive trends of cover-up.  In 1941, bishops were further instructed to destroy documents of criminals 10 years after the death of the criminal. 

By 1958 a property growing with inhabitants was shut down.  This happened because tourists discovered this island in the British Isle's that was the home of abusive priests who had been sent there to contain them. 

In 1964, a study revealed that half of the priests in treatment were there for substance abuse.  The other half for abuse of children (30%) or "affairs of the heart" (20%).  The latter, of course, were mis-labelled.  This 20% was the abuse of vulnerable adults.

And the beat goes on.  Only history will tell us if the number of adults who come forward with stories, when they are strong enough to do so, is reduced in decades to come.

What it will really be showing is whether the Church has faced it's shame and negative "pride" and replaced it with a genuine and well-earned pride that is a sign of spiritual health and courage.  For it's courage that is the hardest quality of all to muster, the one shortest in supply.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 08/25/2008
How Shame and Pride Intertwine
Topic: spirituality

Two of the most destructive elements that work against real spirituality are shame and pride.

As a kid, I often heard that my grandfather had "so much pride."  Those who said this thought it was an asset that he possessed.  Truth is it was a negative pride that is born out of shame.  He was ashamed to let people know when he or his family were in need.   Ashamed of being needy.

Real pride IS an asset.  It comes when there is integrity and a healthy self-esteem.  It produces a balance between asking for help when it is needed and having qualities that deserve recognition.  A person with real pride knows that he or she has reason to be proud.

Destructive pride is what dysfunctional families and institutions possess, and both are filled with people who hide in shame and isolation, unwilling to be honest and often lacking integrity.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 08/24/2008
Appealing to People Victimized in Various Ways
Topic: Making Changes

Berry encouraged us to try to connect with people who have been ripped off by church systems in other ways.  In other words,  people who have never experienced abuse nor been around those who have, may have difficulty understanding just how serious the impact on victim's lives.  The tendency may be not to identify and not to see that the entire congregation is, in one sense, a victim.

Yet those who have had their schools closed, either from abuse or from embezzlement, may feel ripped off and more willing to join in calling leaders into an accountability about many things.  They may be more willing to see abuse as not "just an error in judgment," but a matter of gross immorality that cuts to the hearts of those who have been victimized. 

Persuading people to talk will be a lot easier as we build bridges with a wider group of people.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 08/22/2008
Making a New Story
Topic: Making Decisions

Jason Berry, an author who specialized very early in the issues of abusive clergy, was one speaker at SNAP that I didn't want to miss.   Especially since I'd heard him before and respect his wisdom and experience.

He talked about the need to have a new approach in trying to engage the press in covering the on-going saga, in light of the fact that the press is interested in what is really news, of course.  As a writer, I'm always looking for what is different in a story myself.  Have heard the "same old story" many times.  Survivors often do not understand that this is what moves writers and journalists and what makes the general public interested in hearing stories, as well.  Just as it moves us to see movies--we all want to learn something or be entertained in a different way, one or the other.  In this case, the subject matter doesn't tend to be entertaining, but it can be very interesting and instructive.

So Berry's suggestion is that we look for parallel trends to help the press expose the news.  To pique interest in the large percentage of diocese that have cases of embezzlement and to compare the way this is handled or not handled, covered up or exposed.  To show that this often happens in the same diocese where there have been grossly abusive priests.  That's a new way to approach it.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 08/21/2008
The Work of the Bishop
Topic: Power

I'm still learning about bishops.  Cause, in my own little limited arena, being a part of the second largest denomination of Christians in the world (ie. Southern Baptists) until I was 40 years old, I'm not sure that I've ever met a bishop personally, though I've heard from several who have written to me about my work. 

Seems, from what I can gather, they are the Super Clergy who have the power to move the ordinary clergy around like a bunch of pawns.  In other words, the big bosses. 

Southern Baptists have a way that's just as strange to those who have bishops.  As strange, but not necessarily any more dysfunctional.  Baptists think of everyone in the church as being a priest.  There are no bishops.  Of course, it can get very messy and uneasy for everyone when a pastor needs to be moved, for whatever reason.  Or fired.  Or "run off," and that's what often happens. 

Mainline Protestants have bishops or the equivalent of one, but some are just as likely to be almost as loosely organized as Southern Baptists.  Generally, though, with some kind of profile system so that there is some way of approving the recommended clergy members that a church will consider as its next pastor, at least.  Though churches can be mavericks in many systems, calling unapproved people.

Bishops, as I understand it, are to be in charge.  Yet, according to Eugene Kennedy, this means a bishop is also someone who:

1. is expected to be a follower

2. has the job of controlling things so that questions get settled quickly

3. is not allowed to ask many questions

4. is obligated to conform

5. is uncomfortable with the mysteries of everyday life

Sounds like a child in the early part of the 20th century to me.  Just 100 years behind!  With the children in charge?  Talk about being stuck!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 08/20/2008 2:22 PM CDT
Wed 08/20/2008
The Doublebind of the Clerical Culture
Topic: Power

Andrew Greeley was the first to introduce me to the "clerical culture" concept, though I'd grown up in it.  He was describing priests in the Catholic Church--which is all most Catholics seem to think exists in the whole profession!  Of course, I saw far beyond that--and looked at the similarities and differences between Catholic and other faith groups.

Yet, until I came across Greeley's phrase "clerical culture," I never thought of it as being a separate culture.  At times, it is one of privilege.  At other times, one of much duty.  Often being a part of it (even as the wife or child of a clergyman) is to live in isolation in order to be protected from the idealism of outsiders who cannot accept the humanity of those inside this mysterious world that really looks quite ordinary inside whenever one has the luxury of being in a situation where protection from the fishbowl can be experienced for a little while. 

The truth is that the outsiders say they want us to be "human," but just try being human for a few minutes in the wrong setting!  Just try letting your hair down and see how much "human" people really like.   Believe me, every word is judged in some circles.  Every smile or frown, too.

Being the rebel that I am, I learned quite early in life to pretend when I needed to do so.  Yet I've also learned, as I've grown older, not to care much about what the masses think of me.  I actually learned to enjoy presenting folks with ideas that shock most people in the pew, who have never thought beyond their tiny little world of home, church, and a career that opens a few more doors, often requiring that one stay in another box that doesn't challenge the status quo and sees simplistic solutions to complex problems.

To most people in the pews, clergy and their families are like little gods, if not the God.  It's idolatry; and it doesn't all come from the clergy handing down this idea either.  It comes just as much from the people who want to equate God with their spiritual leaders.  So that they do not have to look further, to see the limitations of all humans. 

So the people blame the clergy, and the clergy often blames the people.  I really believe it's both.  Somehow, together, we have to learn to create new images of what God's Kingdom really is.  Because it's dangerous for everyone concerned, the way things are now.

All because we often prefer to believe lies and fantasy rather than reality.  As if any of us fully know what reality really is!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 07/30/2008 9:14 PM CDT

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